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On Lifetime Friendships and Everything in Between

On Lifetime Friendships and Everything in Between

This blog was drafted in the Houston Airport, the day after the last of my childhood friends got married. I was sitting there, waiting for my flight, and I just started writing.

Who knows why we write. Who knows why certain events stand out to us, why we get stuck on thoughts, but in that airport I was stuck on these relationships. In the sidebar of this very blog I have quoted Flannery O’Conner. “I write to discover what I know.” This is that kind of blog post, where I may come to no conclusion.

Still, when I think about lifelong friendships I immediately think of my husband, who was homeschooled. All of his lifelong friends share his blood. Though he is supportive, he does not understand my desire to keep old friends. Perhaps this blog is a quest to try again to explain. As I write that line–my desire to keep old friends–I realize that it’s not me keeping these friendships at all. They just are. After 27 years, these relationships keep themselves.

6.26.2017

This weekend, one of my very best childhood friends was married. Now she’s on her honeymoon and I’m sitting in an airport restaurant. I am filled with tacos and nostalgia.

Years of water tell the beginning of our friendship: a river, an ocean, an inlet, a swimming pool. Together they tell stories of smiles and survival.

We lived through elementary school and puberty, high school and graduation. There are five of us girls who are still close, who spent the weekend together as adults, who just want to know that even though the memories are beautiful, the future of our friendship is available too.

Available. Uncertain, unwritten, that the future holds promise and the current holds air, holds breath, holds that which is necessary for the continuation of life.

I am wrought with a heartache that misses all the moments, a sentimentality that wants my eyes to sob.

My eyes have released enough: at a wedding so beautiful and perfect, at a garden so lush, when two families were united by two loves grown together. An unrehearsed prayer in a doorway, words were spoken of something invisible, something represented by all the caught glances and all the clanging, cheerful glasses. Dancing proved joy, but dancing also made it.

The weekend was filled with love in so many forms. A father gave away his last daughter, spoke blessings over a room. A story about sailing on our water. Sailing is natural freedom, glamorous adventure. I wasn’t mentioned, but I know that context. I’ve been on that boat too.

The bride’s dad honored his wife, credited her with the friendship that remains in their family, said that his wife taught his daughters how to be friends. Truth told of that Mama: she taught us how to be friends, too.

Oh, we lived in her minivan and by her quiet grace. Driven around town for years until we could drive ourselves. Then, we were reckless but covered. Now, we are all married, all have families and homes of our own. Differences run but the similarities we share are enough. Memories so strong.

But why are we still friends? My husband wonders this, and I do too. It appears that most people lose their childhood friends when they go to college. Why are we so lucky to have remained attached? Are we all suckers for stories? Are we all stuck together with humor and tragedy? Our childhood has all of that coming-of-age drama. All childhoods do, so what holds ours together?

Everyone close to us was funneled through our youth group. Yes, we talked about God but we also had cigarette breaks. We drank underage and we all dated and cried and stayed out too late, disregarded the rules. But we passed our classes and got out of high school and now we’re all married with functioning lives of our own.

Some thread remained tight between us and we still celebrate together. We still cry together. We still… still is a word made from glue that dries or is drying. Still is a word for the moments that seem unmoving like trees rooted in forest soil. Yet even trees can sway in the wind. Is the tree used up by metaphor? Maybe, but trees still grow and keep growing.

Where is the root of this friendship? Was it born as we sat on dark, deserted beaches, and in Sunday morning church chairs? Or as we sipped hot drinks at a coffee shop with music and scones, in a youth group that ended but never really departed?

Too much remains of these relationships to break them. Our differences never blurred, but we remain like splotches in a Jackson Pollock. All unique. All striking. Some may say, but what does it mean? Like everything, it means the world, and it means nothing, and we are left with questions that words can’t define. That’s art and that’s friendship.

Now, I am a mom and, no matter how I look back with chuckles and squints, I don’t want my kids to relive my childhood. I don’t want them to do everything I did or see everything I saw. I do want them to know purpose at a young age, but does that stifle their own growing?

I know– kids grow up no matter what parents do, and parents screw up no matter how hard we try. And here I sit right in the middle of the growing up and the trying, in these glorious moments where my kids are climbing trees and skinning their elbows and I am writing exploratory blog posts and bad poetry because that’s what I can finish in an afternoon. Because, though I treasure the friends who have known me forever, not everything should be lifelong. Sometimes I yearn to see the ending, the completion, the finishing of something, if even just a first draft of a poem about washing dishes (always more satisfying than the act of washing dishes itself).

I don’t want my kids to relive my life, but I do want them to know adventure and security, reason and frivolity, beaches and hot coffee. To know that we are always discovering and that lifelong friendships exist, but more than that, life exists and so do long friendships, and no one knows all the answers. Not even me.

 

The Art of Rediscovery

The Art of Rediscovery

It’s a rainy, grayish day, but it’s really more silver. The sun is coming. I am tired though I’ve had plenty of coffee.

A bluegrass twang has resonated my day. Nickel Creek. Alison Krauss. Thanks to Pandora, the happy, soulful noise of banjo and fiddle just keeps coming.

