My Winter Poem

Grateful for the frost that sculpts

Each leaf a separate work of art

Grateful for the frosted dam that rises

Through the mist and reflects.

Grateful for each blade of grass

Yet green ‘neath hoary glaze of frost

Grateful for the sun that creeps by moments

Down the bare grey trunk

Brighting each tree naked.

Grateful for the gift of breath

Received, cold clear and

Given back again mist,

White warm rising.

Grateful for the fingers numb

That move across keys but stiff

Grateful for the rite of coming

Home warm peeling coat

Hat leash treats feeding

The dog.


–Heather Head


This poem was inspired by a 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge I participated in on Facebook. Thirty days is harder than it sounds. There were days when it was hard to find something to feel grateful for, to reach down deep in my gut and find that sense of gratitude. Days when I faked it and said what I was grateful for, trusting that when I said it, the feeling of gratitude would follow. It always did. And those were always the days when I was most glad I’d done it.

Most of all, by the end of the thirty days (today), I feel steeped in thankfulness, like my whole being is infused by its presence. And this is what came out of it: The first poem I’ve written since … since college, I think.

Today I am grateful for poetry.

You Don’t Have to Walk On Your Knees

Today I bought a little notebook. It’s about four inches tall with pale cream pages, lined. It’s got a hard cover that is made to look like leather, with fake silver embossing so it looks like a miniature version of a classic old book.

At the very front of this book I wrote: “You are creative, thoughtful, and conscious in the choices you make for your life.” And then I wrote “–John Galles”.

John Galles is the publisher of a magazine I’ve been writing for for more than ten years. He’s also a kind man, and he said that to me today.

If it seems silly to you that I wrote that in a notebook, then I really have to tell you that I completely understand. It seems a little silly to part of me, too. That same part of me also does not understand this, which I wrote on page 3 of my book:

You don’t have to be good.
You don’t have to walk on your knees
A thousand miles through the desert, repenting

Which is a not-quite-accurate quote from Mary Oliver, and which reminded me that whatever it is, it’s okay.

I’m not being entirely clear.

Here’s the thing about me. I am many. I am a multitude. Inside my head are many, many voices. For large portions of my life, two or three of those voices have busily told me everything I “should” and “ought” to be doing and how silly and wrong and shameful were so many of the things that I think and say and do. They were quite, quite loud.

I’ve managed to calm those voices down considerably in recent months, but they still speak to me, sometimes even repeating back to me the very things I’ve been learning, and using my new tools against me. For instance, here is the conversation I had with myself after the call in which my friend said that nice thing I wrote down:

Me 1 (Dreamily): “Wow, that was nice. I feel all glowy. What a nice thing to say. And it’s so true, which is what makes it so nice. I like that.”

Me 2 (Kindly and mildy condescending): “Okay, Heather, I know that feels nice, but why should it matter to you what someone else has to say about you? Don’t you already know you’re awesome?”

Me 3 (Sigh. Eye roll.): “A-yup. We’ve been doing all this work to teach ourselves how awesome we are… so what on earth do you need someone else to tell you that for? When will you learn?” (You see how I throw my own hard work back in my face?? Who does this?)

Me 1 (Resigned): “Yeah, you’re right. Even though it feels really good to hear that, I should probably just let it go, so I can focus on appreciating myself more. Silly me.”

Do you see what I do to myself? Because it’s taken me 39 years to see it myself. How even when things are beautiful, when I’m having a beautiful moment, I step in and talk myself down.

But this morning I had spent 30 minutes in a walking meditation by the lake, while the dog ran loose (why didn’t he run off? Every day I focus almost exclusively on him during our walk, training him and keeping him close and sometimes he runs off anyway, but today I was meditating and he stayed with me. This is a rabbit trail but it feels like it means something important so I’m leaving it in). And I spent the entire meditation repeating Mary Oliver’s lines over and over in my head, and then out loud.

I’m all about letting you in on my inner weirdness here, so I will also tell you that I was imagining myself saying these lines in an oral poetry competition. I imagined how I’d start out looking directly at a young girl in the audience (it would definitely be a girl to start with, because girls especially need to know this), right into her eyes as I said, in a throaty and half-laughing voice: “You don’t have to be good.”

