Space to Breathe


Written Sunday, May, 20, 2018

I love Indiana mornings in the late spring and into summer. There’s a stillness to the mornings: the birds singing over their breakfasts, the leaves rustling. No cacophony  of the day yet, just the sounds of the world waking up, beginning. My soul can breathe in these moments, not pant in the rushing or gasp in the lack of space. In these mornings, I can truly “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I can drink in the quiet, breathe, and remember why I love living where I do. There are still so many lovely places left for me to discover, moments of peace I’ve yet to have, of beauty I’ve yet to witness.

Right now, immediately right now, all I want is to go for ad rive to somewhere beautiful in the countryside. It’s all I’m thinking about in this morning, honestly. I just want the sun and the breeze and away from the noise of life. I want rustling leaves, rushing and babbling water, freshness, and clean air. Maybe on Memorial Day or something, I can make this happen somehow, or at least sometime soon.

I have been lacking space to breathe lately, space for my soul to just be and feel. Even when my daughter is abed, I’m still Mommy that waiting just in case she wakes up. I’m still Wife who frets about what housework still needs to be done. I rarely have spaces where I can just be Mel, where my soul can breathe instead of pant or gasp. I want more of them, I need more of them. I want to breathe, both lungs and soul.

So that is my goal for this summer: to breathe.

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Silvered Cracks


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Firstly, thanks so much for your calm patience. The school year is almost done; that particular madness almost over for a couple months.

Now. May tell you a story about this mug right here? Oh, OK. Thank you!

I know that, to you, it might look a bit of a mess, but I find it quite beautiful. This TARDIS mug was gifted to me by some dear ones a few Christmases ago. Completely unexpected and absolutely delightful. I love my TARDIS mug! However, one day last year, I came home from work to find this waiting for me on my stove.

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My darling TARDIS all in pieces and an apologetic note from my father in law. At that time, I had just started back to work, our daughter was attending preschool/daycare half-day, and so her grandparents would take care of her in the morning and get her school at noon. My dad-in-awesome likes to keep busy and, as such, he helped out with the chores around the house. Again, this was my first year back to work since our girl had been born four years previous, and I was, honestly, overwhelmed with handling work and family and housekeeping. So I appreciated my father-in-law doing up the dishes and coming home to an empty sink. Unfortunately, in the process one day, he knocked my mug against the side of the sink just right (wrong?), and it shattered. Most of the pieces were large enough to fit back together, however, so he saved them for me.

I cried. Seriously. I sat down and cried over my broken TARDIS. My gorgeous “borrowed-and-blue” box had exploded. I snapped a picture and sent it to my tea-guru, sister-mama, and oldest friend in my adult life. She immediately suggested that I send her the pieces, and she would kintsugi them. If you do a quick Wikipedia search, you’d find that Kintsugi (“golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. My dear wifey had done this with some of her own broken crockery before and I found myself irrationally excited by the prospect. I knew the mug would likely not be useable again, but I would have my dearly-gifted TARDIS back whole. So I packed up the pieces in bubble wrap and newspaper and sent them off to Courtney.

Before I did that, however, I sent the picture of my TARDIS-in-pieces to one other person, my friend Daniel. He is my beloved “clever boy” and the main reason that I adore the Eleventh Doctor (“Doctor Who”) so much: the character is art imitating life to me in that his playful and buoyant personality reminds me constantly of my Dan. When I sent him the picture, his response was immediate.

Oh no no no no no. This is your fabulous TARDIS mug?! Or was this the teapot? I insist you let me send you a replacement for whichever it was. ❤❤ Time Ladies need their T(ea)ARDISes.”

Soon enough a new mug showed up in my mailbox, which I have happily used up to the present. Now, I will admit to embarressedly not telling the dear friends who gifted me the mug in the first place that it was broken for the longest time. I have finally just admitted to it. I think I did not want them to think me reckless with my gift, nor did I want them to be upset that it had gotten broken. (I’m sorry, dears, really-really!)

