a sopping wet
into a dusty
of my heart.
i keep it there
i do not
i walk around
i am only
of its weight
reach for it,
wring it dry
in safe company,
over a lazy day
in the living room,
and in so doing
my rag of regret
becomes the soil
a story shared
is a seed of hope.
after i finished reading “the year of magical thinking” and “blue nights” by joan didion, i watched her documentary. if you haven’t read joan didion, you should. apart from being one of the bravest voices to write on grief, her honest words instill in her reader a hope of living well what we still have yet to live.
she writes as if she has nothing to lose in sharing what she does. she speaks openly about her regrets, airs them out for the reader. normalizes regret by owning hers. and i didn’t understand the magic in her doing so until i sat with hers and examined mine.
in her documentary “the center will not hold” she says,
quintana and i were talking one time about what kind of mother i’d been and to my surprise she said, “you were ok but you were a bit remote.” i didn’t
see this at the time, i didn’t think it was possible because john and i so clearly needed her. which is the way we tend to deal with our children. later we
realized that maybe we hadn’t listened to them at all. we’d been listening to the very edges of what they say without letting it sink in.
hearing that, i thought to myself, gosh. she is so free.
and it stirred up some tears as i sat alone in the living room because joan was gracious enough to share the pain of what she wishes she could do over with people who maybe still can.
in some way. not every way.
we all have moments we wanna do over. that’s ok.
but there’s some moments we maybe still can.
in some way. not the same way.
some moments are gone. that’s ok.
it’s ok to feel their grief. sit in them.
and when we’re ready,
it’s ok to look at today.
who can we call? turn our full attention to? check in with? listen to? share with? celebrate?
joan is partially to thank for why i’ve stopped hesitating and just picked up my phone to call, much more now than i ever have in my entire life. thank you covid and thank you joan and thank you grace. and she’s partially to thank for why i’ve left my phone in the other room so i can give my full attention to ben. her story of regret has become the soil for my growth.
she’s why i don’t wanna wait to ask : “what do you need right now?” or “what can i bring?” or “how can i help?” or “do you wanna talk about it?”
and it’s interesting because no one actually likes to share the moments they regret. i’m sure joan is no exception. we much prefer to focus our attention towards the gossip of another’s history instead of our own. we’re more comfortable that way.
but it’s not always the best way.
sometimes the best way is to tap into our inner joan and invite each other into the less than lovely parts of our story. i bet we’d feel a lot less alone if we shared in safe company the 1% of our story that’s rarely if ever been told. the part, the story, the “rag” that’s stuffed in a corner of our heart and needs to be wrung out so we can live more free. and it’s not always a big moment. small moments, too, hold the power to produce hope.
and maybe when we do, we’ll be more attuned to the moments we still have.
the moments where we still can listen to more than just the edges of each other.
while we maybe still can. not in every way.
but in some way.
“it means more than i can tell you. so you must not judge what i know by what i find words for.” - marilynne robinson // gilead
these words capture the loss and grandeur of living, the mystery and transparency of being human and being in relationship. it captures the moments we miss. the moments when we speak for each other and over each other. it captures the challenge we face of sitting still enough for long enough with each other.
we live a limited existence. we cannot begin to fully understand and know each other no matter how hard we try (contrary to my last post…but i think both are true…alas, we are all — almost always — walking contradictions). we cannot fully wrap our arms around each other’s stories, contexts, souls. we can reach out, but we will not be able to touch the curve of every soft and subtle emotion, every form of robust desire, every invisible current of grief that plows through the center of our story.
we will fall short of knowing each other because we cannot always find words for our stories, for what we know.
words fail us.
take, for example, ben’s and my kitchen.
if you walked in, you’d probably notice a fridge, a table, white cabinets and green countertops. i might try and tell you that our kitchen means more to me than what you see. that it represents healing. the slow to unravel kind.
i might try and tell you how i know this to be true.
how the sunlight announces itself at the start of every day and waltzes in through the wide window above the sink. how some cabinets are empty and how some are full. how almost everything is second hand, which we love (most of the time) because it means every thing was someone’s before it was ours and each one carries with it an odd character and charm, especially our kettle with its clumsy and frantic screech. how i love our kettle and do not want an upgrade.
i might try and tell you how our kitchen has held every good, every full, every bad, every hard conversation over the past few months. how it’s held the tension and apologies. the hugs and the dance offs. how it’s heard “the blessing” by kari jobe and kygo’s album one too many times. how that, too, is a kind of healing.
how i often feel the most at peace when i’m washing and rinsing dishes in the porcelain sink because the act itself is a kind of loaded and hopeful prayer.
