Sunday, July 20, 2014

Five dollars and a chance encounter

I spent a good hour in Target this morning, buying groceries for a one week detox diet.  I wouldn't normally ascribe to such a thing, but this is my [maybe misplaced] attempt at positive self-care. 

I was standing in the spice aisle, searching hopefully for a smaller container of lemon pepper than the one I'd found, when I heard, "Excuse me, ma'am?"

He was a simply but cleanly dressed (why does this matter?) black (or this?) man.  Humble eyes, soft speech.  I looked at him inquisitively.

"I wonder if you could help me buy some lunch today?"

I've never been approached like this before, not in a Target and out of nowhere.  But it was something about the way he asked.

I asked him, "What did you have in mind?" (I was actually thinking I'd walk to the in-store cafe with him.)

He looked down and said, "Maybe $5?"

I almost never have cash on me, but Erin and I had a garage sale yesterday, so today I had a lot. Plenty of judgmental things came to mind, such as, "He doesn't *look* homeless," and, "I wonder what he's REALLY going to spend this on?"

But then I thought, here I am filling a cart with food for one person - healthy and somewhat expensive food at that - and I'm debating lemon pepper, of all things.  I made some extra money yesterday, and I make some extra money singing today.  I work an overtime shift tomorrow.  My mom filled my gas tank last week - and put some money on my Starbucks card -  just to do something nice for me when she knew I was sad.

Let's be real - I have plenty.  Most days it doesn't feel like it, but I do.  In fact I'm writing this outside the coffee shop where I just paid $4 for the cold-press coffee I'm drinking, and the ability to use the internet.


And...what if he's really hungry?  I have never in my life had to consider asking someone for money to eat, not even when my dad - our main source of income - was unemployed.  Hell, I have been trying to LOSE weight since I was eleven. years. old, and I am certainly well-fed.  How hard must it be to approach a stranger like that, no matter *what* you're asking for, not knowing how they will respond?  

I had a five, and I gave it to him. I watched him disappear around the corner into the bread/granola bar aisle.

Here's what I'd like to think:  I was dressed pretty simply myself - just my bum-around capris (sale at Kohl's, and with a stain or two), tank top (sale at Target), and sandals.  No make up (as usual), hair in a messy bun (also as usual).  With my cart of vegetables, beans, some chicken, and looking at spices, maybe I looked like I appreciated simple foods, good meals - and I do.  Maybe I looked kind and approachable.  Maybe, to the eyes of those who truly go without, I even looked wealthy.  Maybe all the soul work I've done over the years, all the calmness people speak of, sends off an energy or aura that makes the heart of me evident without words.

Maybe he was just desperate.  I don't know.  But I'd like to think that something about me told him I was safe, kind, and someone he could ask for help.

I've been taking a sort of Facebook vacation lately, a vacation from unneeded reminders, drama, repetition and ridiculousness, and I don't share publicly all that I write, but this felt important (before I get on my expensive bike and head to my yoga studio for class - a sure luxury, albeit a very affordable one).  I want to be appreciative for all I have, despite all that I wish and want to change. I want this despite all that I'm struggling to hope for, and I'm appreciative of a chance encounter that shifted my perspective. 

Monday, July 7, 2014


I did something so hard today: I reached out.  It is easier to fall silent sometimes, to leave hope hanging in the tension.  It seemed the "smart" thing to do, to just walk away. Be tough and be done.

But my heart kept insisting that the silence wasn't right, and if I've learned any lesson about relationships, it's that holding on to things is never a good idea.
So I made myself find the words: words to honor what I was feeling, words to honor the gift the other had been, words to be done by.

They were met with thoughtfulness and ownership, late though it may have been.  That is a new experience for me, to not be attacked or blamed, and it was beautiful in its own right.

I laid on my mat at the close of class tonight, grateful for the late-hour darkness that hid my tears.

Praying that I was right to not give up, like he said - to have given this a try in the first place.

Praying for the feelings - idiocy and embarrassment at having dared to really hope this time, and at having opened my heart - to pass.

Praying to not become even more bitter and resentful toward the very God with whom I spoke.

Praying for the heart to try again.

Praying, as said to me by a friend today, for the ability to have faith that someday, the timing might be right.  With anyone.

My teacher called for us to rise, but I was afraid to move.  The cavern in my chest held me frozen in place, and I felt that if I stretched my fingers, I may just split wide open. If I rolled to my side, I might lose all my outside form and simply collapse.

