Thursday, February 21, 2013

Visiting Ghosts: Writing about the Past

One of my current writing projects is an essay (or longer something... book? eep.) about faith and identity.  I can't write about becoming a Christ follower without writing about an ex-boyfriend I dated for almost two years during college, a guy I expected to marry someday.

It's hard to go back to journals and memories about this time of my life.  Things with E were never really bad.  He didn't abuse me or cheat on me.  We fell in love fast and hard and made each other the centers of our worlds.  It wasn't a horrible relationship, but it was an incredibly formative relationship.  In fact, as cooky as it sounds, I think if God hadn't intervened in his mysterious way, I could have married him, and I could have made it work.  I loved him so much  that he held the place of god in my life, for a long time.  But as my faith in God grew and expanded into the rest of my life, his lack of belief became an increasing source of conflict for us, among other differences that surfaced during the time we were together.  Eventually I had two worlds: There was my life when I was with him, and there was my life when I was not with him.  Things gradually unraveled for us until we finally split up.

It is easy to demonize people who have loved us--and hurt us--deeply.  We are quick to remember the times of conflict, the tragic and the painful, because to revisit the memory of when it was good is risky.  It's uncomfortable.  Remembering when you were happy with this person who is no longer a part of your life feels dirty.  It feels like you are cheating on your spouse, the person you've chosen to love for over a decade now, the person with whom you have built a real and true love story, a story of living through many trials already, and survived.

But in order to write the whole story, to give that person on the page three dimensions instead of the one dimension you remember best, I have to remember how deeply I loved.  Without remembering and writing out how great I felt when I was with him, why I loved him so much, the impact of that loss and the brokenness that trailed me afterward sounds artificial, sappy, melodramatic.  I want to be fair to E and in doing so, I will be telling a true story, not just a wounded half-truth.

E is a person who has never left my conscious.  People who have that deep of an influence on your formation as a whole human being leave deep indents, like the meteor that just cracked into Earth.  That impact might be traumatic, impossible to refill or repair.  But over time, that crater will be transformed and healed, never erased, just redeemed.  One of my best friends calls these seasons of life our "grace-bearers"-- a reminder of the grace and mercy extended by the Lion that never leaves our side.

And that's the story I want to tell.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poem for Valentine's Day

I wrote this little poem for my husband a couple of Valentine's Days ago. It's a little geeky in that I love researching stuff I didn't know before (like the names of DNA components), but I think even without the DNA, you can get the jist, that I love my husband, and that we're in it for the long haul. This is from my book, Pruning Burning Bushes, which has a few more lovey-dovey poems in it written specifically for other people's marriages, and then a few more that find their origins in this relationship right here.

Happy Valentine's Day, people!

Woven and Spun 

This strand of life
we’ve braided
holds enough history to be
a length of DNA.
Tucked between the kisses given
in quickened passing
and longer-lasting glances
is a trust
like hydrogen bonds
between the bases
thymine and adenine
set to stabilize our double spiral.
After all, your helix is mine
and its twisting is witnessed
in these living beings
we’ve created.
But even when it’s just
me and you around,
our chemical reactions
off interacting in this world,
we will stay bound,
double helix woven and spun.
Our bodies seize the space
of atoms, your soul, legs, fingers, eyes
entwined with mine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sick Day, Part Two

I felt it coming. Something not quite right in the belly, all day yesterday.  Generally someone starts to get sick within twelve hours of my husband packing his suitcase for a couple of days away on business.  Someone in the house starts to cough or sniffle, or someone runs a fever, or someone spends the evening on the toilet or vomiting on the staircase.  

This time, it was me.

I didn't vomit on the stairs, but I did spend the dark hours of the night stumbling from bed to the bathroom for... various bathroom activities I don't really like to talk about.  When my alarm went off this morning, I groaned.  Is it really only Tuesday? Am I really sick?  Is Brandon really out of town?

