I'm back. So much for the goal to post every day: it's been a over month. I actually made the blog private for that time and I just opened it up again today. I was inspired by the blog of my friend Elizabeth, who isn't afraid to write openly.
I feel like most of the personal blogs out there are covered in a layer of make-up: they're beautiful and interesting but they present a carefully crafted public persona that coats more than it reveals. Thus it is our insecurities that draw us to the blogosphere—our guilt that our lives are not so perfect as theirs, and our desperate hope that they could be if we could only lose 10 lbs and renovate the living room. But until I tried to create something different, I did not realize how difficult it is to discard this false self.
It's terrifying. And courageous.
And so sorely needed.
I believe that this courage could make blogging a real art form, a way of letting people into the secret life we're usually reticent to share. It would be a blogging culture that heals—heals by the simple virtue that it is real when so much of what surrounds us is exaggerated and sugarcoated. Heals through exposure, through a nakedness that makes us see something of ourselves. Have you ever read an essay that made you feel less alone in the world? Have you come across an author who wrote what you always felt but could never explain? Now imagine, not an essay or a novel, but a life, a whole person presented to you in their messy entirety, a daily confession that life is not perfect or lovely or organized, but it is good. It is so wonderfully, surprisingly good. And its goodness is not lessened by its imperfection: it is exalted by it. That we cling to life and love it so desperately is made miraculous by its drudgery. Why should we love something that both tortures and bores us? It never ceases to amaze me that life, in all its difficulty, is also incandescently precious and joyous. There should be a blogging style to reflect that.
That's the goal, anyway. It's lofty, maybe, but that's all the more reason to try.
I'm writing a day late again. Yesterday was good, though. I woke up early enough to run, but ended up writing instead. My roommate woke up to get her bags ready for her trip and she saw me on my computer. "Are you doing homework or writing?" she asked, and gave me an approving look when I said I was writing. We both make these goals to write more but then never do it. I think the blog has helped me keep up on it, though I don't think anyone but me and my children will ever read it. But it's nice to have a place to write a little every day, even if it's not very profound or literary. I love to read good writing, and someday I would like to write that powerfully, but sometimes I need the process of writing more than the result. There's a healing power in creativity, whether you're writing or painting or making music. I think it reveals the divine in the ordinary.
I went to class, then to work, then to the French speaking lab. I connected with an old Skype buddy who lives in Guatemala City. We practice French together, which is kind of funny if you think about it. A Latino and a gringa having conversations in French. I remember once I taught a man from Cuba on my mission, and sometimes it would hit me how strange it was that his native language was Spanish, mine was English, and here we were speaking to each other in Hungarian.
After the French speaking lab I watched a few episodes of Parks and Recreation with Chicho. It was kind of awkward between us for most of the day, but even then it was good to be with him. I had the thought that, after everything, maybe he just wants to be friends. And surprisingly, I was okay with that. It would be sad, of course, but it was good to know.
We went on a long walk and stopped at Sammy's on our way. He got a peach milkshake and I got a peach-flavored Italian soda. We were there for a long time, then we walked back to my apartment and watched He Loves Me ... He Loves Me Not. Afterwards we were just sitting on my couch talking. He found a massive spider in my bathroom that I didn't know was there, and we (by that I mean I) spent a good 15 minutes trying to work up enough courage to move it outside. I really just wanted to kill it, but instead I put a cup over it, slid a paper underneath, then ran outside—screaming the whole time. "CHICHO GET THE DOOR! GET THE DOOR!" He laughed as he recorded the whole thing on his phone.
When the spider was safely and peacefully moved outside, we sat down on the couch again and talked (our lives are exciting, I know). We started talking about current events, and he got out his phone to check the latest news on Twitter. While he was on his phone I tilted my head back, closed my eyes, and started singing. Caledonia, Moon River, Gypsy Rover. I don't usually sing around other people, but I often sing or hum to myself when I'm driving or cleaning, and I always imagined singing to my kids at night. Singing to someone is such a loving act. Maybe even more so for those of us who aren't great at it.
I was just finishing Gypsy Rover when I felt Chicho put his arm around me and pull me toward him. I put my arm around him and laid my head on his chest—it was the first time we'd touched all day. It felt good to be close to him again.
I was feeling awful today. Because of my bad decisions yesterday and in other recent weeks, I damaged a relationship that means a lot to me.
This morning I woke up and went on an hour-long run to try and let those emotions out. I called my brother as I began walking home from my run, and he said that he was at a doctor's office, which I happened to be standing in front of. I went in and sat with him in the waiting room for awhile. That was a small miracle, now that I think about it. After that I walked home, made a green smoothie and drove over to the farm to pick up my CSA.
Then everything set in, and I felt awful again. I called my brother to see if he was going to come on a hike we'd planned with some family friends today, and I didn't mean to but I started to cry. He invited me over, and when I got there he just talked with me. It meant a lot to me to have him there.
