The Comfort Struggle


I have been thinking lately — why do I sometimes struggle with being comforted? Why does it feel nigh impossible to just sink into the gentleness of others and let myself fall apart if needed? I have been going through a difficult (even scary) situation of late, but I have been given overwhelming support in it, thank God. However, as I said to my husband the other night, I still struggle to be comforted by that support. I feel it. I acknowledge and am grateful for it. But I feel as though something is missing in my reaction to said comfort.

Why am I not moved to relieved tears by the succor that is being offered to and in defense of me? Why do I feel as though I recognize and appreciate this comfort on a cerebral level but it hasn’t pierced my heart? I feel somewhat heart-numb, like the comfort can come to the moat around my soul’s castle and call out its support and furtherance, but it cannot enter the inner sanctum and be welcomed there. Amidst all the comfort, I still feel alone, even though logically I know that I am not.

I never though that I would struggle with being comforted of all things, with knowing that I am loved and championed. My darling husband gently suggested that maybe the comfort I have received, while good, is not necessarily the comfort I am needing. But I do not know how to reconcile that. I do not know what comfort I do need, how I need to be poured into, how my heart needs to be ministered to. And that hurts as well: being so disconnected from myself (or at least feeling so) that I do not know what it is that would make me feel that comfort down into my bones.

If you are feeling this, too, in whatever moment you are currently standing in, I’m sorry. I don’t have an answer or a fix. But I can tell you that you are not alone in it.

I’m Still Here.


If you think I have been avoiding you…you’d be right. I’m sorry. I have been avoiding you. It’s not that I haven’t been trying to write. I have! There are any number of drafts sitting here, I promise you, but it has honestly been a real struggle this summer. A struggle to put my heart down into words. Now with the beginning of another school year looming, I am feeling way too vulnerable for my own liking. Things are spilling out way too easily, and it makes me feel even more out of control than I am in reality. I am feeling ALL the things right now.

I feel guilty for trying to rest this summer instead of doing the work to find another job. Attached to that is the sense of recklessness of even considering a different job when this one has so many “benefits” (read: life necessities). My guilt also extends into envy of those who have taken the plunge into new chapters outside of teaching. Envy of their faith, courage, attention to and action for their mental/emotional/physical health.

I am anxious as I have now entered into the enmity a small group of individuals who patently disagree with some of my stances as a teacher. I have said that I would be willing to lose my job over ensuring my classroom is an inclusive, welcoming space. Will I be indeed be called upon to do so? We shall see, I guess. So far the support and love have been loudest, but it doesn’t stop the anxiety.

I am tired from a summer that was quite busy with activity and ended with my spouse and I catching COVID and getting hit hard with it. Our vaccinations kept us out of hospital but we still had a rough time of it and are still in physical recovery mode after the fact.

I am nervous as I have new team members and a new principal to learn how to work with this year, as well as a new grade-level curriculum. So much to assimilate and implement. I am trying my best to take it one step at a time, though. Boundaries and work-life congruence have always been a struggle for me, and I have been trying to improve that. Trying not to be overwhelmed can be overwhelming in itself, however.

In some ways, I feel as though I wasted these weeks, the time I could have devoted to writing. I did serve myself by reading a fair bit, though, a good mix of new and familiar books that proved a safe hiding place for my soul. But I do miss the words flowing out of my pen and keyboard. I miss insights and contemplations blooming in my mind and then pouring out in a way that I can understand. That’s a large part of the difficulty lately, I think: understanding my own thoughts. I struggle to explain, struggle to write, struggle to understand me. So here I am, babbling on as honestly as I can even though it may not make a great deal of sense.

I haven’t given up writing, dear readers, but it is hard right now. I will keep trying, keep working to understand my own heart and mind. So much has happened and changed over the last few years that often I feel like a person I do not recognize or know, and it’s been a long time since I felt that way. It’s a struggle, yes, but I shall keep trying. Keep going. Keep stepping. Keep breathing. I’m still here.

A single rose bloom still hanging on after a fierce summer storm that broke apart entire trees.

Everlasting Words


This morning, I sat on my front porch in an unseasonably cool breeze and set myself to the task of continuing to read through books for our new curriculum adoption. One of said books is Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming. As I read her fluidly-beautiful narrative set in chronological poems, two in particular stood out to me: “The Beginning” and “Composition Notebook”. These chapters capture so beautifully exactly how I feel about words and writing. I do not recall the first notebook I received but I have a feeling that my reaction was much like hers, coupled with the desire to start writing right now!

