Monday, September 24, 2012

Smother

She was afraid.
To stay.
To leave.
To move away from comfort.
Safety.
Familiarity.
Warmth.
So fear
kept her restrained
held
immovable
frozen.

And this could be a
short story
if she compromised
with fear and decided
to not "cause a stir"
to "play her role"
and "not cause problems."
But the fire in her soul
could not be smothered
could not be silenced.

And so
with trembling legs
and a trembling heart
she moved.

Forward.

Anyway.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

She Aged

What is "age"?
The amount of years you've been on planet earth?
The length of time you've been alive?
A number by which you are judged?
A death-sentence?

Well, "age" depends on your age, I guess.

Because we love aging in our youth.
We can't wait to be thirteen.
Sixteen. 
Eighteen.
Twenty-one.

But around twenty-two and a half, 
we start realizing that the milestones have ceased
the benefits seem less important
and we start longing 
just to be twenty-one,
eighteen,
sixteen,
 thirteen.

The ages that matter.
The times in our lives when we were valued most.
Possibly envied most.

But what about twenty-four years old?
It's serving me well.
And what about thirty-three?
That seems pretty good.
Is forty-seven worth mentioning?
I bet it is to someone who died at forty-six.

The years are gifts.
Blessings.
Abundance.
Life. 
And yet we fight it.
After twenty-one, we hide our age.
We gripe at the tell-tale signs of our length on earth.
We pretend like life isn't happening.
As. It's. Happening. 
We give vague answers to the question that seems to penetrate our soul:
"How old are you?"

I am twenty-four. 
I'm proud of those years.
I've worked for them.
I've earned them.
We all have.

And I watch forty-somethings cower at this question of age,
and in my head I'm thinking:
"No, please don't hide from this question with embarrassment 
as if there is something you've done wrong. 
You've aged like the rest of us and 
you've made it farther than I have. 
Congratulations! 
You're alive!"   

But Nana feels differently.
Nana spends her days and nights living
(kind of)
in an assisted living facility
for people who are literally losing their minds.

She asks me: Have you seen my mother?
I should know, apparently, because she asks,
Were you at my wedding?
Are we going to the mountains?
Who are you?
And most often: When am I going home?
As we walk out the door and leave her behind.

It's excruciating.
It's not right.
It shouldn't be this way.
But it is.
And what did she do to deserve this?
She aged.

I'm unsure yet of how to "age gracefully."
Is it acceptance?
Is it hair dye?
Is it giving up?
Is it simply growing up?

It must be somewhere between longing for the next youthful milestone and hating every birthday.

It must be somewhere between disrespecting and pitying those who have aged and wishing for the past. 
 
We must come to terms with age.
Because age will happen to each of us equally, systematically.
To some with furrowed brows and resentment.
And to some with open arms and a grateful spirit.

But age will come.
















Monday, September 17, 2012

Four Month Anniversary

After camp was over for the summer, Jeremy and I were the last to leave. The campers were gone. The food was gone. The staff were gone. All that was left was the lake, the trees, and several abandoned buildings. We rolled down the windows, drove out the lake road for the last time, and headed for Colorado.

Hitting the road was like starting over. We had no agenda. No meetings. No pressing emotional conversations. Just us. In the truck. Driving.

After a few days, we landed in Colorado at a friend's wedding. Weddings are such a great opportunity to see friends who have grown apart geographically. We walked in the door and dear friends who haven't seen us since the wedding cheered, "Congratulations!" That was it. All they said was "Congratulations". And that's all I needed. I walked out the door with tears in my eyes because that's all I needed. For someone to be happy for us--besides us--and it felt so good.

It's strange going to weddings right after your own. You think of them differently. You feel them differently. We whispered our own vows to each other again and danced late into the night.

This chapter of life hasn't look at all as I thought it would. I thought we'd be settled by now with at least a few job leads, but none of that has happened. Yet. For now, we're enjoying our time at home and figuring out what to do next.


