Help me! (Well, my mom, really.)

Hey, guys.

I know I haven’t written for a while, but my lovely mother needs some help getting this around the Interwebs. She’s written a manuscript about the Holocaust from a unique standpoint, and the story is really good. (From a picky writer/reader, that’s saying something.)

So please, be a doll and spread the word!

Gardens of Redwoods

Three minutes ago, I firmly and finally decided to write this blog post.

Seven minutes ago, I decided against it.

Ten minutes ago, I hung up from a phone call with my mother, who’s gracious and loving enough to help me untangle every emotional knot I every find myself in, even when what I’m crying about isn’t really what I’m crying about.

Two hours ago, I called my mother to tell her the dog food was ready to be picked up at the vet’s office, and she asked if I was okay.

Seven days ago, I started to feel like a human being again.

Five months ago, I had no emotions.

Four years ago, I watched two men I dearly loved pass away, one after the other.

Seventeen years ago, my father walked out on me, and I have never forgiven him.

Part of me still hesitates to write this. To let you in so you can see me. The exact me. The me who wants everything to be okay. The me who’s still trying to understand why fathers leave. (I don’t think I can understand.) I still remember the day when I found out he wasn’t coming back, even though that knowledge was a mere feeling at the moment. My mother sat crying on the couch, surrounded by one of my aunts, a cousin or two, and my grandfather, who passed away four years ago. I knew that my father had done something to walk away. He had redrawn in stone irreversible lines, and this final one put him over the edge of forgiveness.

After watching my brothers suffer abuse and my mother wade through the perpetual, malignant verbal storms induced by drugs, alcohol, and indifference, watching my father walk out should have served as a sort of balm, a relief that flooded over me. But I was six years old, and all I saw was his absence where there should have been a presence.

When our college chaplain stood behind the pulpit about a week or so prior to today, and apologized to all of the families who had suffered silently as the church refused to acknowledge alcoholism as a problem of social injustice, the six-year-old in me–who didn’t understand why she wasn’t wanted–was forced to reconcile with the pustule sucking at her twenty-two-year-old self’s heart. And I tried to be okay. I tried to stay calm and remain an unfeeling pillar of steel, impervious to the world’s emotions and feelings. (Who needed ’em, the foolish things?) Instead, I crumbled like microwaved butter–looks solid, until you touch it. Then everything spills out.

I had never wanted to look at the wound festering somewhere underneath my intellect, guarded by the whips of Sarcasm and Wit, protected against all battering by any emotion bound to rock the world I knew. In a world full of oceans, I had cast my ship onto dry land and pretended to sail. The sunshine, the birds, the companions I allowed on board, the water somewhere in the distance–all of it did give me joy. But it was joy that I knew was safe, a venture not risking all.

I don’t know when I abandoned ship. Maybe I’ve still got one foot in the boat, or maybe I’m floundering in the waves and pretending I know exactly what I’m doing, and I don’t. I can’t decide yet. What I do know is that amidst the pounding white caps and sea foam choking every orifice through which I try to breathe, God is keeping me afloat. He is my life ring, and I know He’ll never let me drown.

Years later, I realize that the abandonment I suffered was not due to something I did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say. My father walked out because he chose to; and six-year-old me is helping to put a band-aid on the heart of twenty-two-year-old me, and is patting her hand saying, “It’s okay.”

It is okay. What happened is not, but the vulnerability that I’m learning to embrace, the hurt that can turn into compassion for others, the trust that forms when I tell my story, the bitterness I’ve let go of because I can see now that it wasn’t my fault I was abandoned–that’s all more than okay. That’s healing. That hurts. But every seed dies before it has the chance to grow, else it shrivels and never blooms into the redwood it has the capability of being. I have the choice to either stew in my bitterness and never trust again, or I can die to this, bloom, and become a monolith God uses for whatever purposes He has for me down the road. Two hours ago, I watched God open a door to the trust I’m capable of holding. And it was beautiful and frightening and so worth it. After all I’ve been through, and through what’s still to come, I can confidently stand and say that I survived, and I still lived to love.

