“Be Safe”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I want to be safe in the sense that I don’t get shot in my house. I want to be safe in the sense that when I walk down my streets at night with my little dog, waiting on her to do her “business”, I’m not going to be attacked. I want to be safe enough that when I follow the road rules, I don’t get in an accident because others also want to be safe, or rather, unharmed.

But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be safe. Being safe takes a chunk away from the loudness of life. It reduces the voices of exuberant laughter to polite chuckles. It sucks the genuine grief from our deepest fears and distills it into quiet murmuring condolences. It shatters the adventure of stepping one foot outside of your comfort zone by giving the illusion of safety.

But safety, like everything, is an illusion. It’s not real. It surprises us because we expect things to be the same. We expect to wake up, go about our day without incident, return home, eat the same meal we did last week, watch regurgitated shows with different characters but the same stories, and go to bed at the same time. It’s our expectation of safety that, pardon my french, fucks us up.

Chaos and change are the way of the world. If we could control any of it, we’d be reasonable in our expectations, but we do not. We can do our best not to contribute, by following the rules, obeying laws, keeping an eye out for ne’er-do-wells, but being safe is a lie we tell ourselves so we can live with minimal fear.

My Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Dave are driving a different route back from their vacation in Maine. It has places for them to stop that they’ve never been before which means the potential for a fantastic adventure. But in the commentary on their shared pictures, there were all the comments from a variety of people telling them to, “Be safe.” The comments are made with love and not as admonitions, mind you. They are meant with the best of intentions. But I don’t think I’ll wish them the same.

I wish them to be unharmed but in no way to be safe. I want them to have the adventure they’re hoping for on the new route. I want them to have experiences that will give them the best adventure with minimal difficulty. I want them to see things so spectacular it takes their breath away because they chose to stop somewhere they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. I want them to experience every drop of grandness in the views, every bliss to be had floating on the breeze. I want them to taste the rain as if it were their first time. To have Ruby show them the newborn idea of life heroic in a way that brings them fits of delight. But, I do not wish them to “be safe”.

What…?

What hands have held my face, to stare into my soul?

What lips have breathed a lifetime of my kisses stole?

What voice has whispered me my truth, my secrets sealed untold?

What arms have held me in a haven, my broken heart consoled?

What legs have walked a million miles to arrive upon my threshold?

What heart has answered the siren’s song our bindings to behold?

What worth is placed on eternal devotion, more valuable than gold?

What gifts be given to thine own true love, from youthful glow to old?

Victory at Home

I was standing on Fulton street waiting for the Number 15 to take me to the corner near my home. The wind was brisk with an occasional chill, but the lifting of the hood of my sweatshirt over my head blocked most of it. This particular stop homes three buses headed out and about town. It feels quite familiar as all three round the corner coming out of the transfer station down by Van Andel Arena. I switch feet. I look across to Veteran’s Park where I danced with wild abandon at a Thursday night drum circle held after the Jazz concert at Ah-Nab-Awen park. The Main Library is behind that. I spent hours of research in those rooms. Everything I was looking at seemed familiar, but with a dream-like quality.

I came to the conclusion that I was but a drop in the puddle in their eyes, but in mine, I was so much bigger.

When I moved away from West Michigan in 1989, I had no idea who I was; broken, discouraged, full of lamentations. I had no direction or purpose. I molded myself into the ideals that I believed I was supposed to be. I became a fair wife, a devout church goer, a preacher of God’s love, a model citizen in every way. I provided Christmas for impoverished children, took them on camping trips, advocated for their protection always seeking approval from outside sources. I was miserable.

After the loss of Jordan, I began rethinking my life and the choices that had brought me to a point where I could no longer stay. My marriage was a disaster, my friends were there but they were all much younger than I so their freedoms were different. I still had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be or do. At 25 years old, I decided to find out who that woman looking back at me in the mirror was. I left everything behind. I cut ties with family, friends, acquaintances, and moved back to a small studio apartment in Kentwood. I married again but it crumbled basically from day one. I moved around the country for about a year, using Greyhound as my means of travel.