I stepped outside for a while with my children, felt the coolness of this cloudy August day. We chatted with a wonderful neighbor. We pet a passing cat.

I don’t know if any of that is very important, but the details of the day are standing on me because I’ve rediscovered a former love. Something that I used to practice but haven’t in years.

This rediscovering began when I wrote a piece to submit to Mom Egg Review. The theme was “Mothers Play/Mothers Work” and, though it seemed an easy theme, I had a tremendously difficult time trying to come up with a thought that could support an entire essay. I had lots of ideas but they all fell flat. Then I stumbled on an old pencil case. A leather one, soft with age, perfectly wrinkled, the only leather thing that I wanted from Italy when I visited as a teenager. Inside, I found used charcoal pencils from a college drawing class. Holding them again, touching them to a paper, drawing simple lines released something in me.

We all have loves. Creating is one of mine. While speaking to my husband about this, I’ve realized that drawing is kind of like writing. It’s the act of filling a blank page. The act of using my hands to show what’s in my heart. It’s about taking what’s invisible and making it visible. It’s about giving life to the unborn, the forgotten, the buried. In the same way, I love to reuse things and I’m finding it’s not because I’m a conservationist. It’s because I see potential when others might not. It’s not about reusing, but restoring.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Yet this is more than trash to treasure. Treasure is luxury. This is necessity.

It’s always necessary to be who we were made to be. The treasure in you. But we have this treasure in earthen vesselsSomething that was thought to be nothing actually is everything. It’s just a pen. It’s just a few minutes of doodling. It’s just a few words on a page.

But it’s something more, something discovered, unfinished, continuous. This is something living, something risen. They say that stay-at-home-moms need “Mommy Time” but the point is not to just do something apart from our children. The point is to know what gifts we have and to use them. To say that this makes us better people is too cliche. What is the right way to say this, then? That if I pretend to be okay with Wake-Breakfast-Dishes-Sweeping-Legos-Minecraft-pb&j-Naptime-Sid the Science Kid-Dinner-Dishes-Sweeping, I am lying. Of course these are mostly necessary things, but there must be room within the list for me to grab a pen and let my fingers free.

I grew up thinking I was a terrible artist because in my elementary school art class the result was laid out from the beginning. There was no journey. It was more like replicating. I thought for years that I was no good at art because I couldn’t draw exactly what I saw. I didn’t want to just replicate what my teacher had shown me.

Then I took a 3-D art class in high school. I made a mobile from wire that I bent in loops with my own wrist. I made paper. I cut and decorated glass and fired it all together. I made wonder from rectangles. Then I took a pottery class. I allowed my hands to get muddy, for my body to lean into the lump before me, like an urgent prayer, bowing my chest on top of my hands, gripping a pile of stickiness and forcing it into the center of a quickly spinning wheel. I started dabbling with pencils. In college, I minored in art. I sculpted. I drew. I had an art professor ask me why I wasn’t majoring in art. The answer: because I loved writing more. I saw stories as my life’s work. Yet it seems that my writing requires a counterpart.

So last night I sat down beside my husband while he watched the Red Sox work impossibilities and I cut small rectangles from white papers. I grabbed a pen and I began to work my own impossibility.

Like a return to something I didn’t think I’d missed, I am here again, allowed to meddle in the journey of a seemingly frivolous thing. For the purpose of fulfillment.

Is there something in your life you’ve omitted, but actually really miss?

 

 

How the Small Things Help out the Big Things

How the Small Things Help out the Big Things

My husband purchased this website domain for me for Mother’s Day. Pretty sweet, right? He knows me. He didn’t come up with the name. I had been running a wordpress-hosted poetry blog by the same name for a few years. Then it seemed it was time to move on to bigger things. Like full-length posts.

While I navigate this blogging thing, I’m also writing a novel. And although I’ve written lots of short stories with fleshed out characters who do important and beautiful things with their lives and reveal meaning to ours, this novel thing is hard work. I know the beginning and the end, but I am having a hard time with the middle (the details) of it. How will my characters get from the muddy, messy place they are in right now to where the novel ends in all its majestic conclusion?

The answer is the same as it’s always been because the question is also the same question that’s been asked for centuries. How does anything ever happen? One word at a time. One scene at a time. One step at a time.

Every time I put my pen to my notebook, my characters live and breathe. I need to remember that this is how they move forward. It’s how they learn. It’s the only way they will get to the last page.

I think some of my problem is that I see the end and it’s so beautiful. Right now, though, my characters are stuck in a world of daily life, of working and struggling with tiny things that they are allowing to become big things. Here in the real world, I am doing the same thing.

I have a daily life where I live and breathe, where I walk, where I do dishes and clean up spills, where I sit on the sidewalk with my kids and collect rocks from the gravel parking lot, carrying them in buckets. On their own, these scenes are nothing. But when you place them all in sequence, they make life.

My kids are so happy with the details of life. They LOVE picking up rocks and carrying them in buckets. But I get caught up in the ending. “Yes, rocks are great, but don’t you see that this parking lot will be paved and it won’t flood anymore when it rains?” But my kids also love the rain, and the giant muddy puddles it leaves behind.

