friends…

Essayists, like poets, are born and not made, and for one worth remembering, the world is confronted with a hundred not worth reading. Your true essayist is, in a literary sense, the friend of everybody.

William Ernest Henley

I can’t say for sure that I was born an essayist yet I sincerely hope one day to be one worth remembering. In any case, I like this idea of being the friend of everybody. That resonates. So, hello friends. Happy monday.

If Anne Lamott was my friend

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If Anne Lamott was my friend I would make her tea when she came by unannounced. I would not offer cookies because I would have already eaten them myself after the kids were in bed the night before. She’d be understanding about that because “who needs more cookies anyway, right?” she’d quip, smiling. Still, I’d feel bad about it.

I’d spread honey and butter on toast to make up for it. It’s no cookie but it’ll do.

The tea turns out pretty good. The conversation, even better, except for that five minutes in the middle when we both go to dark places. I’d feed some insecurities, she’d feed some insecurities. They’d race around the room a while as we watch- helpless, astonished, afraid. We’d wonder in those moments if the world is worthwhile, if the fight is merited, if the struggle productive, if we are worthy participants at all in this whole “life” thing.

I’d offer more tea, more honey and butter on toast to make up for it. It’s no cookie but it’ll do.

The insecurities fade a little, stopping and swaying like sleepy toddlers resisting bedtime- wobbly, woozy, whining. They stop short around the kitchen island one last time, buckling at the knees not because we have convinced them that they are tired but because the sun has shifted, their circadian rhythm winding down, heartbeat slowing,

rising,

slowing,

and then an exhale,

and then closed eyes and then we carry them softly to the couch. They will awake. They always do. And we will walk alongside and we will nurture and we will hope they feel better, do better, mature into whatever healthy insecurities grow into later. Successful lawyers or professional football players, maybe.

 

Am I a bad person?

Sometimes late at night when life is stressful it’s hard to shut off all the running dialogue in my head. When it’s been a particularly hard day, it’s the highly critical voices that keep jabbering long after the rational and kind voices have fallen asleep. I lay there in bed thinking, perseverating, contemplating but it’s fairly useless a process because no matter how much I turn it over in my head, no matter how I try to counter the criticisms I hold over myself, no matter how bright the future is apt to seem the next morning I cannot shut it off.

I recently had a rough interaction with someone I’ve known for a long time. We were friends, I suppose, depending on how one defines that. For myself, I consider someone a friend based upon the conversation we have, the deep moments (online or offline) we share, how well we respond to one another in vulnerable times. Some friends are those people I call when I have to get the voices to be quiet. Some friends I won’t burden with my blatant insecurities. It all depends on how safe I feel in that friendship. This friendship was, I thought, filled with fairly deep moments and a great deal of vulnerability. We are divergent opposites in nearly every way but we’d been able to find our common ground over the last 10 or so years and that’s encouraging. Unfortunately, the rough interaction ended our friendship and though my instinct, generally, is to pursue and repair relationships, in this case that’s not possible. This friend has no interest in being in relationship with me any longer.

It leaves me hanging, then, suspended and questioning. I envy people who can move on after friendship break ups. I lay awake at night and wonder where I went wrong, perseverate about things I said and did, regret this, regret that, justify this, justify that. In the end I am laying awake and wondering, “What if all the worse things someone believes about me are actually true? Am I a bad person?”

Now, before you rush to tell me I’m not a bad person, it’s important that I tell you that this questioning isn’t about tearing myself down and wallowing in guilt, or at least I don’t want it to be. I realized the other night as I considered all of the relationships I’ve had to walk away from, that I can count them on one hand and that’s saying something. Instead of patting myself on the back about that though, I do think it’s important to take seriously the gripes that those people have issued about me and about my character. Am I controlling? Am I divisive? Am I insincere? I ponder those questions because I sincerely want to avoid being those things. I don’t want to dig in my heels and just feel better about myself. I want to be better than I am.