By the time I ended up in Arizona I was a disaster. I married for a third time. I found a group of friends that, for the first time, not only saw me for who I am, but encouraged me to be everything I was meant to be. I felt like a toddler whose parents delight in the antics of the little one, but at the same time, I was an adult. I radiated humor and enthusiasm. I decided I was strong enough to move, so I did. I moved across the country again to Tennessee where I lived with my father for a brief time. He was a miserable human being that rejected me just as fast as he embraced me. It was constant mixed messages from him which led to uncertainty and instability.

I found God living in a little church tucked away behind a natural shade of trees. I was told to go there and I’m glad I obeyed. It was like coming home. It was the first group of collective people that not only appreciated my wildness, but saught me out for companionship, help, and entertainment. I imagine it’s what being a rockstar feels like. What’s even cooler is that I adored every one of them right back. I couldn’t help it. I’d waited my whole life to know what it was to be me. I learned it at their knee. It was the most difficult day when I had to say goodbye to them and return to my hometown of Grand Rapids.

Only, it wasn’t my Grand Rapids.

It wasn’t the place where the broken little girl made up ridiculous fantasies of being the President of the United States or curing cancer with a brightly colored cardboard box and a stick found on the playground. This wasn’t the city where I dealt with childhood tragedies with self destructive behaviors. Nothing was the same, including the absence of the monsters that didn’t live under my bed but were under the same roofs as me. The dark secrets were held up to the light until their power whimpered into submission.

This city doesnt know me, power in my words, body thick with laughter, hair demonstrably wild, my secrets laid open to the beauty of rainbows once forbidden from my fingertips. This city is unaware that within its limits, there is a woman with courage as deep as a wristcutters truth, but as furious as a hurricane battering abusers with education. Grand Rapids has yet to understand that I, that had all along existed but had been nearly crushed by history, rose up to find my feet.

I’m standing in the middle of Division and Fulton in my mind, screaming with laughter at the pure wickedness of possibilities to be reached. This may not be my Grand Rapids, but it is my home.

Fifty year drought

babydoll

I had a baby.

Her name didn’t/doesn’t matter.

She lay in her stroller with her arms outstretched.

I smiled down at her, cooing gentle words of love.

I swaddled her a bit tighter against the chill.

As each car passed on the nearly vacant street,

I’d sing a little louder so they’d know I was a mom.

It’s all I ever wanted to be.

INTERLUDE

The MMR wasn’t created when I was born.

When my brother came along and got his,

nobody thought to inoculate me.

At twelve years old, my throat and neck hurt so badly.

My mom gave me a dill pickle (LOVE THEM) but I couldn’t swallow.

Diagnosis: The mumps.

Aged and married: Clomid, Pergonal, temperatures, acne, painful periods,

nothing. nothing. nothing.

Failed adoption. Ectopic miscarriage, failed adoption

GUARDIANSHIP x two!

Rejected for violence. Rejected for drugs.

nothing. nothing. nothing.

PART TWO

ultrasound

You can’t possibly know how many times I’ve been gracious,

how many times I’ve oohed and aah-ed over black gray blobs

What it’s like to see beautiful mothers holding their beautiful babies

while my arms hold back my sadness, my longing, my relief.

I’m not resentful that they have my dreams wrapped in their love.

I’m not angry that their wishes came true. I’m not even upset.

PART THREE

birth-control-1

Am I less than a woman for not showing proof of fertility?

Am I less than a woman for my body’s refusal to carry life?

I feel betrayed each time blood flows from my barren womb.

All of the pain, emotions, heating pads, and carb stuffing…for what?

Another reminder that I’m not like the others. Another storm trooper miss.

 

 

Two Strips of String Cheese

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There have been many times in my life where I’ve been food insecure for whatever reason. [Couch surfing, ditching an abusive husband, barely making ends meet with 12 hour days] By default, I find myself counting and re-counting the dollars I have to spend at the grocery store. I’m hyper aware when dollars go missing from my pocket.

At the grocery store this evening, as I browsed the produce section, I noticed a young man whom looked a LOT like my friend Rocky. Hair, gait, style of clothing, even the way he was talking aloud to himself reminded me of Seabuurd. He also looked quite distraught.

