in the early 2000s, p.v. park was the lake to be at in the entire tri-state area.
okay, okay, maybe just in the mind of the people in pompton plains, nj, where i grew up.
okay, actually, maybe just in my mom’s mind.
we’d go quite often & i remember the feeling of paralyzing fear mixed with the slightest courage swelling inside my pale & freckled body upon arrival to the park as the thought of jumping off the middle diving board — what a crazy thought — entertained itself in my mind.
all it took was a couple snarky comments from my POTD (playmates of the day) who were a tad more ambitious & much more dangerously curious than me at that age to call me something along the lines of freckled wimp or middle diving board loser (i’m totally kidding, no one ever called me either of those ever)
& i’d march right up to the long, white board towering over the dark, murky lake, glance up at the lifeguard & send the message with my eyes if this goes bad you better be paying attention.
i’d saunter to the edge of the board & only the lord knows why, i literally would play the jaws theme song in my head duh nuh… duh nuh…. duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh until i flung my body into the water — graceful & composed, i’m sure of it — & then picture the shark, alligator, whatever creature with an appetite for timid doggy paddlers, right on my tail all the way until i reached the ladder.
believe it or not, i was never eaten. i swam too fast.
(side note : i’m genuinely curious, did anyone else think like this as a child? asking for a friend.)
i don’t know what age i eventually grew out of that. i’m still scared of sharks (not the ones that live in lakes anymore but only the ones that live in the ocean) but rarely do i think of them & if i do, i’m able to calm myself down, reassure myself everything’s ok, it really is.
don’t worry, i’m not gonna, like, totally get carried away with this shark analogy.
okay. maybe just a little bit.
my sister’s a therapist & she’s been doing these coffee talks with her colleague, alison (i’ll link it at the end, shameless plug) & in her last chat she mentions dan siegel, a psychiatrist & author, who has this activity he calls "shark music."
in this exercise he shows the participants a video of a really peaceful neighborhood that winds down a path that leads to this beautiful scene overlooking the ocean. after the scene is done he asks everyone how that made them feel. lovely. beautiful. relaxing.
after they reflect, he shows them the same scene, this time with shark music in the background.
duh nuh… duh nuh…. duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh.
in other words, the participants are experiencing the same scenery but it’s totally different. what they’re experiencing is a feeling of panic.
dan (& kelly) make the point that sometimes we live as if there’s shark music playing in the background, when really, everything is okay. it’s not to dismiss the worst case scenario, it’s to ground ourselves in what’s here, in this moment instead of getting ahead of ourselves.
sometimes we get tangled in a web of what ifs, when all that’s really happening in this moment is i’m eating a bowl of strawberries on my couch.
that being said, shark music is scary, unhelpful and worth exploring.
because a lot of times, what’s underneath our shark music is real & worth paying attention to. there are excruciating things we’re walking through. darkness. grief. wounds.
we need healing.
God’s getting to that.
here’s what my shark music sometimes sounds like :
what if my family & friends reject me? what if all of my emotions suddenly become too much for ben to sit with me in? what if i find out i’m actually not capable? what if this virus never ends? what if during my next zoom workout, my friend asks me to do 10 burpees & i pass out?
again : scary. unhelpful when it’s the only thing i hear. worth exploring.
when we invite in our what ifs & listen to our shark music before we turn the dial down, our anxiety actually decreases when we choose to explore it with a kindness & gentleness while we stay grounded in what’s actually happening around us.
we just gotta pay attention.
kind of like this :
bethany, why are you scared of being rejected right now?
oh, why hello beautiful bird that just flew by my window.
bethany, why do you believe your depth is too much to handle? what’s making you think that?
hello, sunshine, covering the grass in light & warmth.
this is no action call to abandon & dismiss our hard & heavy things.
it’s an invitation to pay attention to our pain, our anxiety, our what ifs & engage ourselves in holy curiosity & reflection.
we are seekers of sacred abundance when we do.
(here’s that link i promised you : https://www.anchorandbellcounseling.com/blog-1)
growing up, on any given saturday afternoon, my friend lyndsey & i would grab our pens & notebooks & make our way to the lookout tree that hung above the moderately busy road behind my house.
more exciting, i suppose than the cul-de-sac in the front.
we’d sit — excuse me, spy, for hours at a time reporting to each other & our notepads the color of the cars that passed & whether the driver was a boy or a girl.
we’re talking tally marks of highly classified data.
red car girl driver.
it was our way of taking deep breaths, of coping with whatever school year stress lurked in our minds. i imagine we’d run out to the lookout tree whenever there was grief, big or small, that we couldn’t ignore & count the cars & boys & girls.
our way of buying time.
we paid attention (at times maybe a little too much attention) so we could swallow our stress, honor our grief & listen for one car passing at a time.
blue truck boy driver.
