Letting Myself Go: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Gregg Koskela

Apr 12 2016

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Dearest Friends,

From April 7-20, I’ve asked some friends whose hearts I trust to participate in The Authenticity Project. The goal? To share something true. I gave these folks very loose parameters — no word count, no guidelines, no rules to follow — and I asked them to be free with what’s real for them these days, whether that reality is thoughtful or funny or poignant or ridiculous. I hope you enjoy meeting these people as much as I enjoy counting them among my friends.

With love,

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Letting Myself Go
An Authenticity Project guest post by Gregg Koskela

I’m not sure I ever allowed myself to speak the words at the time, but I was burnt out. I kept going through the motions, but my ability to feel was severely compromised. Compromised in part because there were just too many hurts I was holding with other people, and in part because when I did feel, when I did let it out, there was usually someone who told me to tuck that in and take care of it and get myself together.

Get it together.

But I couldn’t, so I asked for a sabbatical. And on the very first day of that strange release from work, I took the long way on a drive to visit my parents, out I-84 alongside the Columbia River. I drove past The Dalles Dam, reminded of the cheap hydroelectric power this seemingly still water is generating. Dam after dam along this river brings safety from flooding as well as clean electricity, and has tamed this mighty river into the placid sameness I now watched slip past my windows.

Somewhere on that road, my phone randomly spit out a song by the David Crowder Band. The lyrics did not describe who I was at that moment. No, like the river I was driving beside, I presented a monotonous flatness; whatever churning there once was had been invisibly buried by slow, creeping, engulfing waters. But the lyrics called to my deep places, reminding me who I had once been:

And He set me on fire
I am coming undone
with His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone…
And I cannot hold it in
remain
composed.
Love has taken over me
so I 
propose:
Letting myself go.

 

My sabbatical’s purpose hung in the air of my car, pulsating from the speakers, calling to me from this song. The dams, the dams on my soul that had promised to bring such good; the dams that had contained me, that had kept the flooding from washing me away, that had powered me…those dams had done damage.

It was time to let myself go.

Could I do it? Could I blow up the well-constructed dams, the ones that kept my words safe, my emotions in check? Could I really handle the chaos of my real emotions? I had gotten good at keeping things under control, like the dam on the river. I had gotten good at never losing it, at harnessing the chaos and creating power that was for the good of others. But I wanted to feel vibrancy of life again. I wanted fire and love that knew no bounds and letting myself go. Is this what this sabbatical was going to be about? Something inside me on that very first day said yes.

Pastors can be amateur psychologists, and I’m no exception. When I look at my own life and try to make sense of who I am, I see a tension at work inside me: discipline and passion are constantly at war. I usually present responsible me, the first-born, expectation-laden, conscientious side of me. But there’s another “me” buried under there, too, the me who led cheers in front of the student section at my high school’s basketball games, the me who was once called “The Silly Man” by my daughter’s preschool friends. The passionate side, the fun side, the emotional side often gets buried by living into the expectations of others.

The hard part is, I don’t always recognize when that side is getting smothered. It’s a repeating pattern in my life, this keep-it-together-don’t-mess-up-do-the-right-thing life swallowing me up, and then slowly giving way to a comfortable freedom to express myself. But when some life change occurs, it’s lather-rinse-repeat, and I’m back to the smother. I can trace the pattern really far back.

Like Kindergarten. I was so excited to be there, so excited to learn. Every time Miss Teel would ask a question, my hand would be up and bouncing and my eyes dancing as I wanted to be the one to answer. When she called on someone else, and they got the answer wrong, well, I was perfectly comfortable rolling my eyes and letting a huge sigh of condescension explode from my lips. Miss Teel and my mom were right to work all year on trying to get me to not be such a butthead…yet it did squelch that excited learner a bit.

Our family moved to Oregon right before I started 8th grade. I mean right before. We left Scotts Valley, the (then) sleepy town close to Santa Cruz California, left with my surf-inspired OP beachwear and Levi’s cords lovingly brought along. On the first day of 8th grade, my dad drove me from my aunt and uncle’s house in Portland out to Dale Ickes Jr. High in the suburb of Clackamas. I took the bus at the end of the day to our new home, where the moving truck was unloading our furniture.

It had been a horrible first day. My mom says she saw it on my body from the window, saw it in the way I slowly walked up our long driveway from where the bus dropped me off. I hadn’t looked like any one else–no one wore corduroy, everyone had Lawman jeans and San Francisco Riding Gear. I talked like the guys from the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”–but that movie wouldn’t come out for another two years so everybody just thought I talked weird. I stuck out like those Emperor’s Guard Stormtroopers; you know, in Star Wars, those ones in the red uniforms amid the sea of white.

I hated sticking out. I just wanted to disappear, to get swallowed up, to be normal. I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like being myself.

So began, “Operation: Meet Expectations”. My first thought was to use my brain to impress people and win friends. If I succeeded academically, if I played that role to perfection, maybe then people would like me. But instead I got called nerd, and the new glasses I had to wear for the first time reinforced that image.