My daughter has recently begun writing her first independent narrative story, appropriately a fan-fiction piece about one of her favorite cartoon shows. I cannot express my joy at watching her get excited to put her ideas down in writing. It is simply amazing to see her “creating art with words” as she put it today.

I have been writing for approximately 33 years — stories, poems, song lyrics, speeches, essays, and articles — and I hold it as one of my greatest talents and delights in life. Lately, however, writing has felt incredibly difficult. Not the words themselves, truly, but, as Rachel Macy Stafford so succinctly stated the other day, “it’s hard to publish words in the world right now”. I want to write to help and heal, to be authentic and open, to welcome those who might need something deeper in a world full of quick quips that lodge in our brains and hearts like darts. But I am unsure of how to do so or what to say when I am struggling so deeply with feeling existentially exhausted myself.

I am trying but so often feel as though my trying isn’t enough. These chapters of Woodson’s book, however, feel like a tug on my heart, reminding me of what I love (to write) and why I love to do it (because it might mean something, somewhere, to someone). I want to embrace the infinity of words, “how wonderfully on and on they go” (62). Even if it is not perfect (or what I think is perfect), even if it feels too open, too honest, it might be just what some other soul needs in that moment. If only I am but brave enough to set that offering of words down to be what it will be.

So today I share these words that gave life to me today with you, dear ones.

What I Learned From My Mother (Mother’s Day 2022)


This is going to perhaps be shocking to read, in all honesty, but I hope you will bear with me. One of my favorite memories of my mother is of the few times that she has lost control of her language (forgive me, Marmee). Now these occurrences have been very few and far between indeed (and very well may be all in my imagination, right, Marmee?), but, as I have grown older, I have come to realize something.

Those few moments of true emotion expressed in perhaps less-than-genteel language have given me permission to in fact be imperfect myself, to feel strongly and be free to express it with those with whom I feel safe. The fact that my beloved mother, in the midst of being the superhero of my life, is also blessedly human, so I can be, too.

Women are held to such toxic, harmful standards, even today in 2022 as more feathers are violently ripped from our wings to keep us from flying. Being shown her humanity and taught that my own is not a sin are of immeasurable value. That is what I learned from my Marmee, not the words that she let slip in those emotional moments. I learned how to mess up and apologize, both of which I have done throughout my life. It gave me a way out of the shame of my own perfection, though it has taken the better part of 20 years for that lesson to take.

Thank you, Marmee, for losing your tongue a few times and teaching me how to exist with humanity, honesty, and, yes, even with grace. It has made me a better person, partner, friend, and mother. Thank you! Happy Mother’s Day!

Picnicking Weather


In early Spring of 2006, Ben took me to meet his paternal grandmother (we were getting married, after all). Afterward, we decided to take a picnic to the local Conservation Club to have by the pond. We went to the grocery, grabbed stuff for sandwiches and the like, and headed off. I hadn’t had a picnic, really, since I was a child. Cookouts, yes, but not a picnic.

Growing up, we we would sometimes take Saturday picnics to a lovely cove on the north end of the island. The grass was soft leading down to the sand of the little beach, the tropical firs waving in the ocean breeze and the sun sparkling on the water. It was novel and a getaway from the normal pace of life. We would come home full, salt-skinned, and sun-weary, and I loved it.

This picnic was quite different from those of my childhood but no less special to me. It was a celebration of the nearness of our wedding, our claiming of each other before important family members. It felt like a declaration of our commitment to one another in a way and this picnic the feast of our betrothal. I have been thinking and considering what I would like to do to celebrate my 40th birthday next year and, you know…a beautiful picnic for me and my dear ones might be just the ticket.

Blooming into May


All around my house right now are flowers. I have baskets of impatiens hanging from the top of my porch in brilliant purples and oranges. There are braided hibiscus trees in plots just before the porch, one with a bright yellow bloom already nestled among its green. And standing sentinel by the side of the house are brilliant red mandevilla, already heavy with blossoms on their little potted trellises.