He couldn't come on the hike, so I drove up alone. I couldn't shake the sadness, and I was trying to find a radio station to help distract my mind from the turmoil in my heart. First you should know that when I got home from my mission, whenever I turned on the radio while driving, I gravitated to the Christian Rock station. I don't know that it was my type of music, but the messages made me feel good. There was this one song that always made me happy and I would wait for it to come on. So fast forward to today, and I'm sad and regretful and I'm flipping through radio stations as I drive. I finally end up on the Christian Rock station, and as the song that's playing finishes up I'm thinking of all these emotions, and I start thinking of God. Not so much praying as extending my heart to him, which I suppose you could say is prayer in its essential form. I felt awful, and then that song came on. I had the distinct impression that God was aware of me, and as silly as it is, that song seemed to be his way of letting me know.
I also felt—I'm not sure how to explain this. Sometimes people will say that they feel that their deceased loved one is there with them, and I always wanted to feel that about my mom, but I never could. I believed she was there, to the point that I could say that I knew she was there, but I never felt her. But lately I've had these moments where I really do feel her. And it's not a big thing, or an extravagant thing. It's as simple as it would be if she were alive—like of course she's there. Why wouldn't she be? I felt her today again, and it reminded me that the pains of this life are temporary. Losing her was the greatest pain of my life, and knowing that that pain will end someday means knowing that there is no other pain that won't end as well. I imagined seeing her again; it's always the same: I see Christ first, and then he motions me to her. It's always him first, though, and I think it has to be. He's the reason I'll see her again.
I don't know why she's come back to me lately, when I'd been afraid for so many years that I would forget her. But whenever I feel her, it's as if she'd been there all along. As if nothing has changed: I'm still her daughter and she's still my mom. She can't give me a hug and tell me everything will be okay, but feeling her there reminds me that I can be strong like she was. That strength is a part of me. It always surprises me how fresh the pain of losing her is, even after all these years. Memorial Day weekend marks the anniversary of her death, and sometimes it's as if it was just yesterday. How could I forget her when the wound is still so raw? But then lately there have been these moments—it's like Proust wrote in a letter to George de Lauris, whose mother had just died:
"Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you."
(1907, quoted by Roland Barthes in 'Mourning Diary,' trans. Richard Howard)
Besides the pain that won't go away, there's something new. For lack of a better image, it's as if I have a guardian angel. And I don't know precisely why, but I really need her right now. I think God understands that, so he's letting her return. It's only happened twice, and just in the past few weeks. But she's there. She promised she wouldn't leave me alone, and she hasn't. I will always be grateful to God for letting her keep her promise.
It just took me ten years to see it.
I made it up to the hiking place, a really pretty area with lots of trails. We found a campsite to roast some hotdogs (I made myself a vegetarian sandwich), and the mom, when we were walking alone at one point, talked to me about everything that had happened. She didn't tell me that it would all be okay, but she said she'd be there if it wasn't.
Coming home meant confronting the consequences of everything, and it turned out to be more heartbreaking than I expected. But as I lay awake at night, the pieces of my heart in my throat making me want to vomit, I realized that this will pass. And if I can be humble enough to really change, then things will be better for it. Much better. It just hurts right now, and that's okay.
Writing tonight also helped me realize how many people the Lord had placed in my path today. When I got home my roommate was there. She was supposed to be in a different city tonight, so it was another little miracle that she ended up staying home. She talked to me for a long time, and I began to see a way forward. I felt that familiar peace again, and I knew that everything would be alright.
Church was excellent today. I'm always surprised by how much church helps me. No matter how my week was, or how complacent I feel by Sunday morning, going to church always gives me a renewed desire to do the right thing and to be better. Or some weeks I just need comfort or understanding, and I always seem to find it, or I find a way to find it, in church. It's increasingly becoming one of the things I'm most grateful for.
This new congregation is great, too. I try to come early (I feel like I get more out of it when I'm not rushing in at the last minute), and inevitably someone I haven't met yet will come up and talk to me before the meeting starts. Besides all that I learn and feel at church, I'm grateful just to be around the people there. None of us are perfect, but the collective effect of good intentions and honest effort comes pretty close to perfection in my book. Come to church with me sometime and you'll see what I mean.
After church I made more lecso from this week's leftover ingredients, then I Skyped with my grandparents for a couple of hours. They've lived overseas for a good portion of my life, but they're moving back this summer. I only have a few more Skype dates left before they're a time zone away! I'm excited to call them whenever I want to and know for sure that it's not 3 a.m. their time.
Chicho texted when I finished Skyping my grandparents, and I walked over to his house for dinner. He's a really good cook, and a healthy one. My specialty is pizza; his is fish and rice. Today he baked it and it was delicious. I brought a portion of my ridiculous salad stock.
Chicho's friends invited us to a bonfire in the canyon tonight and he asked if I wanted to go. All I really wanted to do was go home, make chocolate chip cookies, and read a book, by myself. Or just stick with the book and a cup of tea if I was too self-controlled or too lazy to make the cookies. Anyway, Chicho could tell that I was hesitant to go so he let me off the hook. As I was leaving, I tried to assure him that I really did love his friends. I do really love them. It's just that they all speak Spanish, and I don't, and whenever we hang out with them they speak in Spanish and I feel lost and awkward. I really didn't want to deal with that tonight. But as I was walking home, I realized that if I'm going to date him this will be a part of the package, at least until I get a good handle on Spanish. He's worth that effort. And I realized that it's important not just that I get along with him, but that I make a sincere effort to hang out with his friends, too. I know I would want him to do the same for me. So halfway through my walk home I called him and told him I was coming.
