In Between Mornings and Evenings

I wish I had better mornings. I miss the mornings where I could wake up and go center for twenty minutes. I miss my cup of coffee with the world growing brighter and the silence of the night giving way to the early chirping of the birds and the quizziting of the cicadas. I miss the mornings I woke up and did a section out of Common Prayer with my husband as we began our day together in ministry. 

Those days are not presently possible, but hopefully not gone for good. Although it never happened with great frequency, I wished I could do a yoga routine with all of that. And I still have to eat a protein rich breakfast in order to not feel like I am about to collapse by 11:30a (it’s touch and go sometimes anyway). 

My dream morning routine would probably last over two hours… and I simply don’t have time for that these days, especially since I have a darling twenty-five pound cuddle buddy that expects me to curl in and offer milk at all times of the night, and especially loves her last dream feed at the hour before I have to get up to face the day. 

It’s a season. But I wonder if my dream will ever become reality. When I didn’t have children, I had my other reasons that I couldn’t get up early enough to do my dream routine… usually because bedtime with my husband was late enough that to get the necessary sleep, I needed to sleep in until we both got up to get breakfast. Or shower, or both. 

When I was in div school, I had the hardest time having a conversation with my first year roommate while we rideshared to campus. I think I am a morning person… but not a conversational morning person, at least not on a student sleep-deprived schedule. Even now, if I don’t get my first cup of coffee in my system before my firstborn wakes up, my patience and ability to have a coherent conversation is tenuous and paper thin at best. 

I had far more fun in the evenings when I was a student. But these days, if I am awake at 10p it’s because we’ve had an important phone call or a little one is still restless or I got stuck in a project that I thought was going to take less time than it turned out taking. 

Life is strange, isn’t it? 

These days, give me the day. And I will do whatever I can with it. Mornings, evenings, or the time in between… how ever long it lasts, this is the season I am in, now. 

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Catching Moments

A year and a day ago I took a photograph of the tiny face of my sleeping twelve hour old Roar. It is currently the best photograph I have yet to take. The light is streaming in behind her, but diffused in the gentleness of the sheets and covers surrounding our nest of warmth. We are gently resting from the ordeal of birth the night before, but resting in our bed together, beginning the journey of learning from each other how to nurse and feed, how to ask for what we need and how to get what we want. 

Both girls when they were very young made this delicate huh-huh-huh sound to say please can you feed me now. It faded over time, and now all I’m left with is a fading memory of the sound. She was so small, and for such a small amount of time, quickly growing through sizes as she smiled for the first time, discovered her hands, and found her ears. 

I took a replication of that photo this morning after laying her down for her nap, her hands curled around her face again, the light, now, different, the covers patchworked under us as their color brings a vibrancy that mimics the way Roar plays now with us, her family. 

Photographs of Rebel, her sister, have worked to capture the innocence of that shot, but this one photograph is simply perfect. One of the reasons I like it is because there is actually no way to do it again. We are in a different bed in a different house facing a different direction. I’m not having another baby. There will never be another twelve hour old Roar. It is incredibly precious for that. She is precious, for certain, but while I have this photograph, I remember the way she taught me what she needed when she was so tiny and delicate. 

Roar is certainly not delicate, even though she continues to be precious. She’s substantial, and surprises us with her joy and emerging personality. As sisters, Rebel and Roar laugh and play, together and alongside each other. She’s watching us, keeping us in check, and making sure that we never leave her out of the fun.  

Love Me Like This

What is your radical act for today?

Today I woke up and knew I needed a better day than yesterday. 

Yesterday was not a good day. 

Yesterday was a day of going on a walk to yell at the universe.

Yesterday was a day of rummaging through the pantry to figure out a meal at the last minute rather than putting together a meal plan and going to the grocery store with two kids and being creative. 

Creativity wasn’t going to fly yesterday.

And then today I woke up and my pants didn’t fit. And my shoulders hurt. And my right pinky is sore again. And my right hip is tight from where my daughter sleeps. And my scars were bright red again, which hasn’t been the case for years. 

Sometimes I need the reminder to live into my body as it is. Whatever it is doing at the moment. It does work. I need to thank it for the work it does. 

My imperfect feet

Sometimes my body is asking to be loved as it is. Just like this. She whispers gently, as if she isn’t sure she’s allowed to ask for things for herself. “Just like this, please. For now. Before we begin the checklist. Start with love.”

And then, sometimes my mind is lying to me, telling me that I am unable to do anything. Telling me that the world is beyond salvation. The family is too much to handle. The house will never be good enough to live in. 

The time is too thin for any… time… to breathe… 

Caring for my self begins with loving my gentle edges and soft curves as they are. But sometimes, I need a glass of water and a sandwich. Or an orgasm or a hug. Sometime she cries out because I have forgotten to care for what she needs: the yoga, the water, the protein, the fruit, the caffeine, the sleep, and the movement that keep my emotions stable enough for me to be able to love those who live with me. 

The poem isn’t saying those things aren’t good. They are good, but they are not an end to themselves. 

Loving my body as she is, like this, is an end unto itself. But it’s not all I need. I want more than what the gentle animal of my body wants. I need more. To feel my body do all that she is capable of. I need more. 