I don’t take these criticisms into me. I don’t let them take up residence in me but I do listen to them, like I listen to the Jehovah’s Witness who comes to my door and catches me at home. I listen and try to understand. I listen and nod my head. I listen and question with people with whom it’s safe to question but I listen. I have to ask the hard questions. As much as I thrive on affirmation I know it’s important to engage the criticism, I know it’s wise to listen and hear and then answer in the best possible way. In the end I can only respond with love and sometimes the loving thing is to walk away from that relationship. It doesn’t mean that the gripes weren’t rooted in some truth and it also doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person.

The reality is that relationships are always messy. They are a mishmash of personality and injury and history and vulnerability. I am not going to friends with everyone and probably it’s not terribly healthy to try to be friends with everyone anyway. But I can ask myself the hard questions in the wake of the “rough” times and if I’m doing it right, I can silence the insomniac voices in the night by responding with love, for myself and for those lost friendships.

What about you, dear reader? Have you ever had a friendship end suddenly? What did you do with the feelings that were left on the table?

Life is short, have an affair.

The subject line of the email got right to the point. There was no question it was junk mail. I had this strange, conflicting set of reactions when it popped up in the list of unread emails: first, disgust at receiving the email at all and second, some admiration for the directness of the subject line.

Once, many years ago when email was new to me, I got a spam message that included an image. Back then, spam filters were fairly crude and mostly worthless and I opened the email from an innocuous sender and generic subject line. I’m no prude but the image that popped up in my feed is still seared into my brain. I can never un-see that picture and believe me, if there was a process like one described in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that would offer me the chance to erase that memory, I’d take it. It was that bad.

So, I’m a lot more careful now about opening emails. I have a system in place and a much better spam filter. Probably most of us have that. It’s much easier to get rid of sneaky spam. I marvel, though, at the outright junk mail. The best sexy junk mail subject I ever got, I think, advertised, “Hot, Nude, Librarians!” To be honest, I very nearly clicked that out of sheer curiosity. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, getting that Library Science degree takes some doing. I hear it’s no cake walk. You have to give props to “sexy, nude” Librarians, right? Thankfully, the above mentioned previous experience all but cured me of that curious leaning where spam is concerned.

Until now.

The subject line was direct enough to catch my attention. The fact that my junk filter didn’t gray it out was interesting because just one email above this one the spam filter had labeled two other messages as spam, one from Gerber Life Insurance and one from Priceline. Go figure. There were no attachments and it came from what seemed like a fairly legit email address. Though I could recognize that is was, in fact, spam, I had to highlight it to move it to the junk mailbox and report it as such. There wasn’t much to see, just a quick paragraph about housewives looking for sex outside of their marriages, quick trysts, “just for sex” and nothing more.

Online Married Ladies Seek Immediate Offline Boinking*

News flash: More and more women are jumping outside their marriages in search of no-strings-attached sex. All it takes to find a willing partner? An Internet connection and an account on a site like XXXXxxxx.com.

*And not by their husbands

Please Click Here to unsubscribe.

There was a link to their website and nothing else. No, I didn’t click the link, don’t worry. I’m not interested in having an affair. Which, it seems, according to this “News Flash” puts me into a different category than their intended audience. I was impressed by the asterisk to explain more precisely what they meant by this “boinking” (who even says “boinking” anymore?) and also with the opportunity to “unsubscribe” by clicking on a link, which I declined in favor of reporting it as spam.

Here’s the thing about this email; the subject line made me want to open the email and argue with it and that’s an odd experience to have. “Life is short, have an affair” is quite a command. It implies a lot. I don’t doubt there are a number of women and men who would feel that indeed, if life is short, getting “no strings “boinking” is a goal. I guess after 20 years of marriage and settling squarely into my 40’s I just don’t see that making it to my list of “things to do.”