“Are you okay? You seem upset.” I asked.

“Yeah, I just…I just lost $10 somewhere on the floor. I’m retracing my steps.” he replied.

“Well I sure hope you find it.” I continued on my way giving a short glance around the area hoping I’d be the hero that found the missing currency.

A few aisles later, I see the young man again.

“Any luck?”

“No. Someone probably found it already. I really needed that.” He fruitlessly searched the barren floor.

“I’ll keep a look out.”

“Thanks.”

I checked my pocket where I only had $7 left until Friday evening. I decided if I saw him again, I’d give him the dollars. I headed to the pharmacy area to see if they had an OTC sling to put my arm in because my shoulder is really jacked up right now. As I searched the pharmacy shelves, I heard a loud ruckus coming from the checkout part of the store.

Three women were taunting the young man with the $10 they found in the aisle. At first he started to explain himself, but they kept on going. Bragging about their good fortune loud enough to be heard, literally, half-way across the store. The other patrons joined in to defend the young man, but the young women just wouldn’t let it go. Finally, the young man, nearly in tears tells the women that he hopes they get pulled over and have to use his money to pay the fine.

Not finding what I need, I head over to the checkout lane. I select the one with a high school friend of mine as the cashier. As I approach her, I ask what all the noise was about. She tells me the story. While she’s talking I look over my shoulder where the Rocky looking young man is packing his groceries into bags. He’s obviously shook up. I reached into my pocket and gave him my dollars.

“It’s not the full $10 bucks, but it’s closer than you were.” I smile at him. At first he refused, but my high school chum tells him to take it.

“She won’t quit. You’re better off taking it.” She tells him.

“Oh, well do you like string cheese?” He asked me with sincerity. “Here have a piece.”

He gave me a piece which I peeled at the register and we ate together in the middle of the checkout line. “Have the rest of it.”

“Nah, I’m good. I can’t eat too much of that.”

“Please take a couple pieces at least.” He offers them earnestly to me. I accept and put them into my grocery bag. At that moment a tall well-dressed man enters the store, walks up to the young man with his hand extended.

“I approached them in the parking lot and asked for the money back. At first they were all about keeping it, but I told them I’d call the police because they were assholes. They gave it up.” He chuckled richly.

“Aw, man! Thanks, dude!” The young man reached into his pocket, retrieved the dollars I’d given him, attempted to return them to me.

“No. I already gave it to you, they’re yours. You now can pay it forward better.” He looked astonished. He kept telling me what a beautiful human I am. Even as I walked away from the counter he was continuing his praise.

You may or may not believe me about this, but I do stuff like this all the time. I don’t do it for the compliments or praise. I’m not even telling you this story for positive feedback.

I’m telling you that when you do something equally as kind, it spreads like a California wildfire. When you put yourself out there by an act of kindness bigger than the moment, you’re doing what you are born to do. You’re born to shine. You’re born to be the beacon of hope, love, and joy in this ridiculously cruel world. You get to be the hope someone sees by your actions. Like lighting your candle off your neighbor’s at the Christmas eve candlelight service, it spreads love.

Preaching all day long does nothing but give you a sore throat. ACTIVELY living loving is a practice in mindfulness; a revolutionary awareness of the world around you. It is a true mark of courage to be the light in the darkness. It is a badge of honor to set aside some wants you have (like giving up my breakfast tomorrow morning) to give someone else that light. I’ll keep doing what I do, regardless if you follow my lead or not, but we should practice this kind of radical kindness every day.

Tick-tock-DING!

This tick-tock

Is the time

Of our lives.

Each moment

That we donate

Each kiss

Each smile

Each tear

Each mile

Are our silent

prayers

Of unmindful

Gratitude

To death.

That we didn’t

Taste

The wormy

Tick-tock of

Our own demise.

This tick-tock is

Our tiny truce

Taking for granted

That this tick-tock

Won’t be our last.

But a moment,

Just like this,

May not come

At our willful

Bidding

But will,

instead,

Cause someone else

To donate

Unwittingly

Their moment

To notice

Your absence

Your Tick-tock-DING!