The next attempt was to throw myself into the sport I loved, baseball. In California, I’d been a Little League All Star and successful, known for my ability to field a ground ball well in the infield. But in Oregon I was a pudgy late-comer to puberty, and besides, everybody knew Bo Venerdi was the All Star shortstop, so why don’t you just go try center field for awhile? Academics, failure one. Athletics, failure two. What part should I try out for next?

Maybe if I had a girlfriend. Maybe that would make people accept me. I remember being so petrified to be honest, so afraid that if I showed who I was, no girl would want me. Eighth grade life was telling me at every turn that who I was wasn’t accepted, so I just kept trying new things, new roles, new masks to see if I could fit in.

There was that awkward first kiss after school by the lockers. I could see it was coming, and I was scared out of my mind. “Uh, I guess, huh, I guess wow? We haven’t even kissed yet?” I tried to make it seem like I was used to this, like I’d kissed people dozens of times and how weird it was that we hadn’t kissed yet, when on the inside I didn’t even know what in the world I was supposed to do. You should know that I didn’t even know what a french kiss was, so, uhh, that was a shocker.

It wasn’t that having a girlfriend “worked”, as in, that was the “in” that finally gave me friends. If I would have realized it, I would have seen that friendships take time and by the end of that year, enough time and experience had forged some. But I didn’t realize it. Instead, I took home the lesson that you have to keep trying on roles, you have to keep doing the expected thing to get by in life. You can’t break from the mold, you can’t be honest, you can’t be yourself. If you do that, you’ll be the guy saying “gnarly” in a little, pre-MTV town in Oregon where they’ve never heard the word and will look at you like you are a freak.

I’ve had so many epiphanies, so many moments of clarity where I have seen through all that. High school friends who told me they had freedom to be themselves because they didn’t build their self-image on achievements or what others thought of them, but rather that their value as a person rested on the unchanging truth that God created them. The solo time during college, sitting in silence on a mountainside, journalling eloquently about the masks I had worn in life and how I wanted to set them aside and be the real me. A retreat during grad school, reading a history of the year 1968 (the year I was born), and being caught up with the passion and turmoil and idealism of that time, and wanting our class, our group to “rise, like a phoenix from the ashes of the 60’s, to change the world!” (I actually wrote that in my journal. With the exclamation point! No lie.)

I’ve had these moments of wisdom where I have seen through the pressure of expectation and how it squelches life. Trying to please others looks so calm and right on the surface, and it gains such approval from others; but it comes with a price. At times I’ve seen the damage done from stuffing what I really feel, who I really am, to take up a role that others would like me to play. But I’ve also sometimes lost myself. I’ve just sort of glazed over, become a walking automaton expertly achieving what’s expected of me.

Oh, the damage. The passion lost and buried. The nagging voice that says, “If they really knew who you were, they wouldn’t accept you.” The secrets. The shame. The hiding. The image management.

I see it all again now as I write, see it in hi-definition 4K clarity. Do you see it? Do you see the benefits that come from building dams, the illusion of safety it brings? The way it stops the torrents and floods, the way it contains, the way it smoothes the relentless force of a mighty river into a smooth lake, always the same, never changing, making its predictable way. The way it channels and harnesses power for others. Our culture loves a dam, loves how it siphons power from the world and tames it for our use, how it calms the unpredictability of drought and flood, feast and famine.

My family and Ickes Junior High and American Culture all taught me dam building. Don’t step out of line, don’t risk, don’t stand out.

Part of my sabbatical was researching my grandpa’s life. He spent a lifetime trying to build dams that would contain the chaos in his life, and at the end, that illusion of control broke. The cracks in the dam, the symptoms were the alcoholism and the Alzheimers. It’s a cautionary tale for my buttoned-up, first-born, mask-wearing self. Yes, the uncertainty of the raw river of emotions is scary.

But the honesty and community and interdependence found with living in that reality is far healthier and longer lasting than building the dams of expectation and control.

And He set me on fire
I am coming undone
with His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone…
And I cannot hold it in
remain
composed.
Love has taken over me
so I 
propose:
Letting myself go.

 

……….

 

GreggI’m Gregg Koskela. I’ve been married to Elaine for almost 26 years, and we share the roller coaster journey of parenting three girls: Aubrey (13), Hayley (19) and Natalie (21). Stories and words fascinate me, in person and on a page. I serve as pastor of Newberg Friends Church, a community that has shaped me for almost 30 years.

You can find me on my blog, Out of Doubt, and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

 

Breathing with Leaves: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Leah Harrod Rupp

Apr 10 2016

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Dearest Friends,

From April 7-20, I’ve asked some friends whose hearts I trust to participate in The Authenticity Project. The goal? To share something true. I gave these folks very loose parameters — no word count, no guidelines, no rules to follow — and I asked them to be free with what’s real for them these days, whether that reality is thoughtful or funny or poignant or ridiculous. I hope you enjoy meeting these people as much as I enjoy counting them among my friends.

