restoration

When there is no more sage or parsley in the refrigerator. When there are no more clean desert plates. When all of the ham is in a Ziploc. When the extra lemon squares have been sprinkled with fresh confectioner’s sugar and neatly arranged into twine wrapped waxed paper packages for the guest’s departures. When the tablecloth and napkins have been laundered. When the mental notes have been made of where the boxes are in the attic so the decorations can be taken down and put away as soon as they can be but not today because that would make one appear hasty and grinch-like. When the throat is sore and the energy and excitement have all been depleted, there is quiet, solitude, and respite. These things too must be taken seriously.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.
Peace and Love,
AM

softness

 

It’s tough out there. H. told me that on his way to the taxi stand at the airport last night there was so much car honking that he felt anxious and wanted to react in some way — to shout at the honkers, to admonish them for creating such a cacophony. Of course he didn’t. He is not that way.

I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I am that way. I have attempted, for most of my adult life, to be measured in my approach to how I deal with the world, but the world has sometimes gotten the better of me and I have responded to its harshness with my own, stirred up from the depths of a less than solid sense of place and belonging. Stirred up by fear. I have lacked the equanimity that I have simultaneously craved. I have mistakenly thought that a blow deserves a blow back, a scowl deserves a smart, shaming retort, knee-jerk opinions deserve a shouting down. Meh. I’m learning. Some battles you fight, and some battles you refuse.

These days I’m much more interested in what happens if I let it pass. What would happen if I learned to breathe, to center myself, to be kind to myself and quiet my own fears about what occurs outside of my skin and let idiots just be idiots without input from me? It certainly won’t change anything about what’s going on past my fingertips. But maybe it will change what happens inside of me. I did a google search on forgiveness. One article suggested a mantra of, “I decide to let these things go.” I have written that sentence down every day for months now. Maybe as a result of that simple action or maybe not, I am much more interested in how light a touch I can bring to something now IF I can remember to manage my own knee jerk. I know what a forceful one will bring. The language we use these days — kill it, crush it — no, no, no. That all sounds like something I don’t want to do.

I’m thinking about this a lot right now. This time of year brings us so much pressure and stress — I’m trying to refuse to participate in that this year. I want to have a smile on my face and not have it be tightened by tension. I want to not react without thinking or do without intention. I think it might all be okay if I don’t manage to get the perfect gift for someone or provide the ultimate instagrammable experience for those I’m sharing the holidays with. I will do some cooking, some ordering, some whipping up of tablescapes and lighting schemes, but I want so badly to do it with lightness, happiness, and no have to. Have to creates a lot of not want to for me. Maybe I’m just stubborn that way. Regardless, I know my triggers. I know in which direction my personal river flows. I won’t be able to change the trajectory, but I’ve had enough of it rushing through, over, and past like it has a dam to break somewhere up ahead.

A compassionate consideration, a thoughtful and empathetic response, or maybe even no response at all sounds like an easier way to go than using a hammer on every supposed nail. Life is hard. Why should I be hard too?

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

PS — I have one tip to offer. If you find you’re becoming anxious or irritated, picture the person who’s doing the offending as a two-year-old. Then picture them gone for good. Reset. Might come in handy these next ten days or so…

 

Photo credit: Kristen Barlowe

thread

A thread runs from my heart to another. It expands and contracts as needed for distance, literal or figurative, as it winds around our lives, always keeping us connected. Where did it begin? Where does it end? It does neither.

To think of how small I am in the big scheme of things is overwhelming. It can seem as if I do not matter because I am only one person and I am here for such a short amount of time. I am sitting on a blue ball in the middle of space, surrounded by stars and openness, after all. I am only a tiny speck, no matter how I try not to be. Yet I get to become large when I experience the miracle of love, compassion, and understanding. I get to matter when I weave myself into relationships, sometimes frustrating and heartbreaking, sometimes rewarding like nothing else can be, and always complex, but also always the mirror that I need and, whether I admit it or not, that I am seeking.