Our four-month anniversary came and went on Thursday. We were too busy job-hunting and running errands to do much to celebrate. But frankly, I don't mind at all. Because the last month of quality time with my husband, laughter, and late nights spent with people we love, is plenty enough celebration for me.


Oh, and here's some random music that has been brightening our days lately. Maybe it will brighten yours too. Have you heard Imagine Dragons? You should.




To Those Who Outlive Their Owners

What happens to those who outlive their owners?
Do the homes just sit empty?
The pets slip away?
The time shares in Cabo just re-join the fray?

What happens to those who outlive their owners?
Do their social security numbers disappear?
The cars sit and rust?
The clothing in their closets return to the dust?

What happens to those who outlive their owners?
Do the storage spaces, safety deposit, and P.O. boxes
seek out their share to compensate losses?
The favorite chair sits and waits? Forever?

What happens to those who outlive their owners?
Do their stories evaporate?
Their memories disappear?
Did their value only matter when they were standing right here?

What happens when people die?
What if their friends and family are non-existant
or not around?
What if their last companion recently left
and drove out of town?
What happens to their stuff?
Does it sit and take up space?
Does a swift eraser of all things past
breeze through without a face?

What happens to those who outlive their owners?
I suppose their recycled
adopted anew
until their next owners
are indefinitely through.

Seizing

In eighth grade, I was given a Canon Power shot digital camera for graduation. Nothing fancy nowadays. But digital and mine. Ever since then, I've taken pictures, uploaded them to my computer and put them in folders labeled by time and location. There is the "High school" folder, the "College" folder, the "Cambodia" folder, and the "Summers" folders. And within those folders specific events and times. Every picture has it's place. Until recently.

Now, all of our pictures go into the "Post-College" and "Post-Camp" folder. This says a lot about my life right now. For the first time in my life, I don't know what to call this folder.

I have a college degree.
But no job.
I am recently married.
But unsure of what to do next.
I'm living with my parents.
This is not how I thought this would go. 

I wonder how many twenty-somethings can relate to 3 or 4 of those sentiments. I hope the number is high. Because feeling like we're here all alone feels awful and somehow, knowing we're not the only ones would bring a lot of comfort.

In my on-line job-searching frenzy, I found this website called The Ultimate Life After College Survival Guide. Their advice: Seize the day! Apparently, this is the best time in my life to travel and live large with responsibility. Oy, I wish seizing the day wasn't so expensive.

Another post reads: 
"There is very little in life more discouraging than spending thousands and thousands of dollars on an education only to find no one willing to give you a job and a chance."

This is totally where we're at, thinking, what was the point? Obviously, a degree is no guarantee (and it helps if you're actually passionate about your degree. Dangit.), but I never thought that at 24 years-old I'd be applying to coffee shops and nannying jobs (oh, and egg donation is not off the list of possibilities). Just about every Craigslist scam has me thinking, "Hmm...maybe..."

Apparently, the best advice via Collegeaftermath.com is:

"Enjoy this insecure, adrift, wandering phase of your life. Because with all certainty, it won’t last. Someday you will have a job, you will be settled, and you will – absolutely – reminisce about the days when all you had to do was wake up and explore the possibilities of where your life will go. Looking for a job, though challenging and daunting, is the equivalent of standing at a cross-roads and choosing which way to go. Entertain your craziest ambitions and remember that the choices you make now will affect the rest of your life. And if nothing else, enjoy the fact that you can sleep in, eat breakfast by the computer, and spend the day wallowing in your life and the direction you want to take it."

Someday, I will have a job.
Someday, I will be settled.
Someday, I will look back and miss this.












Monday, September 10, 2012

What to do when you don't know what to do

I'm tired of saying, "I don't know."

To questions like:
"Where will you be living?"
"Where will you work?"
"How will you pay your bills?"
"Do you want to be a teacher?"
"Where will Jeremy work?"
"Will either of you get a Master's degree?"
"Are you still considering teaching English overseas?"
"Do you think you'll have kids?"
"Do you see yourselves staying in Nebraska long-term?"
"Do you think you'll ever move back to Colorado?"