(i'm linking "the blessing" here because it's just too good not to share. listen to this while you wash the dishes next and i guarantee a better dish washing experience : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9VL7AhXBKY)
i can try and tell you all this, but the time spent in the kitchen means more than just those words. there's an ocean of meaning beneath it.
what i’m trying to say is, there are no words fully capable of capturing what it means to be alive and to be in relationship.
what it means to love.
of course this is more than just about a kitchen. it’s about how we cannot tell each other fully what it means to lose a parent, receive news of a diagnosis, move away from home, live with depression, suffer anxiety, graduate, get a job, lose a job, welcome a new baby, walk through a miscarriage.
and this is where it’s hard and limiting because i will never fully know what you cannot find words for in your particular story. we’ll miss each other in this life. we’ll fall short of fully understanding, of wholly honoring each other in our becoming.
our stories hold meaning that extends to the heavens and yet our words hit the ceiling.
you see why we need patience, kindness and grace for each other? how we just need to hold more space for each other?
because there will always be more to what we cannot find words for.
“always more beneath the surface” “you don’t know the full story” and it’s true.
instead of throwing labels at each other
“she’s not capable”
“what’s wrong with —"
might we always and ever stay curious and stay seekers because in this life, seeking and pursuing each other even when we cannot fully understand is the closest we’ll come to becoming more like Love.
sometimes the best way to process is through writing a letter to yourself. i believe a pen has eyes and the practice of writing penetrates the soil of a soul and reveals our roots. in other words, the act of writing heals and reveals what we otherwise might’ve missed in our rushing from one thing to the next.
you are trying and you are striving to grow into many things. in the past few months you have become painfully aware of the parts of yourself you were blind to before.
marriage and change unravels a heart and redefines growth in a way you didn’t know was possible.
and with that awareness comes an ache. it’s uncomfortable. take for example how you are acutely aware of your sensitive heart. this is your strength. but sometimes it throws you in a pit of self-pity. you find yourself too busy tending to your own pain that you lose the ability to see another’s pain. you want to become the person who’s sensitivity is always your strength, and never your weapon.
you are strong and sometimes afraid. resilient and fragile. stubborn and always sensitive.
when you show up this way, you represent the whole of you, not just half of you. it is messy and it is stunning when you show up as the whole of you, not just the half you want people to see. you know, your safe half.
sometimes your aim is to be chameleon-like, to adapt, to blend, to be who they want you to be in the given situation, conversation.
this should not be.
because when you do, you steal from yourself. you soften the creator’s design.
but when you show up as all of who you are, trusting that every part of you is on purpose — your opinions, experiences, mistakes, beliefs, grief, why’s, convictions, all on purpose, you embrace abundance. an abundant way of living because it offers a passageway to your heart, towards being fully known.
lately, insecurity has been suffocating you. it has sunk its teeth into your whole and you’ve shown up this way. you often leave conversations feeling down, frustrated, misunderstood, rejected.
but it’s because you kept a handful of vulnerable parts of your whole behind your back. a handful that holds your whys, grief, beliefs.
(note : you may leave a conversation feeling down even when you were vulnerable. that's ok. as long as you showed up as the whole of you.)
it’s kinda like when a child comes up to you and you realize they’re holding something behind their back and you might ask them “hey, what do ya got there behind your back? show me!” and they might show you, or for one reason or another, they might not.
and sometimes you show up like this child. hiding your reasons for things. how you really feel.
i know, you’re scared. to be vulnerable is to risk. but sometimes you show up and you have your handful behind your back after someone asks in so many words and ways
“beth, what do ya got there?”
"what do you think?"
“how are you?”
because you’d rather be impressive than known. you’d rather prove something than be embraced as a human becoming.
but it’s part of you! remember? all the parts of you are on purpose. 100% of them. and to love is to be vulnerable. and you can either be impressive or you can be known. and the way to abundance is through the undoing, the breaking, the connecting, the embracing, the exposing.
you believe that.
what you need to remember is that whether you choose to show up in whole, or show up in part, there are risks to both.
to hide your handful might make you impressive.
but to be vulnerable opens up the possibility of being fully known.
and you know the risk worth taking, you do.
strength is showing up with nothing hidden behind your back. it’s showing up with all the parts of you, whether you say them or not, you show up as a whole, inviting every part to the conversation. you show up with nothing to prove. nothing to earn.
this is the freedom in becoming. the freedom in contentment. the freedom in abundance.
it’s the ability to hold out our hands to the people we love, to the people we trust, the people who’ve told us they want to know us, who've told us they aren't going anywhere (bc of quarantine but also bc of love) and exposing our palms that hold our why’s, grief, beliefs, mistakes, and in honesty — because that’s all we have — say : this is me. unfinished. in process. and i’m choosing to show up this way because at the end of my life, i wanna live known by you rather than live striving to impress you.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.