The Ice Queen

Bilder von der Polarstern-Expidition ARK XXVII-3 in die zentrale ArktisA couple weeks ago, mom fell and fractured her rib. I was out of town when this happened, so you can imagine my surprise when I came home and saw her walking very rigidly and slowly down the stairs. She finally told me what happened and I wave of guilt came over me. Of course I couldn’t prevent this fall, of course it wasn’t my fault that she didn’t say anything, but I still couldn’t help but feel that way. The minute she told me, I did everything I could to minimize her movement. I reheated her food for her, helped her put her heating pads on, did chores around the house, just anything and everything to make her feel more comfortable.

The next day, I worked from home and my brother, Jr, also came by with my sister in law and their dog to see how she was doing. In all honesty, we really didn’t do much for her. She was able to get around pretty well and the pain meds were starting to kick in. I think the very act of her children being around her, surrounding her with love and support, was enough to give her another kind of healing.

Seeing mom in so fragile a state, it humanized her in a way that I hadn’t seen in a long time. In the last few months, she’s been very vocal about how she doesn’t like how I maintain my relationship with David. She’s under the impression that I spend so much time with him that I’ve lost sight of my priorities. Those exchanges bring out something very ugly in her, and the things that come out of her mouth can be very scathing. But in mom’s current condition of frailty, it’s somehow softened her. She saw how concerned I was, and how I was willing to drop everything for her. She saw and was reminded that no matter what, family will always be first in my eyes.

This past Sunday at church, both she and I were called into spontaneous service. They pulled me from the crowd because they needed another singer, and before Mass, mom was asked to administer the wine for Eucharist because they were short of people. She and I both came to church thinking we would sit together, but we ended up serving instead. I usually never take wine because I honestly think it’s gross, but, it was my mom administering it, so I wanted to support her. (I hope I don’t contract herpes.)

In any case, this whole thing made me smile. Mom and I are so different, but in a lot of ways, I will always be my mother’s daughter. We both seek to serve God by our gifts and help in any way we can. I know they say that you can’t change people, but I have hope for my mom. I know she’s a good person and just needs to learn to communicate better. Last week when I told her I was going up to San Francisco for the weekend to be with David, I was bracing myself for her judgment. Instead she said, “Drive carefully, it’s raining.”

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Control

I’ve always been one to want control. Why? I’m a perfectionist. So- control is a way of making sure that things get done right, by my method (which is the right way). I get to oversee the process and know exactly how to fix it if it gets broken because I’ve been involved the whole way. Lately though, I’ve been feeling out of control, and I think I’ve been doing things to compensate and make myself feel as though I’m in control.

I haven’t written in a long awhile, mainly because writing always leaves me weary. It makes me feel inadequate- like I could always do more. Writing is a process- a long, painful and difficult one. I cannot expect to turn out the great American novel in one night. Still if I’m a writer, then there has to be some enjoyment in the process, or else why would I gravitate towards it? Writing CAN be fun. It’s just the time leading up to it – getting myself into the frame of mind and shutting out all distractions, is another thing. So, to fulfill my creative urges, I’ve turned to music.

I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy playing piano. I don’t strive to be the next Youtube star or Van Cliburn winner. I like the feeing of accomplishment when I’ve completed a piece. There is pain sure- when I’m still learning the notes, or when the playing isn’t fluid, and I have to play a section over and over again because it’s just not turning out right. But the moment that it starts to jive, it’s magic. It’s amazing because it starts to come together. I have control over that. Start to finish. Someone put those notes on paper and I’m reading them, I’m making them alive through my fingers and musicianship. I can’t imagine a greater feeing of control.

Writing is the opposite. I feel completely slave to it. There is no direction. I hardly ever know what to do. You’d think there’d be some freedom in knowing that, but it’s like jumping into a void without a parachute. Why would I want to do that?

Artists always talk about this moment of submission during the process of creation. Mozart would say that he never really ‘wrote’ any music. He listened and saw himself as a receiver of God’s music. He saw himself as merely taking dictation of something already perfectly created by a greater being. He let go. He surrendered himself to that experience and he is the most well-known and prolific musician in all history because of it.

As I took my earbuds out to leave the coffee shop after writing, I recognized a very familiar tune. Right then in that very ordinary Peet’s Coffee, one of the most famous arias, “The Queen of the Night,” composed by Mozart himself, pierced through the air.