& i think of that & i think of now because there’s everyday grief & there’s breaking grief. there’s the dull & steady grief & the sharp & screaming grief
& it’s everywhere.
it’s on our run when ben & i pass a family of four on an afternoon walk, but the dad is circling & screaming at his stiff & vacant teenage son who keeps his head down & walks one foot in front of the other while the daughters trail a few steps behind with the dogs.
it’s at the dollar store with a 93 year-old man in the check-out line who keeps looking over his shoulder to smile at ben & me, tells us he was married for 61 years, how he “loved every single minute of it." it’s the grief of leaving a loaded world between us unsaid. of standing six feet apart on different ends of a covenant.
the grief of holding that space for time passed & the memories that seep through cracks.
white car girl driver.
it’s on instagram, reading about a three year-old little girl with a brain tumor & a 0% chance of survival & how her mom writes about her tender & gentle God.
it’s a shooting in nova scotia, an accident in buffalo, ny.
it’s hearing how my brother-in-law had to hold up the phone to an elderly patient at the hospital as she lay unconscious & her husband, children & grandchildren said their goodbyes.
how they pleaded with jordan — & asked to make sure someone, anyone — held her hand as she passed.
what do you say to your wife, mom, grandma in that moment?
“your husband loves you.”
“mom, mom, it’s me, thank you for raising me.”
“we love you, grandma.”
white car boy driver.
because really, how do we honor the grief — lean into the kind that sprains & splits our heart & eventually manifests itself as all too much?
first, we let it happen. give in.
then, we do what we can.
last night it looked like ben pointing out the window at the silent sky that settled into pinks & purples after a storm. looked like throwing on a blanket & beanie & sandals & following him outside, stepping over the puddle, walking out into the middle of the street & breathing in that post-rain musty sidewalk smell & taking a few deep breaths, watching my neighbor pull into his driveway across the street. throwing up a wave. hugging my blanket tighter. asking ben if he’d want some tea inside.
i can’t remember
i can’t remember
we do what we can.
so many years!
are the morning kisses
or the evenings
or the in betweens?
all i know
is that “thank you” should appear
or like the other month when we drove up to the cottage & i became thoroughly enthralled with watching the geese on the water & their interactions. such funny birds.
why, you ask?
so, just in case
i can’t find
the perfect place --
“thank you, thank you.” (~mary oliver)
grief is no luxury, but what we make of this moment here, is.
one of the most sacred moments in my life thus far was in the last year when my family & a few friends threw me a surprise bridal shower in denver. part of what made it so special was how small of a gathering it was (my circle at the time wasn’t large, so it wasn’t hard, per say, to pull off) & because of that how altogether safe, seen & embraced i’d felt.
we sat in a small circle & one of my sisters presented a mirror they’d bought for me with a thick bronze rim & reminded me how whenever i encounter change, words are my anchor.
& because of that, they all wanted to write a word on the rim of the mirror that called out part of who i am, so that when i married & moved, this mirror would be a home, those words, an anchor.
of course i cried. & just received. & knew that i would be better because of that night & because of those people & because of the mundane magic of being known.
having those words called out of the shadows & raised up with voices into light, i decided then i would always wanna live in a small world.
because i’d rather know the details of few (be it people, towns, people, artists, people, books, people, hobbies…people.) than have my hands, mind & heart always on the move for more. & more. & more.
i learned that night that breadth has its place but depth truly creates this sacred space & something lasting blooms there.
& i wanna build my world on truth & intention, on friendship > fawning, on pausing for & pursuing my people.
is this making any sense?
lemme get a litttle more concrete with this idea (for my sake & yours).
living in a small world means :
+ i know which book my friends are reading, which ones they’re loving & which ones they’re loathing
+ i can tell when my sister’s mood is off by the sound of her voice
+ i ask for & allow time for conversation
+ i call the old loop around the block our next adventure
+ i know all the ins & outs of ben’s latest hobby & know exactly how to find the nearest disc golf course when asked to
+ i can read my mom’s demeanor from a mile away
+ i memorize the time of day the sun shines through our bedroom window & we are blissfully blinded
+ i know the ways every member of my fam feels the most heard & celebrated
+ i can name what my friends need from me in their respective seasons
+ i can recite all my nieces & nephews ages & bdays
+ i can predict when the old man who lives across the street from me puts on his hat & takes out his bike (w/ a basket) & rides albeit slowly but every. single. afternoon. (this ones borderline creepy-neighbor-esque but it’s just so dang cute & inspiring)
it’s a journey - this building a small world.
someone wise once said : the journey is the destination.
a guy i respect a ton said it best to his wife as they chatted through their values when it came to social media (perhaps a post for another time) but it’s what originally sparked this idea in me :
“that’s not our world. that’s not our world. remember, keep it small. keep it small.”
keep it small.
remember, breadth has its place but depth creates sacred space.
that mundane magic of knowing & being known.
of building a small world.
i wanna know what makes our world, our world & also know what lands outside of it.
that magic in the mundane study of one another. of waking up. of life.
magic = mundane.
ok. i’m done. you get it.
so, who in our little world needs our attention while perhaps our screens can wait? (…as i type on my laptop & hold up my hand when ben asks me a question… oh the irony & the fool wisdom makes of us all. *face palm*)
who in our world could use a little burst of unwarranted celebration?
remember, words anchor.