We all met at his friend's apartment and left for the canyon. It started off well, and though there were times when they broke into Spanish, it was balanced with enough English that I felt included. But then there came a point when they started telling stories, roaring with laughter—and it was all in Spanish. I just stared at the fire. Looking back, I should've just asked someone to explain what was going on. But at the time I didn't want to feel like a burden, and I felt hurt, and when that happens I retreat back into myself like a wounded animal. I just wanted to disappear, and I really wished I'd brought my own car so I could leave. But I didn't, and a half an hour later when someone tried to talk to me in English again, I was so embarrassed and hurt that the attention only made me feel more embarrassed and more hurt. I curled up in my chair and pretended to sleep. I'm not sure how convincing I was, but they continued to joke and laugh, and that felt a lot better than the overt efforts to make me feel included after they'd forgotten I was there.
Looking back, this is what happened: I let myself get hurt and embarrassed, and instead of pushing those feelings aside by taking control of my own happiness, I folded in on myself and on all those negative emotions, and tried to disappear as much as my situation allowed. I should've just swallowed my pride instead.
Getting a haircut is a really weird social experience. It's you and another person—since I move a lot it's usually someone I don't know, but even if you know them it's generally this person you only see when you need a haircut—and you're shoved together for an hour. So you make all this small talk, and you end up finding quite a bit about each other. It's just interesting, I think.
After my haircut today I met up with Chicho and we went on a pretty long run, then continued walking for awhile. We both went home and changed, then met up again and walked downtown for dinner. We ate at this Indian restaurant we've wanted to try for awhile and it was so good! At Indian restaurants it always looks like there isn't that much food, but I'm surprised by how full I am afterwards. They also waited until we were done to bring the check, and they asked first, which made Chicho think it was the best restaurant ever. He hates that in America the waiter brings the check before you've finished your food, like they're encouraging you to leave. Personally I like it. I would hate to have to ask for my check (I hate flagging down servers), and I like having it there to pay whenever I want to. But I grew up here, so I guess I'm used to it.
We were walking home and saw an inviting patch of grass, so we laid down and talked for awhile. Then we drove up the canyon and made a fire and roasted marshmallows. Tonight I decided that every girl should spend at least one night around a fire with the boy they're dating. We had a really good conversation about life and marriage and challenges and what-ifs and experiences and people and likes and dislikes—I learned a lot about him. Isn't it interesting that no matter how much time you spend with a person, there's always more that you can learn about them? People have a way of surprising you.
We left, and just as we were pulling up to his apartment he got a call from his friends, who were heading up to where we'd just been—there was going to be a meteor shower in thirty minutes! We couldn't believe that we'd just left! But we were both too tired to drive up again, so we stayed in the car and talked more, not wanting to say goodbye.
Then I came home and crashed on my bed fully dressed. Good day, I would say. But Chicho told me a scary story while we were around the campfire, and now I can't sleep. I'm a baby when it comes to stuff like that. But maybe I'm just secretly looking for an excuse to listen to Coldplay's new album at 4 a.m., which is, interestingly, titled Ghost Stories.
I'm not sure how I feel about the new Coldplay sound. I really love Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, but their other albums have grown on me with time. This one will too, I hope. I do really like the music video for Magic.
First, isn't the view from my window gorgeous? I live in a forest, my friends.
Not really, I live in a suburb south of campus. But sometimes when I wake up and look out my window, I like to believe that it's a forest out there and not just a bunch of overgrown ivy.
Second, I'm sorry I forgot to write yesterday. I worked later than usual, then Chicho and I went out for a (belated—his birthday was in March) birthday dinner, including our favorite burritos and a long twisty cinnamon thing with vanilla cream dip from the pizza place next door. That's about it, as far as my day goes. Work and food and love.
I also have unbelievable amounts of lettuce in my fridge that have been slowly collecting from my CSA the last few weeks. I don't know what to do with it all, so I've started making green smoothies. My roommate is on a juice cleanse for a few weeks (I can hear the juicer in the kitchen right now), so basically all she eats is green smoothies. Or drinks, rather. She keeps telling me to try it, and I'm tempted. I go through these phases: Lucky Charms and burritos and pizza, then I feel awful and it's green smoothies and salmon for a few weeks, then I rediscover how delicious Lucky Charms are and the cycle begins again. It's a form of balance, I guess. But I've wanted to try living like Melissa from My Whole Food Life for a long time, and I know I need to give up processed sugars (e.g. Lucky Charms). It's just bad stuff, and you can get all the sweetness you need from honey and other natural sources. I'm ok with eating like an unhealthy 20-something college student right now, but the cereal train has gotta end sometime.
Anyway, I have to take a shower and head to class. Have a good day!