I'm in my car now, parked along the river, nearly home. Filled with sadness. Such honest and piercing sadness.  Certain that I made a good decision, certain that I cared well for myself today, certain that I honored us both...

And yet uncertain. So uncertain, and about so very many things.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wishing Tree

My friend Kat and I went for a walk through Centennial Lakes after dinner on Monday, setting off in a direction we'd never walked before.

As we emerged from the more wooded path and into an open area, we noticed pastel colored tags hanging from several of the trees that surrounded a grassy clearing.  A small wicker basket sitting at the base of the center tree was full of paper scraps and pens labeled simply, "The Wishing Tree."  

We read through a few of them:

I wish to have a lot of dogs when I grow up.

I wish for world peace.

I wish for my husband to think he's a wonderful as I do.

I wish to finally find a job.

Some made me laugh, some made me cry.  All of them made me consider intently what I truly wanted to write.

What I first wanted to write will be no surprise to anyone: "I wish for a partner to share my life with." But that is so old and tired.  

Then I thought about how hard I have struggled and frankly, still do.  I started to write," I wish to be free of my sadness, my depression."  How would it feel to not know the darkness?  To feel joy more often, to hold hope for the future, and maybe even possess some occasional carelessness?  But that sounded too self-pitying.

I wished for meaningful, fulfilling work that didn't tear at my soul and feel like a trap.

What I finally wrote was this: "I wish to believe that I deserve good things, and that they will come to me."

Other choices were, "I wish to believe in myself; to stop doubting and stop worrying."

"I wish to stop judging myself for my past and stop feeling like a failure."

"I wish to never again know what I weigh, and not to care."

Today, I wished for a penis and all the freedom that goes with it.

Naturally I wanted to change it as soon as I tied it onto the branch.  I wish I could have been more altruistic in my wishing.  Tonight, before yoga, I sat on the sidewalk with one of my teacher-friends. We got to talking about change, obligations, and a life in transition.  I told her how these past few years have just felt so full of upheaval and instability, that I simply had to keep that one destructive but stable thing, which is my job. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about Sharon, and the two years since her death.  When she was my age, her life went through the same kind of transition, and she used to refer to our shared home as "The Place Right Before."  I'm living there again in every possible imagining.

Hands at my heart, I set my intention for class: good is coming.  Intellectually, I don't really believe this.  But it's about intention, trying even when you don't feel it. 

It was a good practice.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Even when my heart is breaking

German was the one classical language I didn't stick around the music program long enough to gain a working knowledge.  I can do a fair job at enunciation thanks to that one collection of art songs, but I don't know what I'm singing.   In part due to hormones, in part due to the stress of recent changes, in part due to the story we all well know, I really struggled to follow through on commitments to sing at two weddings this past weekend.  Frankly, I was nearly too sad to get out of my house (ok, out of my bed) and even be with friends on our camping trip - friends who are also largely coupled, one celebrating an anniversary, one newly engaged, most very openly affectionate.  Sometimes I am resentful, and sometimes I am just overwhelmingly sad.

At one of those weddings, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" was among the repertoire.  To be honest, I never recognized that this piece had words; I'd only played it as a piano processional.  I noticed English printed in the bulletin but only paid attention to the German we were singing - since it doesn't come as easily to me.  That is, until Teri asked if we knew the literal translation of the words, very dissimilar to the familiar English translation:

Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe,
O wie feste halt' ich ihn,
Dass er mir mein Herze labe,
Wenn ich krank und traurig bin.
Jesum hab' ich, dir mich liebet
Und sich mir zu eigen giebet,
Ach drum lass' ich Jesum nicht,
Wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.

It is good for me that I have Jesus,
O how firmly I hold on to Him,
So that he soothes my heart when I am ill and sad.
I have Jesus who loves me,
And who gives Himself to be my own,
Therefore I will not let Jesus go,
Even when my heart is breaking.

I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have a choir director of such depth and heart, always offering us the full history and context of what we perform, and one who said to the group after her offering, "Because who knows, maybe your heart is breaking today, and you need this."

I did need this; it enabled me to move past all that was happening in my heart and body and get my butt down to my friends for a really fun weekend.  Even if the tears were waiting behind my eyes all weekend long, there was a soothing for my heart.