Basically, "What's your plan?"

And this question is asked by kind, well-meaning people simply seeking to make conversation. They've just not been the most confidence-boosting interactions as of late.

And I just want to yell: "I DON'T KNOW! Okay? Yes, I just got married. Yes, I'm 24 years-old and I've graduated from college. But...but..."

Silence. Quiet. Space.

"I don't know."


The problem is that I'm home in Colorado visiting my parents. They own a home. They have health insurance. Spending money. A few toys. Jobs. They've worked really hard for 35 years in several different careers to get what they have. And I think I grew up under the impression that if I worked hard in school and obtained a college degree that, I too, would have what they have: security. Right now. But those things aren't readily available to an undecided college graduate with student loan debt and no job.

This morning, (in the yoga class my mom graciously paid for), I was surprised to re-learn a few much-needed lessons. You see, yoga class allows a certain amount of stress within it's doors. We all bring our own junk to the mat, our financial worries and our family woes, but the postures also intentionally create stress. The Up-Dogs and Down-Dogs, the High-Planks and Low-Planks are enough to work up a good amount of anxiety. Your muscles cry out. Your body aches. You don't think you can handle another Warrior II. And in every moment, you have full permission to walk out of the room and never look back (except to grab your socks).

But you don't, because you know, it's just a dang yoga class: "It's not going to kill me. I can handle 33 more minutes of this because I know that as challenging as it may be, I'm going to walk out of this room, stop by the dry cleaners, and go home. Everything's going to be all right. I can be in this stressful and thrive."

Yoga is a safe and contained practice in handling a sometimes wild and unpredictable life. 

And yoga reminds me that even in this moment with this stress of not knowing what the hell comes next: I can thrive. 

I'll probably cry. More than thrice.
We'll probably live off half of our savings for a few months.
We'll have an ugly spat that we laugh about in few years. And only then.
We'll show-up everyday to jobs we may or may not love.
We'll make a few poor decisions.
We'll eat a lot of beans and rice.
We'll look back on this time years from now and wonder why we were so concerned.
Hopefully.




P.S. If you know of any jobs or apartments in the area I speak of, please, please, don't hesitate to call. Because then I can put all this "growing" and "character-building" shenanigans in the closet where it belongs. Oy.











Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eighty-Three Percent

The woman I knew was sharp
she knew all the church gossip
and 167 ways to make a casserole.

The woman I knew was well-traveled
in the ways of culture, religion, education,
marriage, motherhood, and friendship.

The woman I knew was put together
in the clothes she wore
the friends she played cards with
and what she let others see.

The woman I knew had purpose
in volunteering and socializing
and making sure that Papa's clothes always matched.

The woman I knew would pinch our cheeks
plant wet ones on our lips
give us Christmas gifts from garage sales
take us to Sea World
and always smelled of cocoa butter.

She told us stories
of her life in Brazil and coming to America.
She asked questions
she already knew the answers to
with pursed lips and wide eyes
and a perfectly-portioned dose of
criticism only grandmothers can get away with.

But that woman I knew is 83% gone.

Now her sentences come out backward.
Now she has lost control of her own life.
Now she feels stuck. Slow. Old. Confused.
Now she becomes frustrated
when the sounds coming out of her mouth
do not match what she's trying so desperately to articulate.
Now she's unraveling.
Quickly.

Now she confuses names and faces
and dates and birthdays and words and phrases.
It's like eighty-five years of memories have run out of places to go.
So the recollection of that place they vacationed with those people in that year
have escaped her one.
exhale.
at.
a.
time.

And as she sleeps, I wonder
at how many people and experiences will
wordlessly slip out of her mind
by the time she wakes up again.

Inside
she knows she's losing it.
But outside
she can't remember why.

My Nana clings to the last 17% of her own memories.
Memories she created.
Memories she lived.