I’m inclined to revert to a whatever floats yer boat kind of thinking. I’m inclined to just report the spam, have myself a moment of clarity and a brief chuckle, place this one the virtual shelf of head scratching and mildly amusing junk mails I’ve received but it stuck to me today and I try to pay attention to those things. My best reach on why it stuck to me is that it reports a real unraveling of life. It speaks desperation disguised as solution. It feeds into that autonomous, individualistic notion that all I need is to get “mine” and I’ll be fine. “Life is short, have an affair” because why not? What’s the harm?

If you’ve ever known someone who has been in a relationship where one partner has had an affair you may know immediately the fallacy of this thought. If you’ve lived long enough to see marriages break up over it, or not break up but struggle through it, then you know that the two thoughts don’t even belong in the same sentence. I try not to be judgmental, I really do, and yet I cannot think of one instance in which I’d offer this as sound advice. And the reason it felt important to post about it today is that it occurs to me that not everyone has a friend who’d point out the fallacy of this thought. They might believe this, call it “truth” because it feels right someplace not so deep in their psyche.

So for those people who might think there is some truth in “life is short, have an affair” I’d offer some other possibilities before trying that one. Try all of these first and then see where it takes you.

Life is short, love your neighbor.

Life is short, hug your children (mother, father, aunt, friend, grocery store clerk.)

Life is short, wear your seatbelt.

Life is short, read more books.

Life is short, eat delicious food.

Life is short, be mindful of the moment.

Life is short, have integrity.

Life is short.

Choose wisely.

walk alongside…

I have a new post up on Ruminate Magazine’s site today. In a way it’s not new, it’s a further reflection on things I experienced and then wrote about a number of years ago. The decision to revisit those words and emotions comes as I look over the Facebook pages of friends who, only 5 or 6 years ago were still waiting, still struggling, still walking alongside. Time is so interesting. Maybe that’s what makes Facebook so compelling for me, to be able to see the progression, the steady march of time as it crawls up my newsfeed. But we have a better measure than social media, a long term measure, that comes in the friendships we make and nurture and keep.

Time has shown me how hard it is to keep up, how rough the waters can be, how much loss and how much love are possible in any given life. Time shows me the mistakes I’ve made and whether or not I’ve learned anything at all in the wake of them.  We depend on time, always marking the passage of it like lines on the wall to show how high the children have grown or marking the days on the calendar before vacation or a wedding or the hope of a baby being made. The Rolling Stones were wrong by saying that time is on my side. It’s not. It’s outside of us. Time is indifferent to our weird little struggles, it just keeps moving along and yet it’s necessary for that measure of our lives.Time is out of our reach even as we try to gather it in, even as we try to store it in our bellies and our brains. Inevitably, I suppose we hope that time simply shows us we are better for our struggles after all.

So, digression over…take a moment to saunter over to Ruminate today. If you have experienced miscarriage or walked alongside someone who has, this post is meant for you. I hope you’ll share it if it hits you in the right place today.

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10 (or 11) things…

IMG_5458The menu was laid out on a clean, light green background. It screamed “healthy and delicious” so effectively with its thin, smooth font choice and vibrant wording. It was as though it was giving me an emotional “thumbs up” with every menu option. Phrases like, “A tofu and carrot mix” and “fried to perfection” dotted the page alongside, “thick vegan mushroom gravy” and “complimented with a bed of pico de gallo.” There is nothing like eating vegan when its done with such grace and skill…except for maybe a thick, real beef burger, medium rare…and fries, real fries, made from evil white potatoes and deep fried until my arteries shudder at the very sight of them.

I try. I really do. I want to be better. I want to live a long and healthy life. I buy organic, I avoid gmo foods, I ban high fructose corn syrup from my pantry…mostly. The truth is that I’m exhausted. I feel like Sarah Conner’s son in Terminator 2, tired of training for the war. I just want to have some fun for a change.

Sometimes I just want a burger. In fact, sometimes I just want an awful burger and fries from a fast food restaurant, the same sort of burger in the pictures everyone passes around to illustrate the “non food-ness” of such fast food.

I’m 46 years old and it’s time to come clean about a few things.