I looked around completely dumbfounded, but also not very surprised. When I write, I realized that what I’m communicating doesn’t go into the ether. The universe, God, nature, they all work in concert to serve your creative urges, if you have enough courage to pick up the pen and start. That day, God communicated to me in the only way he knew I’d understand. Or perhaps the only way he knew I would listen.

Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One

at-peaceToday is my 31st birthday. If it were any other point in my life, I’d probably lament this fact. But no, I am rejoicing in my ‘seasoned’ age. My journey this past year was difficult, but God has been kind. To that end, I’ve made the following list of the Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One.

1) I’m not 21 anymore. I don’t make stupid mistakes with alcohol, my money or with men.

2) I have the means to enjoy life. I can pay for a vacation getaway or I can treat myself to a nice dinner without asking for help.

3) I have a kickass job. It took a long time to get here.. from odd job to odd job, to working for free, working in shitty retail and working in corporate enslavement. I’ve paid my dues and am reaping the benefit of my craft.

4) I know who my friends are. Not the ones on Facebook- the ones who pick you up while you lie in your own vomit and answer your phone call when you’re weeping incoherently.

5) I won’t take crap from anyone. I recognize the disingenuous, the selfish and the unkind and I will not tolerate any of that in my life.

6) I know when to ask for help. I’m not Super Woman. I can be fragile and vulnerable. I recognize those moments and know how to get through it. This is where strength and courage are born.

7) I know God is real. I don’t wonder about the direction of my life or what my purpose is. I do the things that make me happy because I know that’s what God wants for me.

8) I know love. I’ve been through the grind enough times to see a good and genuine man when I see one.

9) I value my health. I know I’m not going to live forever. I take care of myself to ensure that I can be here for as long as God lets me.

10) I know what I want. No more quarter life crises and existential quandaries to wade through. I want to be happy. I want a life fulfilled by art and creativity. I want a man who will love me and climb over my walls of self-doubt to relentlessly remind me of how strong and amazing I am and how far I’ve come. I want to serve God by my craft and contribute to this world by being the best human being I can possibly be.

I’m happy about my birthday. It will be the launching point to bigger and better.

David & Goliath

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I am scared again. Even before I’ve gotten the chance to be in love, I’m already afraid of getting hurt again. I’m seeing someone new, and he has been so very wonderful and unexpected. But because we’re both at this precarious age where every single relationship move must.mean.something. I feel almost paralyzed.  I feel I haven’t the capability and freedom to just enjoy the moment and that slow, sweet dance of getting to know one another and falling in love. We’re not 25 where we can throw caution to the wind. We’re 30. We’ve both had our share of relationships, past hurts, and regrets. And at 30 we can’t just haphazardly date. Inevitably, whomever we date has to be a potential mate. The tragic thing about this is, we’re formulating all the ways a relationship couldn’t possibly work, instead of exploring maybe why it could. We’re killing it, even before it’s had a chance to thrive.

The odds are against us- a giant set of issues, hangups, regrets, and “what if’s” that could kill us. Two, single, hard-working professionals, who respectively have their own set up hangups, and who may potentially spend the better part of the relationship apart than together. But then I think about the miraculous way we met, and I am humbled. I look above to a God who’s ever present and has somehow guided our footsteps toward one another. With faith as my weapon and courage as my armor, I hope against hope- that yes, maybe something incredible could happen. If there is but a shred of effort, a scrap of honesty, then we might just be able to stare down the odds and take a chance on something extraordinary like love.  And not just any kind of love… the kind that moves mountains and makes you believe that no matter how improbable the odds, anything is possible.

A Leap of Faith

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Any creative person is by nature a perfectionist. But perfectionists are more fearful of failure than exploring the possibility of triumph. But successful creative people have to be one part talented and the other part brazen. They look at the ‘What if?’ and say ‘So, what?’

Leap and the net will appear

– Zen saying

Cris and I were out on a lovely walk of downtown when we stumbled on a plaza that neither of us had ever noticed.  It small and had a unusual fountain in the middle of it with three long pools of water just behind it.  While we talked, I climbed onto the edge of the first pool.  When I got to end of it, I contemplated the space between it and the next pool.

“Jump!” He said.

“No, I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too far,” I said.

“I think you can, if you had a good running start,” Cris said.

We talked for good awhile about the dimensions of the gap and logistics of it all.  The gap was 6 feet across and 3 feet high.  I am barely 5 feet tall, how was I supposed to do that? At the moment I was content with being cute and made Cris carry and place me safely on the other side.

Then a large heavyset woman in a motorized wheelchair pulled up to us.

“What are you guys doing?” she demanded.