And then I would move my gaze to a boy, a young boy, in the room, “You don’t have to walk on your knees”

And then, my voice going deeper and more serious, I’d transition to lock eyes with one of the judges (because only a grown-up can understand fully what it is to walk a thousand miles on your knees, metaphorically speaking of course–not sure WHO would understand it literally, certainly not me): “A thousand miles … through the desert” and my gaze would intensify as I said in a throaty stage whisper (throatiness, I imagine, is very important in oral poetry competitions): “repenting!”

So I was doing this over and over again, and then also adding the next line (like the previous bit, it’s garbled–look up the real poem if you want the words exactly):

“You only have to love!” (looking right at that young girl again, laughing throatily–see how important throatiness is? … then a pause, and shifting to look lovingly down at my own body) “What your soft animal body loves.” Then I stood with the sunshine on my face and felt what it is to feel the sunshine and think of nothing but loving how the sunshine feels on my face.

Performance Art By the Lake. I refuse to be embarrassed by this. Okay, maybe a TEENSY bit embarrased, but that’s okay too. (Of course I won the competition and everybody said how it was so clear that I really *felt* the poem, deeply in my body, how it made them FEEL it to hear me say it like that, and then I got to go on to regional and national championships where my video went viral which, you can clearly see, explains why I had to say it over and over again for 30 minutes.)

The net effect of this meditation cum performance art is that by the time I spoke with John this morning, I had convinced myself to just LOVE whatever it is that I love, not judging, flagellating, punishing, repenting for it.

And so, at the end of the conversation with myself in which I criticized myself for caring so much what someone else thinks of me, I decided to stop repenting for caring so much what someone else thinks of me.

I took my husband out to lunch walking arm and arm in the brittle November sunshine (how I LOVE November sunshine!), and I told him about the little book I would buy to write these things down in.

Because it’s okay that approval from friends and acquaintances and strangers and ANYONE matters to me. It’s okay that words of affirmation are what give me that glowy sensation. It’s better than okay. It’s awesome. It’s what my soft animal body loves and I WILL LET IT LOVE.

So I wrote it down, with the date. And then I wrote down on the next page:

“I am Holy” –Me

“One door at a time” –Me

“It’s not yours, let it go” –Glennon Melton (You can read more of her awesomeness here: Momastery)

And then I wrote down that little scrap of incorrectly memorized Mary Oliver poem on page 3.

Because those are also things that give me a glowy sensation, that make me cry, that make me feel relieved, that give me clarity. Some of them are also written on scraps of paper and taped to my laptop where my clients see them and get distracted by them when I’m trying to show them something they need to see. Especially the one positioned just where I rest my hand so that it covers up the “ly” in “Holy” and confuses people. Look back at that line and remove the “ly.” You’ll see why it confuses them. And that’s okay too.

I’m just a little bit crazy and these are the things that give order and meaning to my craziness and make me just a little bit less crazy.

And, just so you know, the next time you say something to me that makes me feel all glowy, I’m going to write it down in my book, with the date at the top. I will have my little book because it will stay with me, in my purse.

And then when I start talking to myself about how incompetent I am, how I can’t even feed the cats properly so how can I expect to take care of kids, and what is wrong with me that I am staying up past 11 when I know my body is tired, and WHY CAN’T I KEEP UP WITH EVERYTHING… then I am going to open up my little book and I am going to read.

Because I am done walking on my knees. This little book and the words inside–this is what makes my little soft animal body feel good. It’s what I love. And I’m going to let myself love it.

I’m in the Laundry Room. Where are You?

Friends Meeting

Charlotte Friends Meeting

This is where we go to Quaker Meeting for Worship, when we go. Which is almost never these days, but I digress. It’s a craftsman-like building nestled in the hilly woods of Northern Charlotte. The worship room is octagonal, the better for sitting in a circle to look at each other while we listen for the voice of God. It is surrounded on three sides with ceiling-to-floor windows, and the center of the octagon at the top is glass as well. So you can look up and outside and around and into the eyes of the others and see God everywhere you look.