I forget the thread sometimes. All of this running around can seem, some days, to add up to nothing when I remember that every one of us returns to the dust from which we came. I feel disconnected.

But then I am reminded somehow. And I see that the thread cannot be lost, even by death, because once it’s sewn through me, I am changed.

lululululu

I listened to Vince Guaraldi’s, “Christmas Time is Here,” today. It’s my favorite holiday tune. When I hear it, Christmas seasons of childhood flood my mind — all it takes is a few bars of the intro and it all comes back.

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best holiday cartoon in my opinion, for which the song and album were created, was vastly more interesting and exotic to me than the usual fairy tales for which I had to suspend disbelief when I was little. The Peanuts gang lived in a world the likes of which I’d never been to, but could easily identify with and imagine.  

 

It didn’t seem outlandish that no adults were ever seen and that even their voices presented no discernable directions to do this or that. There were only children who seemed to live in walking distance from each other and who kept each other in close company and counsel. Such a scenario was utterly intriguing and attractive because where I lived, in the middle of nowhere, there were no other children around at all save for my sister. And I admittedly could’ve done without most of the adult voices I had to hear and all of the unpredictability and ugliness that often came with them.

Then, there was poor, lonely, furrowed brow Charlie’s ever-present existential crisis and his search for the true meaning of Christmas, with which I heavily identified. There was no one-dimensional presentation of happiness or expectation that everyone put a smile on their face in Hennepin County, and no one seemed to deny the emptiness that can hover around the holidays. I’d felt it myself in South Alabama and appreciated the recognition of the complexity of my emotions and that they were no less multifaceted than any adult’s. Charlie Brown’s world seemed to be one in which children had at least a semblance of agency, which was something I wanted for myself desperately.

 

But most importantly, there was the jazz. Sweet Baby Jesus, there was jazz! Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack made such a world seem possible. It was the perfect music to go with the yes, elevated but absolutely correct notion that children are not just small, unformed beings with no thoughts or problems of their own. I loved it. It was somehow melancholy, but decidedly untreachly and smart. It was emotional shorthand for what I felt but also for what I wanted to feel. What I wanted to feel was different from the way that I did. Hearing “Oh Tannenbaum,” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” interpreted in a new way let some light and air into my world by taking what was familiar and giving it a new context, therefore new possibilities. The music transported me to a place in my imagination where people wore suits and dresses instead of jeans

 and sneakers on Christmas Day, and clinked wine glasses instead of Budweiser cans. I imagined I could one day go ice skating on a frozen pond, feel snow falling onto my fingers and my tongue while standing on a city sidewalk, and go to the lot to pick out my very own tree just like Charlie. It allowed me to dream of that something different that I knew was out there, that something more elegant and refined, that something that would support my wish for my own agency and my own kind of Christmas.

 

Interesting that my favorite thing to listen to during the holidays has no lyrics to speak of. But as a friend said to me the other day, “That record sounds like I feel.”  I don’t need to hear words. Just a few bars of the intro and it all comes back.

repair

The skin on my left hand is in tatters and has been for a few months now. I struggle with eczema — just on my hands for some reason — and it can be seriously painful, not to mention embarrassing and ugly. It popped up a few years ago and I can’t quite get it under control. I’ll get one hand sorted out and then the dreaded itch and redness will start on the other. Emotional stress doesn’t help the situation (some suggest stress is the actual cause), nor does constantly having my hands in water (I have an eight-year-old with special needs, so do the math on that one). I lotion, I oil, I massage, I look for remedy after remedy, and I still cringe at the way the split open places feel  — my skin literally comes apart — as I try to function through it. I’ll button my son’s pants and discover my finger is bleeding a minute later. I should buy stock in bandaids. Okay, enough description ’cause I know it’s gross. The cycle of disintegration and healing is frustrating for me, but I’ve sort of gotten used to it and try to be patient with my body’s vulnerability, trusting that it will eventually heal itself if I give it as much outside help as possible and that I’ll get a respite before the next episode. We can get used to almost anything, can’t we?