 

This piece is a response to “Today I asked my body what she needed” by Hollie Holden. I ran across this a while ago and my writing partner, Heather, shared it with me again as our prompt. I love how someone else’s words can spark and influence my ideas and creativity. I find it valuable to hear what someone else needs and to consider my own needs. Reading poems like this gives me permission to need things for myself. Not that I don’t think I need things for myself, but often I feel guilty for needing things for myself. I am reticent to allow myself the space to dream big. 

It’s better to not feel guilty when I dream. It’s better to let go of the “should”s and limits when I set down to dream of what I need to give myself. And it is better to see where I need to give myself permission to do the things that are healthy when I can let go of artificial restraints. 

Sometimes all I can give myself is the ability to ask for what I need from someone else. But that is so terribly huge. It is not something I have been able to do very well. I’ve had to learn how. 

And now I’ve learned how to ask in a way that healthy both for me as I ask and for those from whom I need help. It’s a give and take, of course. A partnership. And it is still in flux. I don’t have it all perfect. But I don’t need perfection. I simply need something I can live with. We cooperate together to create a life worth living. It’s worth the work. 

Learning from Each Other

When John and I were getting married, Jason Byassee, our friend whom we asked to officiate, gave us these instructions in the midst of his wedding homily. 

“Repeat after me: I’m sorry, you were right, I was wrong.” At least I think that’s what he said. I don’t remember the words that way, but this is what John has borrowed for each wedding homily he has preached over the last seven years. I, having never had the opportunity to preach a wedding homily, didn’t have to call them to memory as soon, so I re-wrote them in my head to echo Derek Webb: I’m sorry, I was wrong, I love you. 

I like my version better… because I really don’t want to say someone was right if I don’t think they were, and I am far more capable and comfortable in claiming my wrongness than in granting someone else their rightness. (Yes, yes. This is a growing edge. But regardless.) 

I also really like ending with the statement of the foundation of the relationship: I love you. It says that the most important part isn’t that we argued, it is that we are deciding to continue to live more fully into our relationship. But we need to say we are sorry, too. It’s probably one of the hardest parts of a relationship, saying “I am sorry” and meaning it, knowing that I really did do something that was harmful or hurtful. 

“I’m sorry” and “I love you” are both critical for relationship, but what has surprised me about what I need to hear from my husband on a more regular basis in the last couple of years is “I hear you.”

One of the things that is most aggravating about the personality differences between my husband and I is that I feel and experience just about everything at eleven, and he takes things in, turns them over in his head, and processes them at a gentler level. (I don’t know, sometimes it feels like he’s hitting a three, at most.) For example, I’ll be terribly angry about something in the news, livid, even, and he will say: “but, what about this side of the argument?” 

He’s not being unreasonable. Not really. But in that moment, I don’t want to hear it. I’ll come up with the seventeen reasons that whatever issue it is has me basically on the balls of my feet in excited rage, and he will be looking for the rationality of all sides. 

I’ve learned to express when I need him to respond to my emotions before going towards rational disconnect. (What a radical idea, asking for what you need in the moment.) I’m also working on learning from his ability to rationally disconnect. I need that side of his perspective. I don’t always use it, but it has helped tremendously when I need to take apart an issue and look at how all the different pieces connect. 

He’s really smart, and anytime I bulldoze his processing for the sake of mine, I lose out. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still am processing on my level. And he is learning from my ability to feel so deeply that I vibrate with emotion. 

We’re learning from each other. 

I imagine that it will be a longterm process, not something that we can claim we’ve completed when we reach the ten, twenty, or forty year mark. It just keeps going. 

Perfect Happiness

I don’t think there is such a thing as perfect happiness. There are times when I am incredibly happy and times when I am nearly completely happy and times when I am perfectly content. But I don’t think I strive for perfection in happiness. If only so that I am not evaluating the level of my happiness. When I am happy, I am happy.

This morning, my daughter came and snuggled with us in our bed in the early morning, cuddling cozy between the covers, one of the last few times that it will be just the three of us. It was a happy moment. Part of what made it all the more sweet is that it was fleeting. Soon it will not be possible to have a moment like that, with just the three of us, because there will be four of us. (Also, we had to change the sheets afterwards, because she left us a “gift…” which takes away from the perfection, but does not detract from the sweetness of the moment in the slightest.) It wasn’t perfect, but it was good.

I suppose that in my happiness I do have levels of closer and further to complete, but happiness doesn’t really seem to be something that should fit into a category of perfection. I quibble with the idea of evaluating levels of happiness.

Things, times, and situations that make me happy: my daughter’s giggles, hiccups in utero, early morning solitary cups of coffee, fresh sheets on my bed, sunrises at the ocean, weather perfect for wearing my silk skirts, new music that I can instantly sing along to, Rhapsody in Blue, snuggles and kisses, a good search in finding the answers to the three questions we ask after watching a movie, the smell of new books, the smell of old books, good walks, snow days, new recipes, happy lights, haircuts, naps, figuring out new spaces, learning a new town, finding new and old friends, ice cream, and Santa’s Favorites.

I am still learning how to be happy and simply rest in it. Perhaps in ten or twenty years, I will be able to tell you what perfect happiness looks like for me, but probably not. What makes happiness good for me is that it doesn’t have to be complete to be enjoyed. Maybe that’s what makes it perfect.