Now, flash-forward to last week. A package arrived from my wifey’s art Etsy shop; in it were a calendar and some prints that I had ordered. However, there was also another package from her waiting for me, and I had no idea what it is. Upon opening up the second package, I found my precious TARDIS 1.0, now beautifully put back together with shimmery silver lining its cracks and cementing the pieces into a whole. It was as though starlight was trying to burst out from the inside. It is stunning!

It now sits on my shelf with some other keepsakes, such as my first dip pen and the box for one of my newest gifted fountain pens, and reminds me constantly of the treasures that are my dear ones. How they have all come alongside me when I have needed them most, and shored up my heart and spirit in its darkest moments. A reminder that, while broken and cracked, there is still light. It can and does still pour through, even if just in bits. Thank you, my dears.

What If I Have Stepped Wrongly?


Author’s Note: I started writing this back in late February/early March and it was really quite heavy then.

The question is always there in the back of my brain, pricking at my mind and my heart. What if I step wrongly? What if I put my foot in the wrong spot, step into a hole, and break my figurative ankle? What if I step before I’m supposed to, or I hesitate and miss my chance? Then what?

The past few months, I have been weary-worn. That’s exactly how I feel: constantly weary  and worn thin. As Bilbo would put it, “‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 42)” I’ve been sick; I’ve been busy with work; exhausted when I get home; and what is usually meant to help restore and recover my spoon seems to use up my dwindling store even more. This is unusual: the constant weariness, this overhanging gloom. And I can’t help but wonder.

Did I take a wrong turn or a wrong step somewhere? Did I leap before I looked, decide before I discerned? Did I step wrongly? Now, I do not believe in a “that’s what you get” God. I do not believe that, if I did step wrongly, he’s sitting on by with hands folded and a harrumph of “Serves you right for not listening”. I do believe that God allows us to make mistakes and our own decisions, even if they turn out to be the wrong ones for us. I also believe that he is waiting to help us find our way again, even if it needs must be by roundabout.

But is that what I’m dealing with here? Or is it something else? Have I misplaced my priorities and therefore my energy? Have I stepped wrongly? I have to admit that, sometimes, I feel like Job, leaving aside the obvious differences in our difficulties.

“Is not all human life a struggle? Our lives are like that of a hired hand, like a worker who longs for the shade, like a servant waiting to be paid. I, too, have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn. (Job 7:1-4, NLT)

I’ve only ever been in therapy during one season of my life and even then it wasn’t very long. So a question I am daring to ask myself and pray about is if perhaps I am suffering from more than just exhaustion, and, frankly, it’s a scary thought for me. Having been raised in the Caribbean, it’s very true that Indiana winters can be hard on me–the long dark, the gloom, and the cold. This winter it has been especially hard to shake, hard to find my way back to me. Now, as spring begins to come into itself fully, I feel a little lightening of my spirit. Is that what it was? Or was there, is there more to it? The truth is that I don’t know. But I will keep praying, keep examining, keep trying to pay attention. I only hope that, if I feel that nudge in my heart and gut, I will have to courage to actually pick up the phone, sit in the chair, and ask and answer the hard questions. I don’t know if I am brave enough for that yet so I would appreciate good thoughts, hopes, and prayers as I process through this and keep an examining eye on myself and my heart. Thank you.

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Works Cited: Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Lord of the Rings, Part 1.

Bracing from Buoyancy to Letdown


Last week, I rode a high brought on by the spectacular live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar that aired on NBC’s network on Easter Sunday, starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon. I had never seen a production of JCS or listened to any of the soundtrack before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Godspell I was familiar with, but I had never gotten to know JCS, although I knew of it.

All last week, the strains and melody of “Everything’s Alright” were the undercurrent of my days. I even found myself singing the first stanza of the song to a student who was nervous and stressed about a test they had in my class. All week, this musical—this story of Judas, Jesus, and deep, soul-searing humanity—buoyed me up and kept me afloat. The actors’ faces have shown up in my dreams. Their voices have filled my quiet moments, my heart and soul birthing prayers from the lyrics they breathe and belt.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been a Godsend of a soul lift, one that I have needed deeply and dearly. It has been a difficult few months, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have felt heavy, off-center, not myself. Nothing has felt aligned—not my emotions, my prayers/time with God, my sleep, my libido, my energy, my reactions and responses, nothing. Often, all I want to do after a full day of teaching is hide in my room with my earbuds in and not speak or have to spend spoons on anyone. Of course, unfortunately, this means my family suffers from my lack of presence and being present. For weeks, it’s been this way, this off-centeredness, so to feel the buoyancy of this beautiful musical was nothing short of a miracle. As we head into a new week, though, I find myself fearing.