Words related to healing fly around freely these days. You know them — self-care, restore, rejuvenate, cleanse, detox — they’re part of an industry. And I’m all for that, save for the wear and tear on my ears from the overuse of such terms and the resulting emptiness that can sometimes inhabit them from that careless employment. Sacred acts such as taking care of ourselves deserve more than pop culture faddishness, but I am heartened by the turn of attention toward the need for slowing down, taking a minute, and nurturing ourselves so that we have something to give others and understanding that if we don’t do that we have zero to offer, or at least only a stockpile of resentment for our own over-extension.

If you’re bleeding, put the bandaid on before you ruin everything.

For me, I have to remember to make time to pick up a needle and thread to work on whatever project I’ve got going (the accompanying photo for this post is one of my headboard — specifically chosen so that I can embroider words on it. I went so far as to put those good ones from the genius Louise Bourgeois there to remind me). To spend some time reading and being quiet and not paying attention to the chirp of a device. To take ten minutes for a cup of tea and truly engaged conversation. To good god almighty go to bed and get some sleep.

I wrote this down this morning: “My heart is always in a state of repair.” And it struck me as quite possibly the most factual sentence that has ever come out of me. Aren’t we all always healing something? We arrive home from having been out in the world and we need a minute — we sit down, exhale, and begin the process from recovering from whatever assault we experienced outside of our nests so we can go do it again. We lick our wounds from an argument or unsuccessful interaction with our mates, we get over it, so we can do it again. We say a prayer when we watch other kids stare at ours when they notice he acts differently from the way that they do, wipe our tears before he sees, and tell ourselves we are strong enough to get not only him but our own souls through it meanwhile hoping that his heart won’t need as much mending as ours does. We’re constantly returning to our corners so we can get back in the ring.

Sometimes it feels like everything requires a deep breath.

And it might. But that realization brings a smile to my face. Writing down that my heart is always repairing itself gives me a lot of hope, because I’m incredibly grateful that it can do such a thing and that it knows how to do its own work given the opportunity. Human beings are incredible. We try, and we try, and we keep trying. It’s a beautiful thing to watch even in, and sometimes mostly in, the smallest gestures. We get up each day, if we’re lucky, and we try. We repair what is broken. We lotion, we oil, we massage, we look for remedy after remedy and sometimes yes we still get broken open in our vulnerable spots. But because we can repair, we can hope. And hope is the single most important resource our oh so resilient souls give us.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

baggage (in honor of the holiday season)

I gotta tell you I’m not exactly in love with holiday season. I’m sure you’re not exactly surprised to hear that.

I’ve been doing emotional work regarding my family of origin for quite some time, years even, but never as intensively as I have this year. That has been for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s been because I’m tired of dragging around other people’s funkiness (as my newfound guide at Onsite calls it) and I would very much like to identify what belongs solely to me so that I can travel through this world a bit more (okay, a lot more) lightly.

I’ve never been under the impression that my specific circumstances were special or extraordinary. Everyone has at least a tugboat of childhood (and beyond) stuff to haul around, and usually the requisite barge behind it. All that pulling gets tiring. I’m exhausted from it and want to unhook myself, and am trying to actively do just that. It isn’t easy to undo the chains, the bonds, the ties, whatever you want to call them. Most of us are sentimental and don’t know how to say goodbye to it all, even if we know we need to. We’re at least creatures of habit who’d rather do anything but change, again, even if we know we need to. But what we don’t let go of eventually sinks us no matter how strong we are. And what we aren’t aware and super wary of, we repeat.