I do not usually have so many plants about because, to tell the truth, I have a black thumb and cannot raise anything flora that depends upon me for survival. But I am so glad to have these flowers and their glorious colors around to brighten my spring. I miss my hardy, self-sufficient annuals at our previous home and how the little garden plots in the front and side of the house would bloom with snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and lilies every spring and summer, and it gave my heart such joy to see such gorgeous life filling my little world. I love flowers and their elegance, their detailed meanings, heady and intoxicating aromas, even though I am not the best at cultivating them.

That’s rather like life, isn’t it? I do not have to be good at everything or an expert in the process to be able to appreciate the beauty of the result. I do not need to hover over and control every little detail for a venture to be successful; there are some things that really do take care of themselves. Things do not always need to be perfect for me to be grateful and plans do not always need to be laid out to produce a wonderful result. I am not good at raising or taking care of flowers or plants, yet they cover my head in beauty and fill my imagination with gorgeousness, and for that I could not be more grateful.

Taste of Memory


Have you ever tried to recreate a taste memory? When I was picking up a few things from the supermarket this week, my eyes fell on a package of English muffins. Instantly, I had the starkest memory of bread, butter, and strawberry mingling together in an amazement of breakfasty deliciousness. The memory was so strong that my stomach growled in want.

Yes, Dear Reader, I bought the English muffins. On Saturday morning, I toasted one nice and crispy, slathered the halves with butter and strawberry jelly, and settled down with my coffee. That first taste…ohhhhhh! It was the beginning of summer all over again! Creamy, crispy, and sweet, it poked just the right spot in my brain. It is rare for taste to have that strong a memory power over me without having actually tasted anything. I love food but scent has always been the most closely-tied sense to memory for me. So to have such a poignant taste-based memory was both striking and startling, and I’m finding myself wanting more of it. More of tastes that poke my brain and connect me to nostalgia and comfort so strong that all I can do is devour what’s in front of me.

It happened again yesterday afternoon as my family and some friends met for dinner at a local Latin cuisine restaurant. As I tucked into Venezualan beef, white rice, black beans, and sweet, soft plantains, that first bite of meat and rice hit so hard that I felt the taste memory of it in my sinuses. I stopped participating in the table conversation and concentrated wholly on the food before me, reveling in familiar flavors, perfect textures, and comforting combinations.

In days that are still indelibly difficult at times, moments like these have become equally, unspeakably precious to me. Moments of tumbling into happy and remembering that, yes, life is full of good. The world may be on fire, or we may be angry at it, or cowed/beaten down by it, but there is still brightness, still moments of light. Maybe it is in a familiar bite, a comforting sweet, a warm cuppa cradled in your hands, or the smell of popcorn reminding you of fun nights at the movies or fair. Let’s savor those moments of brightness, of comforting deliciousness, hold them close, and devour them down. May they become new memories that comfort us and make us smile on the harder days.

Doing the Work of Resting


I fear at times that I have lost the art of rest. I do try, certainly. I attempt rest, but I am never quite sure that I have accomplished it or even neared it. I do all the “self-care” things, I treat myself, but they are often a fleeting comfort at best. A hot bath or shower here, a nap or massage there, but the peace found there does not last.

Some of the best “rest time” I have gotten lately was standing before the screen door of my front porch early of a Saturday morning, the winter-cool air pouring in and causing my fresh coffee to steam, and watching the early-morning light sparkle over the frosted grass with my cat. Those few moments felt like breathing in peace with the cold in my lungs and the warmth of the coffee in my belly. Like Jesus was stood right there beside, His arm around my shoulder, and His chuckle in my ear at Jack’s chattiness about the Outside.

Perhaps I am re-learning that rest is not a wholesale destination but rather a cycle. A cycle of finding quiet pockets of rest. Maybe it is not constantly feeling zen and at peace. Maybe rest is just settling into those moments that surprise us with their quietude and allowing ourselves to be quiet and still, too. 

So I will try to sink into those soft moments, on my couch before my fireplace, when the library is empty, or when my bathtub is full and steaming with my cat curled up alongside to chaperone my immersion. I will do the work of rest, of shutting out the world for a little while, because I am allowed to. Because I need to.

Photo by shutterstock

My Candle Wish for the New Year


As I sat down to have my coffee this morning, I found myself staring at the words on the back of my badger crest mug, the traits of the house. Loyalty, kindness, honesty, friendship. As this year starts to see itself out with all its difficulty tonight, I shall light my candle and place it on the porch table again, just as I did at Winterdark (winter solstice), to lend its light to the night as the year slips around the corner. But, as I looked at my mug, I found myself composing my wish. I don’t think it breaks the rules to tell you what this wish and, ultimately, prayer is, as it is for you. For all of us.