One day in 2006, I was having a really hard morning. A lot of stuff had happened that year. We lost some grandparents, Carey lost his job, and we lost a baby. Well, it was a second-trimester miscarriage. Maybe not even a real baby, we don’t even know. Then I got really sick with an abscess and thought I had breast cancer, and also I spent two nights on a train with a toddler and a younger toddler and also got kicked out of my grandma’s house for letting my son wet the bed on the waterproof mattress cover. Whatever. It was rough.

So I’m sitting there that morning in Meeting for Worship and I’m looking out at God and everything and listening, and wondering why everything is so crappy. It’s a grey day, full of clouds and dreary. I’m looking out the window at a branch outlined against the sky and there’s this faint gleam in the distance, almost like the sun is trying to peek through. And I keep hoping, hoping for that glimpse of sunshine.

And I tell that to God. I tell him that I’ve had enough and won’t he please just let us have a little sunshine. Something to lighten up the gloom. The sun does not peek through the clouds. The gleam remains distant, far off.

I close my eyes and I lean back in my chair. I stop begging and I start listening. And when I open my eyes, I’m looking up at that octagon of glass in the ceiling, up at the grey sky. And that’s when I see it. There is no ray of sunshine poking through the clouds. The bright spot is still far in the distance. And in a flash I realize: The light is already all around me. I look around and we’re all bathed in it, all those familiar and beloved faces, bright with the diffuse light of that particular day, every one of us luminous with it. There is no one ray of sunshine singling out a section of the room and making the rest dim—the whole room is one warm, even tone of light.

The light is diffuse and it’s spread out and it’s beautiful and it’s RIGHT HERE, all around me, right now. All I have to do is stop straining to see some distant bright spot and notice what’s right here.

I strive to live inside that epiphany every day, remembering to notice all the light around me RIGHT NOW, this minute, instead of always looking for some distant beam in the distance. And most of the time I fail. If only my youngest son were a little older, I think to myself, we could go out on dates without hiring a babysitter. If only this particular client would pay faster, money wouldn’t be so tight. If only I had already lost all the weight I’m carrying around unnecessarily. If only this or that thing had happened differently, everything would be so much better.

Fortunately, I’m reminded pretty often to stop and notice the light. Carey recently wrote about Plato’s idea that we are all just prisoners in a cave, watching the shadows of reality dance on the walls, and occasionally one of us has the gumption to climb out and look for the real light of day, which is somewhere up above us. The climb is arduous and everybody keeps calling you back down, and you’re never sure how long it will take, but eventually, you’ll get there—and suddenly you’ll be flooded with dazzling light beyond your imagining.

Silly Plato.

Maybe we *are* all just prisoners in a cave, watching shadows of reality dancing on walls. Maybe some of us are climbing. Maybe a very few select of us are glorying in a world of sunbeams far above. Maybe. But here’s the thing: Firelight is beautiful too. So are cold stone walls. So is climbing. So is lying down. Maybe the whole point isn’t to get to the top, or to get ANYWHERE in particular. Maybe the point is just to be HERE, wherever HERE is, and learn to love the particular type of light that we already have. And if we want to climb, then to enjoy the climb, because you don’t really know WHAT’s going to be at the top of that climb, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because you’re NOT THERE YET. Where you are, is HERE.

So. Where are you? I’m in a small room with my bottom pressed uncomfortably against a hardwood floor and my back slumped against a bookcase. My laptop sits at an angle in my lap. Beside me is a pair of slippers, a backpack, a white plastic basket full of clean laundry. It’s unusually quiet, due to the fact that the children are still asleep. Also there’s a pile of dirty laundry in the corner. This is the laundry room and office. This is a place of Mundane…

Transformed by the beauty of paying attention. In the corner, the washing machine is making clothes clean and fresh with contented little swishing sounds. Two large windows reveal the sky’s gradual turn to pale blue, the trees shading into green as the sun rises somewhere unseen. I hear my rooster crowing, over and over, “My yard! My yard! My girr-rl! My yard! My yard! My girr-rl!” The room is still dim and the dimness covers everything with softness and accentuates the light gleaming off the mirror.