 

Nothing stirs it all up like holidays. We get to hook all of our baggage together! Stack it up in a nice big pile and such to trip over and ignore. We return easily to ingrained patterns if we decide to go the family route. If we choose to create our own traditions, aren’t we in danger of pitching a turd into the punch bowl of life (Hi – have we met)? It’s sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t for me, it seems. I hate ignoring elephants that have gotten inside the house but also don’t desire upsetting anyone because I don’t want to act like it’s all fine when it’s not. I work hard at doing my own thing and at standing up for it, but have yet to escape the guilt that is served up like a heavy, double helping of cornbread dressing, in return for my stabs at individuation. It occurs to me that maybe I’m just not a traditionalist. I prefer to have brunch and go to the movies on both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day if my son isn’t with me. Maybe I long too much for what I never really had, and if I did have it, it certainly wasn’t for very long, and I don’t know how to really deal with and accept the grief I feel about my truncated childhood and devastated, decimated* family. Regardless, these days can be tough. But they roll around every year no matter what. And for that reason, I do try to make the best of them. A grinch I am not.

I think I’m looking for some real meaning in it all, not just a list of things that we do because they’re just what we always do and no one really understands why. I don’t want a menu that must be repeated year after year,  because I guess I don’t exactly find comfort in the old. That’s precisely what I’m trying not to do – repeat the old. The old isn’t always great, or even good. Sometimes it’s time to be finished futzing with it and get on to making something new.

Whatever your situation this holiday season, take it easy on yourself. It’s alright to feel agitated, irritated, lonely, and sad if you in fact do. In all honesty, I often feel those things in spades. I’m going to try to remember to take a minute when I need to – to take a deep breath while I try to remember we’re all just passing through here. There will come a year, sooner than I’d like it to, when someone will be missing that wasn’t from the one before. I know I’ll never see holiday season 2018 again. So I’m going to try to enjoy it the best I can, and do it without feeling weighed down, as close to in my own unique way as I’m allowed, and with love and patience for us all. Mostly for myself. And I hope the only funkiness I’m dragging around is James Brown’s Christmas record.

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

AM

PS – sorry I’m a day late. I’ll post about that when I’m ready. There is, however, a clue embedded in this one.

PSS – we’re getting ready to decorate the house in preparation for it all.

*yes, I do know the definition of decimated.

home

I first had in my mind the notion that I would weave something here about travel, the challenges of being away from home, and how you cannot make a place that is not home feel like your home and that trying to do so inevitably makes us more raw than accepting the discomfort, however slight, of suspended animation, which is ultimately what traveling is, at least for me. But I decided that I would just tell you how happy I am to be on an airplane right now, heading back to the comfortable nest that holds the soft and cozy bed I know and the coffee cups that feel right in my hands. I am thinking about how completely awful it must be to have that snatched away, to be displaced through no action of your own. I am thinking about those who have lost their homes this weekend in the California fires. I am thinking about those who have lost their homes at any time through any means, period. It’s heartbreaking.

Home is one of the big concepts as far as I’m concerned. I’ve even entertained writing a book on the subject, and who knows? I may just do that. What home is to different people is endlessly interesting to me. Today, I’m feeling deep gratitude that I have one to think about.

It has been written many times that home is not a place, but sometimes home is at least partly about place, if not fully. We don’t always know that until we lose the safety, physical and emotional, that our shelter provides us. I whisper a prayer of thanks, and one for strength for those who are not as fortunate as I am today.

vulnerability #2

I’m going to have to bring this up again. It won’t leave me alone and I know it’s going to keep bugging me until I come to some sort of terms. Writing is how I do that. Thanks in advance for reading and for bearing with me.

I started limping for no apparent reason. The outside of my right foot had begun to hurt, and in typical fashion, I kept walking on it, recognizing the pain, but figuring it would go away if I just brushed it off as nothing to be concerned about and went on about my business. I did keep going, but the pain didn’t disappear.

H. insisted I see a doctor. He acknowledged what I wouldn’t — that the intermittent ache and inability to walk properly meant that I had hurt myself somehow and I needed tending to. Fast forward to the next day and the foot doctor’s office. An x-ray revealed a stress fracture and the treatment was an ugly, black, decidedly unchic walking boot that has now made a bruise all the way around the middle of my lower leg. I hate this thing. Not only is it uncomfortable and unwieldy, it has foiled my fall footwear dreams and plans, which royally pisses me off.