Ten (or 11) things I need to admit:

1) I like fast food, sometimes. I don’t live for it and it certainly doesn’t do much for me. It’s the friend I avoid for as long as possible, the one that pains me later but in the moment, has the best, most dangerous ideas of what to do for fun.

mcdonalds decompose

2) I hate kombucha. Hate is a strong word, I know. I’m probably the only person in my healthy circle of friends who hates it though I suspect it’s more likely I’m the only one who is willing to say it out loud. I don’t care for the flavor no matter how good it is for me and if it’s an acquired taste then that’s something but honestly, I don’t have energy for acquiring it. I just want a milkshake.

3) Milkshakes make feel nauseated an hour after I drink them. I drink them anyway…because they are delicious. It’s worth it, especially if they come from Margie’s Candies in Chicago. Trust me on this.

4) I’m not going to stop drinking coffee. I’m not even going to cut back. From time to time I think to myself, “Self, maybe we’d be better off without these cups of liquid love in the morning…” and then I slap my own face, like Cher slapping Nic Cage in Moonstruck and I feel better.

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5) I like sugary, girlie, coffee drinks. The more sugar, the more whipped cream, the better. Not everyday or even every few days but I like them and I’m not ashamed to admit it. When I order the non fat milk in my grande toffee nut latte (you know, just to balance things out) and the Barista asks if I “still want the whipped cream” sometimes I order extra just to make a point.

6) When I’m at home, I’m going to use that fake, sugary creamer. I’ve tried to switch to the “soy” creamer or the “coconut” creamer or plain milk. It takes all the fun out of that cup of liquid love and I resent that. They say resentment is a relationship killer so I’m going to stick with the fake, sugary creamer because as I stated, I’m not going to stop drinking coffee.

7) “Diet” versions of anything gross me out. Next.

8) Sugar replacements taste like chemicals to me. I know everyone says it’s because they’re just far far sweeter than real sugar or even high fructose corn syrup but you know what? I think that’s a lie or it’s possible that my taste buds are just whacked out. It’s possible.

9) Quinoa. I know people who can cook it beautifully and it tastes nice, not awesome, but nice. Don’t tell me I just don’t have the right recipe because I’ve tried more than you know. I have never been able to duplicate this and believe me I’ve tried to do it over and over for health’s sake because it’s supposed to be a power food, mystical and magical. You know what’s magical? Chocolate cake.

10) Trendy eating habits are killing my soul. Paleo, Atkins, Eat to Live, HcG…doesn’t matter. I’m not going to live forever. The clock’s ticking here and I’m tired of spending time trying to figure out which way of eating is “correct.” So from now on I’m subscribing to what my friend Sarah calls the “delishitarian” diet. If it’s delicious, I will eat it.

and 

11) I woke up a little cranky today.

Sorry.

loving the belly…

I love my belly. I have to remind myself to love my belly but I do love my belly. I have to remind myself not to make that heavy sigh when I sit down and see it peeking out at me over my low rise jeans.  When will high rise jeans come back into fashion? That’s what I want to know.

I have to remind myself to love my belly whenever I get those side ads on my Facebook page giving me ideas on how to get rid of my “muffin top.”

I have to remind myself to love my belly whenever I get emails telling me the best way to reduce my waistline or increase my bustline or Lord knows…

There is no legitimate get rich program for the body. All the changes in my body took place over time, over meals, over snacks, over couch sitting, over baby sitting, over baby making. All the changes that take place in my body took time to build and if I want to make a change in my body I have to do it over time and with a lot of patience.