My hands are small and quick and they look smooth and pretty in the dusky light. They’re incredible little pieces, and I’m grateful that they were included in the package when the sacred garment of my body was being assembled. My lips are chapped and my toes are moving as they always are. And it’s one minute before seven when everything will change, when I will plunge into the busy-ness of the day and the quiet morning beauty will change into another type of beauty. And so now I hit publish.

Where are you?


I’ve gone all fancy and created an editorial calendar. It’s really for keeping track of client blogs, but I’m keeping my blogs in there too. What this means for you is that I’m about to become very regular about posting here *at least once a month.* Assuming, of course, that I actually follow through this time. I’m also posting on Curiosity Cat *twice* a month. Whew. Fast-paced is my middle name.

And there is a new post coming up here very very soon. It’s called “Gym Shorts” but actually it has nothing to do with Gym Shorts and that’s just the name of the file the draft is currently saved under. It will have some other infinitely less interesting title and I’ll have to save the talk about gym shorts and how embarrassingly awful mine always were in high school and which of the “always-picked-last” kids I was, for another day.

And when you read the one I’ve been working on for you, you’ll understand the irony of the title of this entry. And also all my references to the past and “another day.” Because none of them really matter. But that’s coming up. Stay tuned. Love you!

Darn technology…

It just figures–our server host went down or exploded or maybe created a new universe by imploding suddenly yesterday, right after I posted about the frogs. Which means anyone desperately trying to get over here and look at my latest post couldn’t. It does terrible things to my stats when that happens.

So, if you’re one of them, and also you survived the server’s sudden universe-creating activities, come on back and fix my stats. Thanks.

Croaking Into the Silence

I came to my thinking spot a few weeks ago for a quick break from my work, a little peek at the view. When I arrived, the frogs were calling me so I went. Down the twisting path where evergreen honeysuckle presses its seasonal advantage against winter-deadened kudzu. Down past the soaring stumps of trees who long ago gave up on resistance.

At the bottom, I frightened a pair of deer, and watched them gallop up the opposite hill, white tails flashing high alert. The mud gave evidence of other visitations—bobcat, maybe, raccoon perhaps—I am no tracker.

And when I arrived at the pond, the frogs said they were not calling for me after all, and gave me a cold silent greeting. But just because the pond is still when we arrive does not mean that it is dead. So I waited.

I have little patience for waiting, much less than my son Eli who at the age of two set his stake in the ground and stood still for the call of frogs long after I had to go traipsing away after his brother.

Fortunately, frogs who know deer and bobcat and not humans do not usually keep a person waiting long. Finally came one loud rasp. Just one frog, croaking three or four times into the silence. Large and brave he sounded, though his body was no longer than two inches. He tried again, but when no one joined in, he stopped, all valor gone out of him.

I want to draw some grand conclusion, sketch some great analogy that will shed light on everything we do. I want to ask if you are one to croak into the silence, or one to wait and yell your piece into the cacophony. Do you croak even when others hesitate? Do you give in to pressure, or sensibly listen to common sense? Maybe I could make some implication that one way is better than another.

The analogy won’t come, though—it somehow refuses to ring true. The note of falseness, forcedness, won’t do. Frogs are not some moral paradigm, with brave solitary frogs croaking greatness into the silence and others merely playing some meaningless tune. Frogs are just frogs. Some croak too soon and get eaten by predators. Others croak too quietly and never find a mate. Most just muddle along as best they can. And never in the history of frogdom has one ever actually called out aloud to a human as I like to imagine they did for me.

Which is what is interesting about humans, if you think about it. We like to imagine, to make meaning out of things. This trait has served us well, obviously. Sometimes too it makes us miserable, the desperate seeking, searching, clinging to meaning. Judging everything that crosses our path, good, bad, nice, mean, stupid, smart…

I like to imagine the frogs doing this. I like to think that when the first frog broke the silence with his croak, he had a partner somewhere whispering, “Not now, George! Don’t be a fool,” and maybe some young frog was thinking, “Wow, I wish I were that brave!” And so he tried a few more times, but in the end the cautious voice prevailed and he lapsed into silence, weary and chagrined.

