in pictures

July 30, 2015 § 6 Comments

It is a curious thing to pack away memories and leave behind tangible pieces of our past. Yesterday I moved in circles around photographers, cleaning even as they navigated our rooms; remembering moments one cannot see in photographs, evidence lost in clean coats of paint and finished flooring.

Gone is the tiny black insect my daughter inked into a small dent in the hall stairway and the crooked lines of a secret safe sketched into the wall of her closet. No one is the wiser where little fingers dipped into the lacquer of a newly sealed plank of wood to drag an invisible smiley face against  my husband’s wishes or where toddler toes tracked paint primer beneath finished floors.

Gone are the traces of crime scene chalk outlines covered by wooden floors and the indentation of a dismantled sandbox. The prideful markings of our children’s heights that once scaled our kitchen door frame, an evolution of handwriting in contrasting colors, has since been erased by a an overworked paintbrush and only our climbing tree knows it was my husband who, in his childhood, curled its branch into a handle that our children would one day grasp.

The images we see in glossy advertisements for home are an edited version of the truth; beneath the polished exterior of cleverly articulated interiors sleeps a life in pictures we cannot so easily photograph.

to my neighbor

July 28, 2015 § 4 Comments

I was watching you today, in the time between our polite waves and small talk; the way you leaned into your phone like the weight of worries and tired limbs could find peace in the voice at the other end of your call. I know something of your days, there isn’t enough room between our homes for me to feign ignorance. Our community is so small that it is unavoidable we share one another’s imperfect experiences.

Just yesterday another mother confided one of your children had struggled a bit that morning at camp. I imaged your son pushing against the rules, restless and challenging. I know the size of the smile that comes when he settles into familiar boundaries in the same way I know the volume at which he fights discontent.

I don’t have any words of wisdom, but today I had this thought: I hope that you find more voices of comfort. Raising children is hard work, something that brings us both a sense of purpose and the risk of judgement. Too many times we assume knowledge of others’ lives and we miss an opportunity to exercise compassion in place of criticism.

I’ve seen you correct your children and hold them; I see your love and I want you to know that I do not measure your mistakes. I hope our home’s new owners will see the same and, perhaps, offer you greater friendship than we found between our front doors. That you may gain a new place to lean.

to my mother-in-law

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

There was a time your unkind messages would break my spirit and twist my thoughts into acts of defensiveness and guarded injury. I would speak your harm in confidence to those I trusted with my feelings to illuminate untruths and fortify my spirit with the love you did not have to give.

It was important, then, that others understand my experience. Over the past year it has become more important that your words do not define my identity as your daughter-in-law. I want my love for my family, your son and grandchildren, to be larger than your illness and so I no longer speak your unkindness as evidence of our wellness.

I will not share your messages in writing or speech, they are irrelevant to my truth. To share them would be to harm you and I fear you are wounded enough.

Instead, I wish you well; that you will find peace and heal. That there is time enough in your life to become the person you might have been and not the unhappy reflection of so much discontent.

Marie

making happiness

July 26, 2015 § 2 Comments

Tonight my daughter mused that the work her father has been gifting our house isn’t for our happiness, it is for the New People. We, she stated emphatically, will have to make our happiness somewhere else.

There hasn’t been a day since we first shared our news that our children haven’t sounded out questions and hopes in overlapping thoughts. We talk about the unknown New People, joking at our happiness for their good fortune as my husband finishes old projects. Tonight I was marveling at beautiful pieces of a home that is almost no longer ours. This is how my daughter came to announce that we will just have to go to our new house and make our own happiness for ourselves.

Her confidence and cheer were as pronounced as her dimples; I wanted to capture her effervescence like bubbles mid-flight that we might marvel together over the luminous wisdom of her simple certainty. We will make our happiness into our home.

I wish her words were a wand, or at the very least an enchantment, that I might ward off sadness or fear to better guard her joy. I am certain there will be emotional days to come, but tonight it is enough to capture the shape of her hope.

old lessons & new opportunities

July 26, 2015 § 7 Comments

I moved quite a bit as a child. The predictability of this change invited a comfortable disconnect; an uninvested curiosity that lead me to find quiet periphery spaces from which to people watch. It was a skill that often helped me disappear from the discomfort of new experiences as easily as uncomfortable mistakes.