And patience? Patience comes with the reminder that I love my belly.  Maybe it’s not like this for you, maybe you have to choose “action” first and belly love second. You know yourself a lot better than I do, better than anyone does, really.  I have to remind myself to love my belly not because I never want to “get rid of my muffin top”  but because this is the belly I have now and forever, no matter how much of it falls over the top of my low-rise jeans. I have to start with loving the body I have because when I love the belly, I take better care of it. Reminding myself to love my belly or my thighs or my flabby arms reminds me that it is worth my attention, worth my consideration, worth my care. I am my belly and my thighs and my flabby arms.  I am worthy of care.

deadline…

This week I’m delivering my book manuscript to the editor for the first time…which explains my recent absence from Mrs Metaphor, obviously. It also explains the paltry snack options my kids find in their lunch boxes, the piles of laundry on the floor, the dust bunnies that I am pretty sure are forming a union as we speak and the empty gallons of milk in the fridge. So, all in all, you guys are not being quite so overlooked now are you?

In lieu of a text-y post this week I gladly offer up this morsel to stimulate your visual cortex instead:

justice…

” What is justice? Giving water to trees. What is injustice? To give water to thorns. Justice consists in bestowing bounty in its proper place, not on every root that will absorb water. ” -Rumi

Last night as I read an article about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case my 11-year-old son asked what it was about. I closed my laptop and I took a moment to put words together to describe the situation. I left out as many loaded details as I could.

“A teenaged boy was walking home from the store in a neighborhood that was not his own. Another man, who thought he looked suspicious began to follow him. He was part of a community watch group and he thought the boy was up to no good. They got into a fight of some kind and in their scuffle, the community watch man shot the teenager.”

“What happened to the teenager then?” 

“Well, he died.” 

“What happened to the community watch guy?”

“He stood trial for it and was found not guilty.”

“But he shot the boy.”

“Yes.”

“How could he not get punished for killing a person?”

“Because he said it was self-defense. He said he was afraid for his life.”

“Did the teenager have a gun?”

“No.”

Henry shook his head.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Me neither,” I answered.

Some things I think I know.  Speculation is a safe pass time these days. If I hear the term “armchair lawyer” one more time I might throw up. Pundits get paid pretty well. It’s lucrative to have a strong opinion and a loud voice and a learned perspective because we all want to know how to feel in the wake of difficult things.

We all want to be justified in our thinking and our feeling and our opinions and yet it’s important, today, to remember that we are not simply the sum of our opinions. It’s important today for most of us to keep in mind how little we actually “know” in the grand scheme of things and I’m not talking about the rule of law or the case at hand.

Some are filled with moral outrage today, some are filled with righteous pride. Some are clinging to the possibility of justice, some are clinging to the integrity of the system. I only know that I feel sad for the loss of the boy and the realization that I don’t know what social progress looks like anymore.

That is all I know.

Your vote…

It’s always an election year.

Sometimes I forget this but it’s true. Elections of some kind or another are being held all the time. Special elections, local elections, School board elections…we’re in the process of appointing people to help us manage the governing of our people at some level all the time. We fall into a dangerous lull in between the “big elections” when we don’t sweat the small stuff but as we all know, it’s all small stuff.

It’s always an election year.

I ran across these posts from 2012 today and was reminded of my responsibility as it pertains to government, all government no matter how much television coverage it gets.

Advice for politicians

You could say this is a kind of “open letter” for politicians although I doubt many would read and take to heart this unsolicited advice. They pay big money for advice, generally. They have gas-powered multi task machines, as it were, they have little need of my vegetable peelers and melon ballers I wager. Nevertheless, here is my advice to politicians…

Advice for voters

Turns out, I do have some unsolicited advice for voters for what it’s worth. Most of these things you already know so this is simply a reminder. It’s a reminder for you and for me, for your neighbor, your Aunt, your grocery store clerk. These are bi-partisan bits of  well-worn road seen through the lens of the digital age. So, without further introduction, Advice for Voters.

We can grouse about do-nothing Congresses or high level leaders we don’t care for but we build these people from the ground up. If we want adequate leadership in big arenas of our future then we better start paying attention to the small stuff and going local. Take some time, read my advice and then find out what’s being decided in your neighborhood, in your ward, in your city and state. Pay attention and participate. That’s how change happens.

Got advice for voters on “going local?” Add it here in the comments!

We really are in this together.

Your congressional leaders are found here

State Reps are found here

On digital engagement