Brandon and I rehearse the schedule for childcare and work each week, probably every day he's home.  There are many advantages to Brandon's work schedule but a significant disadvantage is the unpredictability of when he'll be out of town.  Sometimes it is Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, sometimes it is Friday, sometimes it's half-day Monday, Thursday, and half-day Friday.  It would be easier if I knew he worked two or three specific days a week because then I could just say, "Hey, can you watch my kid these three days a week for the next four months?"  

This works real well in the fall when I'm off on Fridays (see my previous post about my ideal work scenario).  But in the winter and spring, the schedule goes kaboom.  A great thing, money wise; a crazy thing, sanity-wise.

Because of this unpredictability, my mom-in-law had planned to drive down from Akron this morning with Brandon's 89-year-old grandma who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease in order to watch Henry for me.  And then, I found out yesterday that my dear, dear friend who often watches Henry was actually available, so I called off Rhonda and Garnet.  Rhonda was grateful, and I was relieved that she didn't need to worry about getting grandma ready by 7 a.m. to get here.

Back to this morning, lying in bed pressing snooze.  Dilemma: I'm sick.  I'm not going to go to work because I'm sick.  Do I send the kids to their respective schools and childcare centers all day, or do I call off the troops and keep Henry here, with me, even with the aforementioned bathroom emergencies, and then leave at 11:30 to get Elvis, and then leave again at 3 to get Lydia?  Then there's all the mess of making lunches for people, and snacks for people, and changing Henry's diaper, and keeping them entertained all day.

We all woke up, eventually, and I shuffled about, working this out in my mind.  If I send the kids all day to Park Street and Henry all day to my friend's house, what will people think? Adults have to care for their young children by themselves when they are sick all the time.  I've done it dozens of times before; we gather around the television and watch Disney flick after Pixar clip until it's time for lunch and then we nuke whatever is available to eat from the fridge and keep on at the movies until it's dinnertime and then bedtime.  It's manageable.  

But I had already gone through all this trouble to arrange for childcare, all this finagling to make life happen the way it needs to happen on a normal, regular day, and after all of that work, why should I call it off just because I've been up all night sick?  Isn't my wellness worth the childcare expenses?

So I changed from pajama pants to sweatpants, which are obviously more respectable, bundled up everyone in winter wear, packed Lydia's lunch, and dropped them off at school and preschool and childcare.

Let me interject a moment to say that we have some great friends who help us out in big and small ways constantly.  I didn't actually take Lydia to school; our friends down the street took her when I dropped Henry off at his sitter's.  They do this often, as do our friends right next door.  It's these favors that seem so small but make a world of difference for me, every day.  I breathe easier knowing they're around.

When I dropped off Elvis, I had to get out of the car and sign him in.  His teacher greeted us at the door and offered to take Elvis's stuffed animal for naptime while he took off his coat.  "Thanks for taking him today," I said, "I'm not actually going to work today; I was up all night with a stomach flu or something."  I don't know why I felt like I needed to explain, except that I don't get the feeling that this particular teacher likes me much.  I think I'm one of the anonymous parents in the school who forgets to send in bookfair money and never remembers to buy the teachers Christmas presents, and every time I pull up at 8:10 a.m. and hustle around the car in high heels to open the door for Elvis, urging him to hurry, hurry, hurry, unbuckle your seatbelt, let's go, buddy, she smiles a pitying smile, as if to say, "Running late again?" 

So I guess I needed to explain why I was still in sweatpants, a pink hooded sweatshirt bunched up underneath my winter coat, to explain why today I'm being a lazy mom and unloading my beloved children onto several other people so that I can sleep on the couch, watch several hours of Mad Men and make chicken soup.  And visit the restroom.  

Yes, that's right, that's what I did.  Self-care.  And by three o'clock, after two long naps, several cups of hot tea and honey, a banana snack and chicken broth lunch, and disc two of season two, I changed out of my sweatpants and into jeans to give the appearance of showering and getting dressed today.  By four, I felt like a human, albeit a shaky one, and was ready to retrieve my kids.  Park Street said, "My, you're early today!" and I offered up the same line as this morning, "Well, actually, I didn't go to work today because I felt ill."  "Ah," she said, and walked off.  Ah.  Yes.  Let's go home, kids.