I choose to be a redwood.

The Lives I’m Not Living

Floating around the sphere of inspirational quotes (or something to that effect) is a line written by Jonathan Safran Foer in his novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. You’ve most likely heard it before or read it somewhere and seen a little emoji heart after it, or something similar to someone saying, “OMG this is so deep,” or “This is me.” I take issue with this quote. Allow me to paste it here:

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

I used to agree with this line of prose. I used to identify with it because I was angry at the world, at my state, at my family, at my mother, at myself. I wanted to be out and living and breathing and feeling my bones stretch and absorb all these lives I knew I wasn’t living. Little known secret: I had an ambition just before I left for college (at 21) that I would go to Italy, fall in love with a married millionaire, dive into an illicit affair, become pregnant and distressed, and flee to England to live with my illegitimate child in as much anonymity as offered by today’s media-absorbed world. It’s not easy for me to type that. However, now I recognize something inside of myself that I lacked by truckloads. This something is only offered by one Person I’ve ever encountered in my entire life, and He has never let me slip from His grasp, now matter how angry I became with Him.

Jesus offered me an alternative to the anger and the despair and sorrow and anxiety and regret I could feel in my bones under the weight of every single life I found myself not living. Once I grasped onto what He was handing me, I found a transformation beginning within more than my heart–within my spirit and soul. I let go of every life I wasn’t living and held firmly onto the one that I was. I only have one life, and that life could be snuffed out at any moment. How dare I sit and stew and waste what’s been given to me, pondering and crying over what will NEVER HAPPEN.

I will never be a homeless person in Italy in desperate need of a millionaire’s love. Heck, I reckon I’ll never even meet a millionaire, let alone an Italian one whose child I would bear. I’ll never flee to England with a bastard son. I’ll never even avoid social media, especially not as an aspiring author.

But here’s what I know will happen. I’ll be loved by my mother and my family and my friends. I’ll graduate college next year with a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing. I’ll be rejected by people–not just romantically–and I’ll get over it and move on after a good rant, a cry, an indifferent shrug, and a smirk. I’ll use the Oxford comma religiously. I’ll love books and reading and writing, and I’ll continue to write. God will never leave me, and I’ll trust Him to stay.

I feel the tug of lives I’m not living, but not in my bones, and not despairing that I’m missing out. With each person I pass by on the street, and with each soul with whom I shake hands, and with each breath I share through every immortal on this planet, and with each moment of eye contact and awkward waving (yeah, I’m that gal), I encounter by arbitrary specificity a uniquely crafted vessel meant to be filled by love. My bones creak under the weight of these lives; I long to love every single person I meet, and I long for them to feel that in this world blighted by hatred and cold-hearted cynicism, by prejudice against one race–the human race–and favoritism toward those who don’t deserve it; in this world of darkness, I want to shine Light.

These souls’ burdens expand inside my marrow until I stagger–physically–and heave dry sobs wracked by trembling agony. I feel no anger that I’m not living a life not meant for me, but that I’m missing an opportunity to shed love and Light into the life of a soul who is angry, who is struggling, who is wishing that he or she was anywhere but Here. And while I may be rejected, I pray I never reject a soul in need of love. God forgive me if I have.

This new year offers us a moment in which we must decide–will we live the lives that will break our bones by implosion, the shattering monolith of lives not meant for us? Or will we take a stand and walk boldly the path placed before us, shedding love and Light and kindness on everyone with whom we come into contact?

Let me give you a chance to realize you have a better option. Whoever you are, whatever your case, live your life–be shattered for others–take firm and full hold of the one blip on history’s radar you’ve been given. And never, never, never stop loving. We’re all of us humans; God help us the day we decide that a difference makes someone else a different species altogether.

Jesus love you, dear hearts. And please, please know that so do I.