& unwarranted celebration matters. & blooms something inside the one who receives it.
keep it small. keep it small.
love it well & keep it small.
if you can celebrate it,
celebrate it! --
Hymn. ~ tess guinery
a few tuesdays ago i scratched up a long mental list of my goals + expectations for the day.
you know, all the per usual tuesday expectations :
+ figure out career
+ deep clean entire house
+ read three books
+ catch up with friends
+ make a healthy & impressive dinner
+ write a book
+ & some poems
+ bake some bread
+ learn something new
+ read & respond to all emails
+ oh & find some time to really rest & refresh yourself, ok?
the hours came & went & after realizing how little i managed to accomplish by noon (shocking, truly), i sat myself down in a chair, devastated, & wrote up a second draft with a single goal : be kind at the grocery store.
granted, that’s a pretty good one to highlight for the day as we’re all a bit on edge & the grocery store is probably the last place we’re storing up all our good vibes & positive energy to pour into. but i couldn’t help myself from thinking i should’ve accomplished hm - maybe 120x that.
anyways, i returned from the grocery store & realized that i wasn’t actually spectacularly kind while i shopped & probably came across as a bit of grump as i pushed my cart down each aisle. blame it on the overpriced produce.
kidding. that’s no excuse.
regardless, the day ended & a new one began the next day. isn’t that always the most beautiful thing?
& i got to thinking about this quote i wrote at the beginning of this post & yes, most days the world feels like it’s spinning out of control & people are less than lovely at the grocery store (not me, of course) & the unknown is truly terrifying & we may feel like we’re losing our footing & control on our plans so we clean a few extra closets & strive to gain some kind of grip on the areas we can,
yet, we can celebrate.
heck - if you can celebrate it, celebrate it. thank you, tess guinery.
so, allow me to take a moment & toss up three cheers for :
the books we’ve read, the hard conversations we’ve had, the dinners we’ve prepped, the pictures we’ve sent, the hobbies we’ve tried, the films we’ve watched, the apps our parents — i mean we’ve figured out how to work, the connections we’ve made, & all the things we’ve learned.
i’d like to celebrate how, even now, we’re seeking & understanding, almost or almost always breaking down (both are ok, i do them frequently), paying attention & actually slowing down.
for now, that’s enough.
if i do more than celebrate in a day, it’s a good day.
but if all we get done in a day is celebrating the moments in a hundred different ways, by waving to our neighbor across the street, writing a letter, painting a picture, hugging our kids, it’s a really good day. & at the end of the day, it’s the spirit behind it that matters.
we’re slowing down & we’re paying attention & we’re trying to be kind
& that’s a prayer. a hymn. a life. a swarm of moments worth celebrating.
i don’t know exactly how to describe it, but these days i feel there’s this looming sadness, this widening gap that’s settling into not only our history, but also into my head & my heart. maybe yours, too.
this gap of what was & what will be — what was for sure in june & what might be in 2021.
& no amount of scrolling, sleeping, reading, watching, heck, screaming or weeping can fill it. it’s like this gaping silence roaring in my soul — the uncertainty of right now is on fire inside me.
there’s a short little poem by mary oliver called “may” — it’s not may, i know, but it’s almost may & if i may, i’d like to share it with you.
she writes :
May, and among the miles of leafing,
blossoms storm out of the darkness —
windflowers and moccasin flowers. The bees
dive into them and I too, to gather
their spiritual honey. Mute and meek, yet theirs
is the deepest certainty that this existence too --
this sense of well-being, the flourishing
of the physical body — rides
near the hub of the miracle that everything
is a part of, is as good
as a poem or a prayer, can also make
luminous any dark place on earth.
gosh. i just love this poem.
& i guess the reason why i’m inclined to share it with you is because it gives me hope, the tangible kind that echoes the kind we can’t see.
flowers (the hope we can see) illuminating dark places (MILES of dark places) — & the flowers, it’s as if they hold a secret : Light will have the final word in all this deafening darkness.
darkness is what was, what is.
Light is what will be.
darkness is for sure happening.
Light is what will be.
see what hope does? what flowers do?
i can feel the sadness, the gap inside me quieting its growl. if even for a moment.
& in the meantime, we hold the royal responsibility to make luminous our little corner of the world & here’s another little secret i think mary wanted us to know : sometimes it doesn’t take all that much to light up a dark place. sometimes all you have to do is be.
the art of contentment makes luminous any dark place. just watch how the flowers do it.
i’m no flower, but i’m slowly learning the ways i can make luminous these often dark & heavy days :
+ lighting a candle
+ cleaning the kitchen
+ stirring milk into my tea
+ talking to a friend without looking at the time
+ leaving my phone in the other room
+ catching my thoughts before they spiral
+ blasting bonny light horseman
+ becoming a student of the sky & how it looks from my living room window
& really, this existence of illumination is wide & vast in its practice.
it’ll look different in the city than it does in the mountains than it does in the country than it does in the suburbs. but it can look like something & it can for sure light up any dark place on earth, whether it’s in my corner or yours.
let’s have at it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.