After I walked away from the pond, the frog song reappeared, grew and expanded and escalated. Even now, I can hear it from my house. Maybe now the frogs are telling stories about the ugly red and white thing that came and tried to eat them. “Did you hear George almost got eaten, but he told that thing what for, he did!” “It almost stepped on me! But I darted out of the way quicker than thought.” “Now children, this is why we don’t play outside the algae!”

Really, though. Frogs don’t do this. Frogs either croak or they don’t. They swim when they feel like it, breed when they can, lay eggs when the weather is warm enough. As far as science can tell, they never wonder whether they should have laid their eggs earlier or later, mated with that frog instead of this one, nor looked up to a hero nor down on an unfortunate.

If there is a lesson from the frogs perhaps it is just this: Whenever you decide to sing, just sing. If you feel like stopping, stop.  Maybe if we worry less about whether we’re “brave” or “right” or “smart” we can focus more on being what we are, and doing what we do.

Or maybe we should stop taking lessons from frogs. It’s rather silly, truly. Which is still just another way of saying the same thing, don’t you think?

The Braided Whip

I’ve been thinking about Jesus outside the temple, patiently braiding that whip out of cords. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it meant, that careful work to create a weapon with which to drive the money changers and the livestock sellers out of the temple. The incident would set the city astir and lead to his execution, according to many accounts. It’s also the only time Jesus appears to teach–or do–anything other than kindness, forgiveness, charity, love, compassion, child-likeness, peace, acceptance, nonviolence… Where does a whip fit into THAT picture?

I don’t know yet, but I think it has something to do with love not being all squishy and hallmarky. I think it says that love doesn’t always mean a pat on the head and kudos. Warm and fuzzies. That sometimes love is hard. Unyielding. Sometimes love is a whip made out of cords, words that sting when they hit. I think love is sometimes an intervention, and sometimes it’s a break-up.

Sometimes I think it’s just realizing that someone we idolized isn’t perfect. It’s bringing those imperfections into the light of day and saying “Look, I know you. You’re pretty screwed up after all, aren’t you?” When necessary, it’s saying, “These things aren’t acceptable. They aren’t becoming on you and I won’t tolerate them.”

I think it’s all those things and then, when everything’s been said, it’s: I love you. Even so. I won’t let you walk on me, I won’t tolerate being treated that way, I won’t stand idly and watch you hurt other people. But I also won’t stop loving you. Ever. Ever ever. Because love: It’s hard as nails.

I haven’t always understood this. I’ve often loved people in the warm and squishy way, and then let them walk on me or walk on other people, and turned a blind eye to it because I didn’t know how to justify my love for the person and also admit to the bad stuff. So I would just ignore it. This happened quite noticeably with an ex-boyfriend or two in my college days, and maybe some day I’ll get around to loving them out loud, here, as well. But that’s not who I want to write about for today’s Sunday Celebration. Today, I’m going to write about my grandpa.

Because, you see, I idolized my grandpa. He’s the one who took us to 7-eleven for slushies, and gave us more toys than we had space for, and took us for raids of the neighbors’s fruit trees. He was the glad-talker whom everyone loved and wanted to help. He introduced me to homegrown tomatoes, and donkey rides. He was gruff and blunt (“here, fill my hands with your crying,” he’d say when I was sad), but he always had hard candies stashed in the barn where he lived, the same barn where he taught me how to mark a deck of cards and cheat at pinochle. Where he told me about the years after the War, and sent me to the cooler for ice-cold Cokes. He’s the one who cried when he found out I was getting married and told me I’d always be his little girl. I have always been passionately fond of him.

So let’s talk about that barn he lived in. You see, he was married to a woman I never understood, and never wanted to be around: My grandmother. They hated each other. She lived in the house, he lived in the barn. I always blamed this, when I was younger, on her. She was controlling and manipulative. Needy and overbearing. I’d say I wanted to go out to the barn and she’d say, “Well, I know he’s more fun than me. Nobody likes to be around me.” Being the only granddaughter I often was stuck with the duty of staying indoors with her.

My brother would be playing ball or helping Grandpa measure boards and build doghouses. He’d be climbing on Grandpa’s pickup truck and helping build a fire in the wood-burning stove.