While I don’t know my entire future, I know a few things. There are a few things we can all be certain about. Yet if we focus too much on the future, we won’t ever get there. If I keep wanting to just get my characters to their last scene, there will be no meaning to it. The future is always made from tiny, daily, walking, breathing, rock-collecting, mud-stomping details where our feet get dirty and it seems all we have are useless pieces of ground.

But the ground is not useless. It is necessary. Without it, our feet would never go anywhere.

But the ground is not useless. It is necessary. Without it, our feet would never go anywhere.

While I work on the rocky, muddy details of this novel, while I parent my children who never seem to learn, I am also writing blogs right here. These blogs are like exercise. They are like tiny rays of sunshine. They are like the moments I spend collecting rocks with toddlers who will one day make me a grandma. I can’t finish a novel in one day, but I can finish a blog post.

Life is like the gravel outside my window, which is pretty useless when picked apart and scattered. Together, lots of rocks make ground. Like together, each of my moments make days, make years, make a life.

 

A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

When people find out I’m a writer, they often say to me, “Wow! I could never do that.”

To me, writing is normal. It’s how I think. It’s often the only way I think. (And I’m sure that, if you’re not a writer, I would say I could never do whatever it is that you do. That’s because all people are supposed to be different. I know that’s an astounding revelation. Honestly, though, I think sometimes we just need to be reminded of basic human truths.)

I understand why writing is intimidating to so many people. Writing is a messy feat. Without a passion for it, it would be treacherous. Like all creative acts, it’s a series of tries, and it’s only in this messy, trying journey that we discover what is best and what is accurate. Writing is not just about writing a bunch of words, but rewriting and editing, until you have finally, actually, miraculously said exactly what you need to say in the exact way that it needs to be said. Anyone who has ever worked on their words knows that to write is to witness miracles.

Writing is frustrating because you can’t plan it. You just have to take your first few words, your first vision, your first inkling at a character or a plot, and you have to mess with it until you find it wholly.

Writing is like motherhood in that way. (And how many times did I say as a very young woman that I could never be a mother?)

When we’re pregnant, we have a tiny vision of what our child will be. Then one day we meet a baby who can’t do anything but express basic bodily functions. Yet these newborns possess power. They provoke us to heights of emotion we never knew existed. When we give birth, we aren’t simply bringing another person into the world, we are creating more life within ourselves. When we meet our new babies, we realize that we had no clue what was in our belly all those months. It wasn’t just a baby, but life itself.

It wasn't just a baby, but life itself

 

As our children grow, and as we spend time nurturing them and training them, we realize that the fetus (the ultrasound), the newborn, the toddler are each only a clue to the person that is emerging.

kids jumping

 

Parenting, like writing, is not only messy, but requires consistency. And I’m not talking about consistency in discipline or schedules. (Though I know consistency in these areas are important… but I am also apparently incapable of consistency in those areas. Stay tuned for another post about that.) I’m talking about consistency in being.

Parenting requires that we continue to be a parent. As we continue to show up, to hug, to kiss, to play, to correct, we find that this is what parenting is mostly about. We cannot control our children, but as we continue to be parents, we will figure out the details. Parenting requires that our love remain a consistent factor in our relationships with our children. And if your love has taken a visible break, you’ll know it. You’ll probably feel nervous or angry or just out of sorts. Like you need a hug. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. We get so turned around in this world sometimes. Just come back. Just give your kid a hug. And keep doing it. Be available. And continue being available. That’s called consistency.

So often as writers, and as mothers (and as people) we don’t start something because we are scared of being rejected or we’re unsure what will happen.

I was recently talking with a friend about a project she hadn’t started yet. I told her a lot of things, but one thing I said was, “Start somewhere. Start now.”

And I’m taking that advice for myself because I struggle with the enormity of a life made from small decisions. I struggle with questions like, “What are we going to eat for breakfast” and “Can we play a video game?” and “What happens next in my novel?”

But we all need to lay these kinds of struggles aside. We know that if we are to go on with our morning, we are going to have to eat something. We know that my son will have to be answered, and no matter what the answer is he’ll probably have a tantrum. I know that if I’m going to ever finish writing a novel, I’m just going to have to think of something to happen next, and if it sucks it’s okay. I’ll just scratch out those words and write some other words. But I have to start somewhere. And I should just start now.

So mom, creative being, friend, wife, woman, what do you want to do with your life? What thing is piercing you in the gut right now?

Do you want to write? Get some paper. Get a pen. Do you want to ride horses? Sign up for lessons! Do you want to teach your kids to bake? Open your cupboard and get out the ingredients for cookies. Do you want to learn to paint? Buy a canvas. And don’t just stare at the white nothingness. Close your eyes and figure out what you see. Not what your neighbor sees. Not what I see. Figure out what you see. Then dip your brush in some paint and get on with it.

Go ahead and paint a line on your cheek, too because you can’t stop the mess anyway.

Start somewhere, friend. Start now.