I thought she was being very familiar, as if we were her kids, jumping naughtily on the bed.

“We’re trying to see if she can jump the gap,” Cris pointed.

She glanced at the gap and said, “Oh yea, you can make that easily.”

“No way!” I exclaimed.  I could feel my knees shaking, already thinking about the blood that would spew from them if I tried to make the leap.

“Why not?” she insisted.  Wasn’t I just having this conversation with Cris?

“Well, I’m short and I just think it’s too far.  I wouldn’t be able to clear it.”

“Who says?” she shot back.

I opened my mouth and shook my head and shrugged.  I had no words.   Who was this stranger telling me what to do? She could sense my uneasiness.  Or maybe it was something more like fear.

“Look, if you got a running start, a really good running start, you can do it.  You’d have to take off your flip flops, but you can definitely make it.”

“But what if I fall? Scrape or bang up my knee?”

“You won’t.  Look, he’s right there to catch you,” she motioned to Cris.  “All you gotta do is try.”

I shook my head vigorously.

She tried again, “All you gotta do is believe that you can.  That’s all it is.  Whatever’s telling you that you can’t.  You need to stop that now.  You gotta break through.”

A moment of silence passed.  I looked at this stranger. On her wheelchair was everything she owned, bags of clothes, newspapers, and books.  She was at least 200 pounds.  In her right hand, she held a cracked, plastic magnifying glass to help her read her magazine.  Her left leg was gone, and her left arm, no more than a stump.  She was smiling.

Here I was, 29 years old, all my limbs intact,  healthy and able-bodied, declaring to her the disbelief in the power and ability of my own body.  I didn’t really want to attempt the jump, and it wasn’t about the fear of falling anymore.  I knew that if I didn’t at least try, I was doing this stranger wrong.  If she believed so steadfastly in me, I only wondered what great trials she’d overcome and what kind of belief it took her to triumph over them.  Now it was my turn.

I looked toward the gorge and slowly walked backwards.  Every couple feet or so, I stopped and gauged the distance – was this enough for a good, hard and fast run? I backed up even further, sliding my flip-flops off and hooking them onto my fingers.  Finally, I came to just below half of the pool.  It was time to let go.  My heart was racing but I couldn’t back out on this now.  They were both watching.  More importantly, she was watching! Why did I care about she thought? But right at that moment, that’s all that mattered.  If she believed in me, why couldn’t I?

I bent down and solemnly folded up the bottom of my jeans.  I tied my hair back in a loose bun.  You would think I was preparing for the Olympic long jump.  Like a bull peering ahead to its matador, I picked my left foot and my then my right foot, scuffing the cement.  This was it.  Now or never.

I took a deep breath and ran as fast as I could.  Wind in my hair, and the world whizzing past, I hurled myself forward over the divide.  I stumbled and bumped my knee but to my amazement, I had made it to the other side.

“YEAH!!” Cris exclaimed.

“You did it!” The stranger shouted.  “See- I told you!”

I turned around to look at my own Grand Canyon, it didn’t seem so big now.  “Yea, I can’t believe it… ”

“You see, you stumbled there at the end.  Why?” she asked.

“Well, because I panicked a bit.  I didn’t think I was going to clear it.”

“Aha! But you did! If you had straightened your back when you landed, you would’ve been standing just perfect.  Your feet were already there, but you doubted yourself and you came down on your knee.”

“She’s right! You had already made it!” Cris said.

“Yea… I think I remember feeling my feet on the cement.”  I was still in disbelief.

She could see the shock in my eyes and asked, “Why is it so hard for you to believe that you can do that? Why you can do anything?”

I shrugged with my eyes downcast and said nothing.  In my silence my head filled with the voices of teachers, my parents, friends, loved ones, all telling me I couldn’t do something.  I couldn’t sing because I was off-key.  I couldn’t play a sport because I wasn’t athletic.  I couldn’t write because it wouldn’t make a living.  After awhile, I started to believe I just simply couldn’t.  The chasm and the doubt had penetrated me too deeply.

This stranger studied me and inched her wheelchair closer to me.  Her eyes, warm and aglow with a light that came from somewhere else.

“Whatever they told you, you break that thinking now.  You believe in whatever you want and with everything you got, and miracles can happen.” She smiled gently. “You just have to jump.”

She pulled a joystick back, reversed her wheelchair and left us.  As spontaneously and serendipitously as she came, she was gone.  My own guardian angel, motored fearlessly into the distance.

I looked to Cris, “Did you really think I could make the jump?”

“Of course.  The only problem is, you didn’t.”