I would be watching in dread inside the dark old house, as Grandma pulled hideous old clothes out of her closet and said how adorable they would look on me. If I wanted them. Because she wouldn’t want to force anything on anyone, of course, who didn’t like the pretty things she wanted to give them, and she would completely understand if I didn’t think she had good taste in clothes.

Or I’d be sitting in a chair letting her give me the worst permanent of my life (because all the old ladies in the neighborhood love her perms and didn’t I trust her?) and then arrange it in heinously tight curls I’d have to wear to church on Sunday. And all the while listening to how hard she tried to be fair to everyone but that she must be doing it wrong because everyone was mad at her, while simultaneously telling me not to touch the wall in front of me because I’d leave grimy fingerprints.

Sometimes I’d escape to the guest room to catch my breath, maybe change clothes. Even changing into those hideous old things was a welcome opportunity for escape–for about one and a half full minutes, if I was lucky. Then here she came banging on the door, wondering if I was mad at her and why I hadn’t come out yet, and reminding me not to play with anything on the dresser top because they were quite valuable.

So it was easy for me to understand why Grandpa might want to live in the barn. I wanted to live in the barn too. You see, it’s easy to blame the bad stuff on people you already don’t like much. Harder to see that conflict is always many-faceted and the people we love play their own roles in it too.

Grandma and Grandpa are both dead now. But I still love them both–yes, even her. I am still fiercely affectionate toward my Grandpa. But even in the old days there were things I ignored. And more things I didn’t even know. Things that make it a little more complicated.

You see, Grandpa wasn’t always as nice to other people as he was to me. And the card-cheating, well, that wasn’t the worst of the habits he picked up in the War.

Until I was five or six, I had never seen my Grandpa sober. He was a drunk. And a smoker, but then who wasn’t back then. Not only that, but as I grew older even I couldn’t ignore that he was nicer to my brother and me than to my cousins. You see, they were the sons of my mother’s sister… and my mother had always been his favorite. Oh yes, he played favorites. When Grandpa had toys to give us, Teddy and I always got first choice. When my cousins came over to help with doghouses, he yelled at them when they made mistakes. When my cousins came to Grandma’s house, they preferred to be in the house, not in the barn. I suspect those ice cold Cokes and hard candies aren’t so appealing when you know you’re not welcome there.

When Grandpa died, I stood in front of a small gathering of friends at his funeral and cried at the recollection of Grandpa’s scarred hands, cupped in front of him to collect my tears. I cried thinking about those ripe tomatoes fresh and warm from his garden, the long rambles through the neighborhood, Grandpa hanging from the monkey bars on the neighbor’s playground. I cried my grief, right there in front of that small gathering of friends and family. The gathering that included only one of my Grandpa’s two daughters, and one of his three grandsons. The other daughter and grandsons felt they had never had a real father and grandfather in him, and theirs was not the sort of grief you bring to a funeral.

I stood there and cried my grief in front of my Grandmother, whose sorrow was more complex. Hers was sorrow for a marriage that began in grief, marriage to a man who (as the story came down to me) told her on their wedding night that he had brought home syphilis from the War. She loved him in her own wounded way, the love of a woman who longed for adoration, a beautiful woman who expected and deserved to be worshipped and instead found herself disgraced and disrespected before her marriage was even consummated.

And that’s not even everything. I won’t share everything here, because it’s not all mine to share. I don’t even know everything about my Grandpa. But here’s the thing. I don’t need to know everything. Because even if I did, even if some of it is so horrific I’d want to turn away in horror and stop looking… I would still love my Grandpa. I would still love the man who quit drinking when I was six. I would still love the man who fought for his country and then spent his life working to support his little family. Whose friends included the 80-year-old couple next door and the 8-year-old boy down the street who called him “My Friend John.”

But here’s the thing. If he were alive today, I’d have some words with him. I’d go to him and say, “Grandpa. I love you. I love you so much my little heart wants to burst when I think of it. And that’s why I have to tell you: This favoritism, this treating your grandchildren unequally, this is wrong. It’s not fair. It’s not becoming of your tough, kind heart. You can do better.” I’d tell him when he was being mean to Grandma, when he was being unfair. I’d say, “I won’t listen to this. I love you too much to let you hurt Grandma. There is a better way. Let me help you act like the beautiful person I know you are.”