On a deeper level, I don’t like to be slowed down. I like to do what I need and want to do when I need and want to do it. Deeper than that, I don’t like to ask anyone to do anything for me. I don’t like to admit I can’t do something all on my own, even if that something is supposedly insignificant — like not being able to put my own bag in the overhead compartment on a plane, or having to resist moving a piece of furniture by myself. I am a stubborn, set my jaw, I don’t need anyone, break my own back instead of taking a gentle helping hand kind of fool. On the deepest level, I can’t explain how frustrating it is to be unable to come up with a way to blame myself for this happening. I have no idea how this fracture of stress got in my foot, therefore I have no way to berate myself over how I could’ve been so stupid to allow it to get there. It’s just there. It just is. I have to let it be.

This whole thing is a metaphor the likes of which has not hit me over the head in quite sometime.

A lesson, a teacher, I suppose right when I needed it.

This year has been an emotional one for me. Shoot, they’ve all been emotional in one way or another. But this one in particular has made me examine myself more closely than I can remember previously doing for such an extended period. What is [fill in the blank] teaching me? What am I supposed to take from [fill in the blank] experience so that I can become a smarter, more compassionate, more present version of myself who isn’t thrown so badly by situations beyond my control and ps all situations except my internal ones are beyond my control? How did I get here in the first place?

This foot episode, specifically, has let me get a really good look at how I became a person who didn’t ever want to depend on anyone else. My mind races back to my three-year-old self — I don’t remember anything before that — and my first experience of dissociation. My family was unstable. I was insecurely attached to my parents. I learned that the only way I could survive was to depend on myself and the parts of my world that didn’t constantly change (school, my grandparents, my books, my music). Out of control situations sent me inside my mind and cut me off from the external. A pretty good trick, but a wee bit disconnecting, yes? Yes. I guess that was the point, wasn’t it? My mind comes back to present day and I’m still that three-year-old, trying to get safe and having very few ways to successfully do it without cutting myself off like I did when I was a child, and certainly never trusting another soul not to let me down. Telling the world, “No, I can do it myself.” Daring it to try to tell me anything that might make things easier. Living afraid of losing the tiny shred of self-respect that I’ve held onto, the shred I was left with after the bulk of it eroded because I was let down and then was unable to free myself from the shitty situation. I cling to and claw for assurance that I won’t be hurt again. You have to make yourself available to be hurt, and asking for help is definitely making yourself available. Ta f*cking da! And how does that make me behave in a relationship with another person now? Ooofff. Lord knows I try but I might be what they call a tough nut.

So many answers are found in the questions themselves. I don’t have any definitive answers today, never will. But what I do know for sure is that the biggest obstacle to revelation is the inability to admit there is a need for one. Sometimes, when it hurts, you have to stop and figure out why. And then sometimes you have to sit down until the hurt heals or at least gets better.

The boot is heavy, y’all.

Happy Monday and lots of love and compassion and patience to all of us.

AM

romanticism

“Later I quietly straightened my things, my notebook and the fountain pen. The cobalt inkwell that had been his. My Persian cup, my purple heart, a tray of baby teeth.” — Just Kids, Patti Smith

 

Not in the way of romantic love, rather a state of being, in finding meaning in life’s smallest details, in the noticing of them in the first place, in the tendency to feel heartbroken over something so seemingly insignificant as a feather on the sidewalk or a loose button in a tiny bowl.

I am raising my hand as incurable.

My sentimental leanings might make me more susceptible to tears, but I don’t seem to care about that anymore.

I do try my best not to hold on to too many things. I don’t like the feeling of being weighed down by objects or being a slave to the upkeep of them. I realize, however, when I look at where I live, that most of the things I do have wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me. They are mostly things that tell my story, and things that point me in the direction that I want to go.