Advice of a Falling Leaf

I love Autumn. Everything about it brings me giddy glee. The red plaid flannels start trickling out of closets to combat the chilly mornings. The coffee pot, that in my house never quits, starts perking earlier against the darkened dawn that used to invite iced tea with its chipper light. The apple festivals are polluted with the joy of pumpkin spice while the silent witness of the changing leaves hang like ornaments blazing with remembered warmth.

As I sit watching the wheels of nature turn, I wonder what advice those leaves would give to me if they could tell their life stories. I’ve seen them grow on what appeared to be desolate deadened trees, blossom into their spring and summer finery, challenge the fashion of green with orange, red, and yellows, then gracefully drift on the winds of the changing seasons to carpet the ground with rustling tapestries. They speak to us in their ancient tongues and we hear them when we listen.

Don’t be afraid to bloom

In the spring, the beginning, the start of any project there is darkness. There is a point where we don’t know and we don’t understand. We wonder “What if…?” Will the risk we’re about to become engaged to grow or will it whither? We don’t know, but we can hope. We take the idea that needs great care. We water it, coax it, and nurture the idea like we would an infant. The idea becomes a concept.

Reach for the Light

Every good concept, and even the not so good, needs to see the light of day. It needs to be explored, coddled, and embraced as the truly important part of our lives. Particularly when it sings to our soul spirits the song that makes our minds dizzy with gratitude, hope, and joy. Allowing the concept to gain momentum from the creative input and outbursts of potential fruition help us to realize that maybe our ideas weren’t all that crazy. Perhaps our vision is what the world has been waiting to see for many moons or many seasons. It’s an enticing bite into the dawning light when we can understand that our hibernating ideas, need light to grow.

Rise Above Your Roots

Everything you were taught in your lifetime has led you to this very moment. Every tool you need is close at hand. Your history has guided you to this precise time of understanding, of clarity. It is your roots that have allowed you to tap into your potential. Dig down into the earth of your experiences. Find everything you need but don’t be afraid to rise above them. Be who you are meant to be not who you were told you are/were. The ancestors that have come before you had their own fears and insecurities that have trickled over your being in unhealthy droplets. But then so has the strength, the power, and the will to persevere. You are more than your roots, but you’re also of them. Every bit of this is the fertilizer you need to bloom.

Show your true colors

Your concept is sound. Your talents regarding your project are apparent. You’ve had reassurance from your “Amen” corner that your vision is clear. You’ve tested the waters and found they’re receptive. Now what? Strip away the bud to unfurl the sails of destiny. Allow the world to see the glory of your brainchild singing the song of life. No matter which decision you’re facing right this moment, if you’re working towards growth, you’re working towards blooming into your full potential. Don’t be afraid. Just breathe because that will allow things to fall as they need to and you to realize your own dreams. If the process is painful, there is a reason for it. Embrace the push of labor towards your blooming. As a common phrase, don’t be afraid to shake your tail-feathers a bit.

Let it go

When you have given every bit of energy to an idea that actually works, it is sometimes difficult to allow someone else to take ownership in their own lives of their ideas that grew from your seed. Surrounded by the sheep that flock to your idea, the project you’ve created is now out there in the world breathing its own life. It is bounding around in happy abandon through fields of expansion. Allowing it to take a life of its own is similar to cutting ties or watching the death of something precious, but it’s not dead. It has lived as yours. It will always be yours. It has just moved forward to fall gracefully from the branches of your loving hands to the hearts of those surrounding you. Accept the release as a part of the natural order of things. Allow it to be the memorable shades of color it was destined to become when you first acknowledged its presence in your life.

Rest

I find it incredibly cathartic to find the place where I can hibernate for a while to rejuvenate my spirit after I’ve “birthed” an idea into a concept. I retreat to solitude, typically with a good bottle of wine and a warm bath accompanied by a good book or soft music and I wallow. I allow the world to look at my creation and pass judgment on what I’ve brought out of Otherwhere. Once I’ve followed the necessary steps, it’s done. It is what it is. Then I get to allow the next idea to flow into concept form and the cycle, like the seasons, begins again.