I’d tell him how I know all kinds of things he’s done, and some he may or may not have done, and others that I may have heard corrupted versions of, but that it doesn’t matter. Because I love him anyway. And not just because of the hard candies and the pinochle games. I love him because he is human and worthwhile, because he is a Child of God even if he doesn’t “believe in” God, and because all the bad stuff and the ugly things he’s done and said, those are all just a veneer, a smokescreen he’s erected around himself to protect himself from his pains and traumas. I’d tell him that I love him because I know that somewhere inside he has the strength to shed those layers and let his beautiful true self shine through, if only somehow he can see how to do it. And then I’d try to help him find that way.

He’s gone now, and I’m still sad about that. Maybe especially because I know he died without ever knowing what a beautiful person he could be, what a beautiful person he was even with all the ugliness layered over the beauty. I’m sad because he died before his daughter and grandsons could ever hear him express sorrow over his mistakes with them, before he could give them the father and grandfather they deserve.

All of that is between Grandpa and God now. Not my job. My job is just to keep loving him, despite everything. And that I do.

My other job is to learn when and how to love with a whip of braided cord. So when it’s time to stand up and say, “This isn’t right,” I can do it. Some day I’d like to have the courage Jesus had, to stand up for love and right and good even when the stakes were high, even when it meant literal crucifixion. I’d like to think I’ll have the courage to stand up with a careful plan and a thoughtfully crafted whip and drive out what is wicked and wrong from the temple of our souls so that what is beautiful and right can thrive and grow. Even if I have to sacrifice for it.

Some day. For now, I’m just going to go on loving the people in my life and, when I have to, loving them with a braided whip. But still loving them. Because I’m still sure that that is the chief lesson, the most important thing we can learn in life: How to love. Because, as Glennon says, Love Wins. Always.

Love you, Grandpa. Always.

You’re Beautiful. You’re Magical.

Last weekend… ugh. Ya know? I’m feeling much better now, thank you. Thank everyone who helped me, and there were many of you. And God helped too, because I asked, and she’s cool that way.

So then I posted that Open Invitation and no one responded, which is also cool ’cause maybe someone will see it some day and it will help them and that’s all it’s there for.

But then someone I love called me today, I won’t say who because this is her private journey and I don’t know how much she’d want to have “out there,” but let’s just say that I’ve loved her a long time, and that although the age gap is enough that one of us could be the other’s mother, her journey has been very similar to mine and we’ve always felt like soul sisters. I’ll call her Ruth. Anyway, Ruth called me today and she’s having a very hard time. Her shame and anxiety and the constant shame triggers she lives with are making her miserable. We talked for a while.

Then I went over to one of my favorite blogs, a very very very very very funny comedienne, Allie, who does these hilarious comics about life and stuff, and she had finally finally posted again after a super long time and I was super excited because she always makes me laugh. And guess what? The reason she hasn’t been posting is that she’s been depressed. Which sucks. And she wrote this funny and sad and awful and beautiful thing (with illustrations!) about her experience:

And so… I guess that’s it. Just … Seems like a lot of folks I care about are dealing with this ugly anxiety/depression cycle. And I want to help them all. I want to hold every one of them in my arms and tell them how beautiful they are. Of course I DID tell Ruth how beautiful she is. She is so beautiful! She said I made her cry. That’s a good thing.

My friend who writes about recovering from alcohol abuse says that when we allow ourselves to grieve fully, then our losses grow into wings. Some of us are so afraid we’re not good enough, so afraid that we’re rotten in our core, that we’re afraid to look at ourselves. We look sideways at the hallucination of a rotten core and think it’s ourselves and then we blame ourselves for feeling like shit. But when someone gives us a mirror and shows us to ourselves, and we see how beautiful we are, then we can see also how hurt we are so that we can grieve.