I fear the letdown. Buoyancy like this doesn’t last as the novelty becomes commonplace. I fear the shine falling off, the powerful lyrics becoming ordinary as I listen to them over and over. I fear that the off-centeredness returning, the heavy tiredness settling on my shoulders and sapping my spoons and energy. It is like the winter weather, which seems to refuse to let go as, morning after morning, now into April, I wake to snow on the ground where previously there was none. Like that unexpected snow, I silently worry that the low places will return, and I’ll crash back to earth again. That sudden stop hurts, like a lot.

This past weekend, as I embarked to the grocery store on my own (a rare thing), I kept my earbuds in as I did my shopping, humming and mouthing lyrics to JCS’s pieces, and there was a freedom there. A soaring amidst the mundane, and I realized how much I have missed it. I’ve missed feeling freedom. Freedom to be me and enjoy what brings me life and joy. Even though I am afraid that it won’t last, for now I will hold onto it. Hold onto that freedom, that soaring, those miracles amidst the mundane. I will keep on singing, sharing, and hoping that this is just the beginning of feeling like myself again.

What a T-shirt Reminded Me About Love


Today was the first day of my Spring Break, and I spent the day (and an empty house) running errands and sprucing up the place for Spring/Motherly visit/Easter weekend. As I knew that I had errands to run after dropping my daughter off at preschool, I simply pulled on jeans, flats, and a favorite t-shirt before shrugging on my coat (yes, it’s still ridiculously cold for spring). A clearance buy from UnlockHope.com, this shirt was a soft red with “Love is a Verb” lettered on the front in white stylized artistry. Yes, it is definitely a favorite: comfy and truthful.

A lesson I have taken to heart over the past ten years is the exact one this shirt expounds. Love is many things. It is not only a feeling, an emotion. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Love is doing for others, not just saying the three little words. As I moved throughout my day, I found myself contemplating the words on my shirt: “Love is a verb.” I started to look at my day’s activities in the light of this sentence. And I realized just how true it is.

I realized that I was loving my dear ones by taking care of getting the taxes done (almost always a depressing endeavor). We’ve had the same wonderful professional taking care of our taxes since the first year of our marriage because I fully and openly acknowledge that tax codes and laws are something I am complete and utter rubbish at. Utilizing someone else’s skills and expertise helps my family in the best way while also keeping us as safe from mistakes as possible.

I was loving as I washed dishes, cleaned the stove, and tidied the kitchen table, creating space ready for cooking and eating and ease of finding things.

I was loving as I filed away my daughter’s preschool worksheets and projects, saving evidence of her progress and growth for her grandmother to see, as well as the future.

I was loving as I filled the washing machine and folded the already-dried towels, ensuring that my dear ones have clean clothes to wear tomorrow and days after.

I was loving as I sorted through toys and tidied my girl’s table where she creates her art and plays with her Legos.

As I worked and cleaned, listening to my audiobook and pausing for quick text chats with friends (and even now as I sit tired and achy from the energy spent), I found myself sighing contently at the productivity and smiling at the connection my heart was making with my hands. Sometimes I forget that the everyday tasks I perform and the things that I do are love. Love personified. Love acted out. Because it’s true, dear ones.

Love is more than just a feeling.

Love is a choice.

Love is action, whether that action is holding space, tidying a sink full of dishes, hugging someone close and letting them cry, or listening closely without saying a word.

Love is indeed a verb.

Stepping into the New Year


Today was our teacher work day ahead of the start of the spring semester. Honestly, last night, day one hadn’t even begun yet and I was already ready to quit. Just thinking about it made me tired, exhausted. So, today, I gave myself some very pointed instructions: take care of what absolutely must be done for Monday and Tuesday to flow as smoothly as you can manage. The rest can wait until later in the week. And I stuck to those self-imposed limitations for the most part. I stuck to it rather well, actually.