Reminding her is futile.
Correcting her is useless.
This moment is all that matters now.
And in this moment, we stand by
and watch her exhale away
one-by-one
the memory she's got left.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Good Words

My friend, Emily Wilkens, is good with words. And photography. And love. And adventure. And other things too. Here are some of her recent thoughts from her blog that make me go, "Oh, Emily..."

circle of breath.

Let a breath leave your body for once.
Let it go without promise of repayment.
Do not expect it to return.
If you can, give up all of your reserves.
And when your lungs are as empty as rocks,
when you've trusted your body to go
through the valley of the shadow of exhaling,
you will be able to take everything in.
The circle of breath will come back around.
 
 

contentment.

It's been coming like honey,
dragging its sweet feet the whole way here.
 
 

sunset.

It tilts my heart towards believing--
the sky I mean, 
when it throws its net over our heads
and holds our breath in prison
for a sight, or seven changing ones;
pink, alive, electric, holy, and right--
right there, under our noses,
every eve, every time
we think we've seen them all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When Love Arrives




My favorites lines:

"Love stayed away for years and when love finally reappeared, I barely recognized him. Love smelled different now. Darker eyes...But we found a park bench that fits us perfectly...Love looks great in lingerie, but still likes to wear her retainer...Love is messier now, not as simple...Love chews too loud...Love leaves the cap off the toothpaste...Love will tell you you are beautiful over and over again...But love is not perfect and will sometimes forget when you need to hear it most...Do not forget this. Love is not who you were expecting. Love is not what you can predict...Love arrives exactly when love is supposed to."

Mmmm, mmmm, mmm. So much truth is these words: "Love is not who you were expecting."

Surely not.


I used to think that I wanted a guy who played guitar and wrote me sweet melodies that would lull me to sleep.

I used to think that I wanted a guy who was tall, had dark hair, and a days-worth of scruff that made him look just enough GQ and just enough fairytale.

I used to think that I wanted a guy who would cook me breakfast, surprise me with fun dates, and vote for the same political party as me.

I used to think that we would have the same hobbies. Mine. Of course.

I used to think he would speak in perpetual poetry. The right words at the right time. Always.

But, "love is not who you were expecting."


He plays djimbe.

He's got the dark hair and the scruff. So much scruff it fills the bathroom trashcan.

He has made me breakfast and surprised me with fun dates, but our political views may always be a bit different.

He has different hobbies too. But really, he should enjoy Zumba and DIY projects with popsicle sticks.

He often says the wrong things at the wrong time.

But, he's everything I didn't know I needed.


And love has arrived.

And I'm glad it has come.







A Utah Afternoon in August


We drove away from camp on Wednesday morning. We traveled late into the night and early into the morning across the deserts of southern Idaho and Utah. We decided to stay for two days in Moab, Utah. Jeremy found a sweet little cabin for us and we got to see some incredible sights.




It was hot.


But our cabin was nice and cool. Whew.










As we were driving toward Moab, Jeremy and I had a conversation about writing and music and inspiration. Long-story-short, by the time we reached Moab, I had been assigned to write a poem. No exceptions. One poem by the end of the day. He's good to me like that. 



A Utah afternoon in August
heat that cracks the stony ground
heat that makes decent people anxious
heat that turns the whole desert brown and red

Mesas and mountains standing where they've stood
long before my time
size that towers the tallest trees
size that makes us feel small
size that welcomes us to linger a little longer

The Colorado River winds its powerful current
strength that slices through rock
strength that makes us move downstream
strength that teaches us to be persistent

So we embark on our journey
we tread over sizzling rocks
that moan with the ache of heat
and we climb nearer to the sun.

We stand in awe at what each corner reveals
and sit and listen to the nothing that's waiting for us there.
The sun drops lower in the sky granting relief
and we walk home remembering where we've been.

Windows down,
music up,
bodies tired,
eyes open.

Driving canyons and walls of rock
the moon arrives to bring us night
and reassures us, like all the others this day,
"You are small. The earth is big. Let us hold you."