So here’s my challenge: Next time you feel bad, give yourself permission to feel bad, recognize that you DO have a reason, the FACT that you feel bad is proof that you have a reason. But the reason IS NOT THAT YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. You may look sideways at your illusion of yourself and think, “Oh, that’s why I feel bad–because I did that awful thing.” Or, “Other people are depressed because of something that happened to them. All I have to be depressed about is the fact that I’m a loser and unworthy of good things.” But you’re wrong. You are good, you are pure and wonderful and beautiful. Yes, you. YES YOU. You. Are. Worthy.

Since I can’t do it, please give yourself a hug and permission to cry. Find a picture of yourself as a little girl or boy and look at that little innocent face. That child is still in you, and you are still as beautiful as the day you were born. Have compassion for yourself.

When you’re ready, you can get up and go again. I’m not suggesting that we all curl up into balls for the rest of our lives, tell ourselves “poor me” and stop trying. In fact, this entry is me getting up and going again, after my recent bout, and offering what I can to others. What I’m suggesting is that we stop beating ourselves up for taking a break to recognize the pain we have suffered and are suffering. I’m suggesting that we take the time to grieve our losses, have compassion for our beautiful inner selves, so that our losses can grow into wings and we all can fly.

Also, this. Listen:

Open Invitation

For anyone hiding a secret shame, anyone suffering in silent anxiety. Maybe you think it’s something you’ve done that makes you feel so unworthy. Maybe you don’t know why you feel so awful, but you’re afraid to talk about it. Maybe you’ve talked about it before and no one listened, or their response just made you feel worse.

If you have something you want to share. If you just feel awful and want someone to listen. Here is your invitation. Post anonymously if you like. You will be received with compassion. Whatever it is, you will be loved and forgiven here. You are safe. And you are beautiful, even if you don’t realize it yet.

This is also an invitation to the beautiful people I know frequent this blog and have open hearts and strong shoulders to lean on. Maybe together we can create a small, safe place for others who need our compassion.

Here it is. Welcome.

About Shame. And Anxiety. And Sexual Abuse. And Not Having the Answers.

I am overwhelmed with work, and overwhelmed with other things at the moment. I do not have time for a post and yet. Here it is. Because although I don’t have time for a post, I do have time for a conversation, and this is a conversation. It will will be brief or maybe rambling, but what it will not be is polished. Because polish I most definitely do not have time for. Here it is.

I have been trapped for several days in a spiral of anxiety and shame. At times so strong I could hardly breathe, let alone do normal things like get work done or actually look at something instead of staring past it. I thought I was over this, thought that I was done, I had “overcome.” Anxiety, fear–things of the past for me. I had said as much to a friend of mine over lunch on Friday. I beat my chest–huzzah for me. And that very night was when the spiral began.

Finally yesterday I started reading about it, this horrible spiral, and its connection with childhood sexual abuse and the specific circumstances of what I endured. Small potatoes compared to many, but enough. Reading about it helped.

But not as much as these two things helped:


“Out of the hallway, little girl. You will see god’s love, the belief that you are perfect as you are, in this moment, simply because you exist, perfect, in god’s love.”

Maybe I am one of those leaving cigarette butts on the greenway path. I may have left some broken bottles for someone else to step on. I’m sorry. Perhaps that’s my broken rosary strewn by the way. Nevermind. I am, in this moment, simply because I exist, perfect. In god’s love.

This does not make the anxiety go away entirely. I can’t explain it. It doesn’t make logical sense. When I look at myself from the outside I think, “What the heck, girl? You are so amazing.” But then I look inside and I go, “Oh, but you missed something. See that horrible stain? See that? It’s rotten in the core, don’t you see?” And then I hide because I don’t really want anyone to see that rotten core.

And then I write something like that, and then I want to take it back but I’m not going to because I think maybe there’s value in sharing when I’m feeling vulnerable, not just when I’m feeling strong and ready with the answers.

So here I am. Vulnerable. No answers. But I will say this: I have faith. I know Grace will come to me. In fact, it already has. Those two blog entries above, they are the soothing balm of grace for me right now. And soon (or late, who knows?) I will be able to see again how beautiful I am. The rotten core is an illusion. Right?

Yes. I am perfect in god’s love. That is enough for now.

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