I’m not good that: sticking to limitations. I end up having arguments with myself that go rather like this.

Only go this far.

But—there’s so much to be done! Just a little more.

No, you’re going to get overwhelmed and freak out.

I’ll be…

You’re freaking out, aren’t you?

Yeah.

I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. I feel the need to take several more, just to make sure. Just to make absolutely sure that everything that needs to be done is done, every possible preparation is made, every security I can manage put into place to assure that things go as closely to how they need to go (read: how I want them to go) as possible.

This year, the odds are good that there may come quite a few situations that I will feel overwhelmed by and thus be tempted to take extra steps to try control said situations. My challenge and journey this year will be in taking just the next step. Not running ahead, not taking a few extra steps “just in case”, but in taking just the next step that I feel God has led me to take. And then wait.

When I was a child, I attended a private church-school and, every morning, we said the pledge to the Bible. I pledge allegiance to the Bible: God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

“A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” If you know anything about lamps, then you know that their circle of light doesn’t go very far. It will light your feet for the next step but only the next step. One step at a time.

This year, I want to lean into taking just that next step. Just the next step that I feel led to take. Faith, patience, courage, trust…all of these things lead into this action. I want to be better at it, at them. That is my goal for this year, that is my lesson, my learning: to take just the next step. The very next step. That’s all.

 

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Becoming One of Those Secrets


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How often do we laud someone for what they do rather than who they are? Why do we call someone “great” because of their success, their accomplishments in business, their accolades, rather than the qualities that they exhibit throughout their lives? Why do we ooh and ahh and admonish people that they “just don’t know how beautiful they are”? Why do we not encourage them, “Do you know just how rare your level of empathy and kindness is? Keep that stuff up!”   When I was growing up, I heard what people said, even when I pretended not to. I was lauded for being a good Christian girl who listened to her parents, attended and participated at church, excelled in my school work, etc. Often, though, I questioned whether or not people would actually like me if they really knew me. Was who I was as important or as good as what I did? What if I no longer did all of those things, for one reason or another? Would I no longer be loved, no longer be considered a worthy of a good reputation?

How did you get so deeply conditioned as to not recognize our own God-given worth, the good of our actions, that we doubt the sincerity of others when they do? Why do we answer “I’m glad you think so” (or “I’m glad you think so”) when we are called wonderful, kind, compassionate, etc.? Yet we are trained to say a demure”thank you” when our looks, the attractiveness score we were born with and have grown into, is complimented? We don’t want to appear rude or self-centered, after all, do we?

How can we change this? How can we open up and share the amazingness of these people (and we are included in those people) who really are so epically marvelous, gentle, generous, courageous in love, selfless in action, and tireless in caring? What can we do to let these awe-inspiring secrets know that they are just that: awe-inspiring? How can we laud who they are?

I believe that one of the ways we can manage this is with specific thank-yous. Not just “thank you for being awesome”, but “thank you for sharing that encouragement with me; it was just what I needed in that moment”. Thank them for reaching out, for holding your soul and heart gently when you were having a rough spell. Thank them for the meal they sent over when you grandmother died. Thank them for the post that turned your tears into laughter. Thank them for the thought behind their actions. Thank them for their generosity in giving that surprise gift. Thank them for their courage when you know that it took a goodly amount of it for them to stand up and disagree with those around them.

As we progress through our generation and rear the next, I think that we might be able to agree that we want ourselves and our children to be known for our character, not merely our accomplishments. We want the actions we take that stem from character integrity and a desire to better the lives and the world around us to be a guiding force. We are more than our successes or failures, our triumphs or losses. We are who we are and, if we decide it, who we are can be beautiful. No, not every secret needs to be told, needs to be outed. But can we learn–and then teach–what it is to be one of those gentle-holding, best-kept secrets? To be the best who we can be, as well as acknowledging those who are doing the same. Because the world could definitely use more secrets of that type. I’m going to keep working at it; you are not alone in this endeavor, dear one.