In the photo accompanying this post you see the magnetic board I had made to be a sort of changing art installation — an upgraded bulletin board I guess — it’s about six feet tall and four feet wide, heavy and unwieldy — the thing is a romantic gesture in itself, as I was planning to plan and plot with and be inspired by it. It is propped against the wall behind my desk so that I face it when I sit here. It’s where I put the photos I want to see everyday, the words I want to think of, the people I’d like to emulate (note K. Hepburn and L. Hutton dressed in their white shirts and masculine trousers – both embodying my emerging sartorial direction), a card from a café in Paris where I ate with H. on a quick trip there 3 years ago. The shape of it all changes a lot, just as I do. Sometimes I’ll rework it, make some space on it for new things, while the ones I take down go in a box I keep on a shelf. There are 3 boxes now.

There is energy in objects just as there is energy in a thought or a wish. I pick up a small, clear crystal from a baby blue, heart-shaped bowl and rub it with my thumb as I think. Why do I have this crystal? Why do I have a heart-shaped bowl? Maybe optimism, maybe attachment to the ideas each thing holds for me.

Maybe being romantic is just about having hope. When we do attach the word to love, isn’t that what it’s really about? Believing that a relationship can actually work out? Did anyone ever fall in love while simultaneously telling themselves that it would only last a few years and then they’d move on? Why bother?

Maybe being a romantic is about having hope that it’s never too late to dream. Believing that we will wake up tomorrow. The photographs, my son’s first pair of blue jeans, the collected, tiny gold bands in my ring box that I stack up on my fingers some days, the crocheted dress that my Mama wore when she was a baby, my charm bracelet, my dogeared cookbooks, my first editions, that pair of fawn, suede Lanvin oxfords that tie with grosgrain ribbons that I bought on a trip to Paris with my very best friend to celebrate our 40th birthdays, cards with words I like written on them, a drawing of stars I made with a fountain pen, reminders to keep at the work even when, especially when, it gets harder than I ever imagined it would be… talismans of a life lived – of things seen, of love given and received, of work done – and reminders that there’s, Lord willing, another breath to take and a way in which I want to take it.

Hold on to your hope. Be proud of it. It doesn’t make you fragile, in fact, I think it does exactly the opposite.

Happy Monday, Y’all.

AM

 

sister

Mama said she caught her getting me out of my crib when I was just a tiny baby. I don’t know what her plans were, but I’ll bet they were fun and involved listening to Willie Nelson or Miles Davis while driving fast and laughing. She told me that by the time I was born, she was hip to what the situation was and she was primed and ready. She pretty much always has been.

She is the bravest person I know.

She taught me how to ride a bicycle, how to make cinnamon rolls, how to fish, how to drive, how to smoke a cigarette, how to sing, and how to dream big dreams.

She makes me laugh harder than anyone else on the planet by hardly doing anything at all.

She used to take a .22 and go into our grandparents’ backyard, shoot a squirrel, skin and clean it, fry it in the skillet, and eat it.

She is handy with tools and can make things. Impressive things.

I don’t know anyone more soulful, anyone who does everything they do with more depth and feeling than she does. The things she can’t do that way, she typically doesn’t bother with. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

She is smart and she is kindhearted. She is funny.

She is an exceptional artist, a singular singer, and a wonderful writer.

She would stand between me and anything that threatened to harm me in any way. I would do the same for her.

I have never spoken to anyone who regretted that they had a sister. I am filled up with gratitude for mine. We are both very fortunate to have so much love in our lives, but we know that we are the walking versions of perfect love for each other. Always have been, always will be. I hope and pray that we both grow to be very old, always together in mind and heart and speaking our unspoken language, and that in another 50 years we can sit and sip something in a pretty garden somewhere and say, “Look what we did, Sissy. We did alright.”

Happiest of birthdays to the shining light that is my sister, Shelby Lynn Moorer.

Happy Monday Y’all,

AM