It is a fallacy that we can reinvent ourselves; the truth is, we never really begin from somewhere new. Our past is a private weight we carry into each beginning; old lessons that we can either stubbornly ignore or patiently explore.

I’ve been reflecting on this awareness recently, more tender to my mistakes as I lean into the change of our impending move and a milestone birthday. Soon to turn 40, I feel as if I am overdue to grow into a more sage maturity, a calmer confidence. Steeped in sentiment, I have been considering old lessons learned in complicated messes of imperfect relationships. The first is one of forgiveness.

My greatest friendships are those I walked beside another in moments of disagreement or misunderstanding. These relationships are fortified in vulnerability and accountability; a willingness to not simply forgive another an unkind thought, but myself and imperfect kindness. It requires seeing another’s perspective and accepting a difference of opinion without tally or judgement.

Authenticity in self was a more complicated lesson, one that fought against old habits of disappearing acts. I have learned to be more genuine in my expression of self, to stand more comfortably in my preferences while also pushing tenderly against insecurities to accommodate new experiences. On the few occasions I have found myself moving hollowly through he motions of either avoidance or false acquiescence, I have compromised the integrity of other’s expectations until excuses create fissures to trust.

These are the relationships I actively avoid at the cost of insincerity, a forced politeness and passive unhappiness. I learned, too late, the value of sincerity to mutual respect; to hesitate in my trust and speak directly least I rush to please without first establishing a foundation of security. The rare relationships that began too quickly from a willingness to sacrifice self for the sense of another’s happiness have failed to thrive.  These are the friendships that might have sustained unforeseen differences had we not inferred a greater importance to superficial similarities.

It is enough to appreciate another’s place in our lives, to share a space in theirs, without folding ourselves into a false expectation of friendship. I learned I will not friend and unfriend in accordance with school yard pettiness for the sake of a privileged place in another’s preference. There is no place in motherhood for outdated vanities of distorted loyalty. My friends are scattered far in both space and time; rarely do they intersect in company. For this reason, I have found myself among a spectrum of clever and creative individuals who do not exclude others for the sake of inclusion.

Over the past ten years I have grown into lessons I want to carry as consciously as the meticulously labeled boxes stacked neatly in preparation for our move, remembering sharp edges of uncomfortable errors with a gentler intention; to choose patience and authenticity, kindness and integrity. I want to nurture new relationships that value tolerance and offer forgiveness, that encourage individuality and invite sincerity.

years in miles

July 25, 2015 § 2 Comments

I could measure my oldest friendship in miles. The long stretches of main street on a small town summer night; country roads that wound their way between our families’ homes; highways that highlight lost years after high school graduation; neighboring suburban sidewalks where we reconnected in motherhood, stealing school day mornings to fall into the familiar comfort of easy conversation and companionable silence.

She’s the person I couldn’t wait to tell my news and the one I cannot imagine leaving. Our monthly breakfasts are food for my soul, my own fountain of youth even as we near a shared milestone birthday. She’s the person who never asked the difficult questions and knows all the complicated truths; the quiet place I rest my worries and buoy myself in moments of doubt.

There are too many miles between our years to doubt the steadfast certainty of our friendship, but today I am sad for the measure of time between miles that mark a new stretch of space between us.

signs

July 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

While it is no secret, here, that our family is moving, the decision has been a private knowledge in our daily lives. Slowly and intentionally, with an emphasis on more intimate sharing, we have begun telling our friends the news. It is a slow process, one we have not hurried for the emotions of each telling. The rush of nerves and anxious excitement, we swing high with our joy and low with inevitable loss.

The balance of our emotions is a happy anticipation, but the broad sweeping arcs of enthusiasm and sentiment pull at our energy. It was our daughter who recognized the physical and emotional exhaustion in this process and created a simpler expectation of one telling per day. At this rate, it was unavoidable that the news might announce itself.

Monday a sign appeared in our yard. It was anticipated and still unexpected; a premature proclamation that quickly interrupted our intentions with a louder presence. In some ways, it made room for necessary telling; creating space for conversations we couldn’t seem to begin. In other ways, the abrasive and impersonal interruption to the landscape of our silence was overwhelming for those we would have preferred a gentler introduction to our announcement.

Either way, it has become official. The rhythm of our telling has changed, but our joy is a little less obscured in the open.

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