I wish you Loyalty, dear Reader. I wish you the loyalty of chosen family, of the dear ones and neighbors with whom you have surrounded yourself and built your little world. I wish you the loving loyalty of any blood family who has stood by you in all and sundry. But, most of all, I wish you the loyalty of empathy, of someone who is as willing to put themselves into your shoes and walk that mile with you (or carrying you) as you would be in your turn. I guess that wish also places a responsibility on you and me, but…that is how it works, isn’t it?

I wish you Kindness, the kind of kindness that wells up from unknown places, the action that springs forward without second-thought or consideration. I wish you the kind of kindness that comes naturally along with the willingness to accept it from others. May you receive kindness without the burden of “paying it back” settling on your shoulders and soul. May you give kindness without the disappointment of expecting reciprocation. I wish you kindness without strings, ribbons, or tags. May you give and receive it in free measure in the coming year, each to each as the moment calls for.

I wish you Honesty, dear heart. I wish you the honesty to admit when things are hard. I wish you the ability to be honest about when you don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to feel. I wish you the honesty to sit in the discomfort without the need to fix things or make it better because, frequently, that is not what we or others need. I wish you the honest boundaries when you cannot take on any more emotional weight and to be able to say so. I wish you the brave honesty to admit when what you are feeling needs more than a “self-care day” or when your sadness needs more than just “a nappy-nap or a snack to get yourself right”. I wish you the honesty to reach out your hand in your struggling and say, “I need help.” And when someone else says so to you in their own desperate turn, I wish you the honesty to see their hurt and their pain, keep trite sympathy behind your teeth, and walk with them in that hard place to their needed next step. I wish you the honesty you need in the moments you face.

Finally, I wish you Friendship. I wish you the type of friendship that rings or texts your phone in the middle of dinner to check in on you, just because. I wish you the type of friendship that holds sacred space for you all to speak into and be heard. I wish you the type of friendship that provides a balm for the hidden wounds you are carrying and recognizes when you just do not have it in you to be effusive. I wish you the quiet friendships that are always there and do not require you to be “on” all the time, but allow you to flop into the pathetic little potato (or, as Gemma Correll puts it, “permanently exhausted pigeon”) you need to be at times. I wish you the soft hands required when your dear one comes to you with their wounds needing tending. When I think of deep, abiding friendship, often the spoken words of Sara Bareilles’s song “You Matter to Me” come back:

I hope someday, somebody wants to hold you for twenty minutes straight
They don’t pull away, they don’t look at your face
[…] All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness in it
[…] I hope you become addicted to sayin’ things and having them matter to someone.

I wish you to be able to be the friend that is needed and to have the friendship that you need, dear Reader.

As 2021 turns the far corner and 2022 peeks around the near one, I wish all of these things for you. I wish you these pillars that hold us up in the hard times. As I light the candle tonight and set it against the darkness amidst the turning of the world, I pray that you will feel a warmth…somehow, somewhere…and you will know it to be someone who cares about you. I wish you the gentlest of New Years, dear one. May it be blest.

Advent 2021: The Beginning of Christ (Christmas Eve)


Despite the well-known Christmas song, we can be fairly certain that the night that Jesus was born was anything but quiet. Between a city full of people, a stable full of animals, a sky full of angels, and a woman full of pain, “silent” was likely not a word one would have used to describe that night in Bethlehem. And yet, into all that noise, the Lion of Judah came in the form of a tiny, squawling, lambsoft baby. In the midst of her exhaustion, I imagine that Mary cuddled him close, using what she had learned from helping her cousin Elizabeth to clean, swaddle, feed, and rock her holy son to sleep, her lamb slumbering in a manger. Amidst all the clamor of that night, this most important of events was definitely not center-stage, but, tonight on Christmas Eve, we celebrate it first and foremost. We celebrate the work of Christ that was begun on that night in a solitary stable and ended on a seemingly hopeless hill 33 years later. Tonight, as Advent ends, we celebrate Christmas’s beginning. We have expected, we have prepared, and now we rejoice.

Let Heaven and Nature sing, joy to the world. The Lord has come.

Merry Christmas to you all, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Art by Jay Bryant Ward