With love,

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Breathing with Leaves
An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Leah Harrod Rupp

Dear Welly,

The trees in front of this house are big and beautiful and every year in October, the leaves carpet the lawn and porch. Today as we shuffled through the piles that you proudly raked yourself, I was remembering the first time we raked these leaves together. You were eight weeks old and I had you wrapped up onto my body on the sunniest of fall days. Your dad was going to be working late so I decided to surprise him by getting some raking done. We only got a small corner accomplished that day but I will remember it forever.

I had spent the weeks prior in a very dark place. We were waking up every two hours in the night to feed you because you weren’t gaining weight. Your dad was in the middle of his busy season and was struggling to meet his work deadlines. My breasts were swollen, my bottom was torn. I felt so alone and had no idea how to reach out for help. I couldn’t shake the fog that had settled in around me and the feeling that I was sinking. During my brief stretches of sleep I had nightmares that you were floating down a river alone or that I had forgotten to feed you for days. I woke up with my heart pounding and always reached over to feel your breathing, not relaxing until I felt your chest rise and fall.

I cried to my mom on the phone and said, “What happened to my life. What have I done?” And let me be clear when I say that I was never for one second doubting why I brought you here, or if it was worth it. I was just doubting this arrangement that seemed so flawed to me. The one where you needed to rely on me with every ounce of your being while I was just barely holding on to my sanity.

My mom did the best thing possible during our phone conversation. She gave me hope that things would get better. Soon she promised. Soon. Before you know it. Your body will heal, your hormones will balance, your son will grow, your milk will flow. Things will be ok.

She told me the sun would come out and that before I knew it, I would be walking around in the fresh air, taking you for walks and showing you the world. There will be seasons, she said. You’ll get to watch the leaves change and fall and then grow again. Life keeps moving. Life will go on. I wanted to believe her so badly so I clung to that image of you and I walking around in the sunshine. Living, breathing, moving forward, seeing the light. And it did happen before I knew it.

wellyleavesSo there I was raking leaves in the front yard with my eight week old baby and I realized that we had made it. We were both feeling strong and you had started to gain weight and sleep longer stretches at night. My body had healed so that I could walk around outside and for the first time, I believed that everything really was going to be ok. I told myself to take a picture in my mind that I would always remember, and I did.

I remember your tiny body pressed against me and your tiny baby toes brushing the flaps of skin on my belly. I remember believing for the first time that maybe I could really learn to be the mama I wanted to be. I remember looking up into the branches that were hanging over our heads and I remember how the sunshine looked as it filtered through the dead leaves. There were shadows, there was work to do, but there was light anyhow.

Tonight, four years later as you fell asleep, you asked if you could climb up onto my tummy. With your head on my chest, your legs dangled clear to my knees and the weight of you caught me by surprise. But even as your body grows, we are getting lighter every day, Love. It’s getting easier to move, easier to dance, easier to face our fears.

When I rolled you off my tummy and onto the bed tonight, I could see the shadows of the trees on the wall, the branches dancing outside our upstairs window. They have seen us rise and fall, rise and fall, so many times while we’ve lived here. Just like your chest does when you’re sleeping.

Rising and falling, ups and downs. Maybe they are just a part of breathing.

Love,

Mama

………

Leah Harrod Rupp is a blogger who cares about true stories and accepting struggle as an ordinary part of life. She writes about her experience as a parent which involves therapy, healing, and plenty of break downs. She wears dangling earrings and tracks the phases of the moon.
Leah writes at Fly Softy My Love.  

 

The Power of Cataclysm: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Melanie Weidner

Apr 9 2016

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Dearest Friends,

From April 8-20, I’ve asked some friends whose hearts I trust to participate in The Authenticity Project. The goal? To share something true. I gave these folks very loose parameters — no word count, no guidelines, no rules to follow — and I asked them to be free with what’s real for them these days, whether that reality is thoughtful or funny or poignant or ridiculous. I hope you enjoy meeting these people as much as I enjoy counting them among my friends.

With love,

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The Power of Cataclysm
An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Melanie Weidner

For months, I’ve been working on an artistic, spiritual response to violence in our society and politics.  It’s timely to share what might be my bravest art yet– this fabric art called Cataclysm— and a brand-new 7-minute Cataclysm Art Process video clip on the making and meaning of the image.

Cataclysm

 

 

Both the video and image are rather intense commentary, yet to me they are full of hope that the power of breakdown offers us new possibilities in the long run.  Oh how we need that kind of imagination right now– ecologically, culturally, religiously, and in just about every arena of our lives.  I’m deeply disappointed by the increasing violence and corruption in our political system, wondering how and when it will fall apart– maybe even with our help– to allow fresh justice, compassion, and leadership to emerge.

I’ll keep this post short hoping you’ll watch the video.  It’s home-made, for sure, but I worked hard on it, and I think you’ll enjoy seeing the photos of how I created and then tore apart the fabric elements of the piece.  Yep, it’s all fabric. Yep, I built a colonial mansion and made trilobites.  Yep, this is the first time I’ve ever used a gun or bombs in my art.  And yep, I shredded all those pieces to make a point– we can join the power of Cataclysm to dismantle whatever does not serve life as a whole, then out of the raw materials from the breakdown we might weave something new.

Cataclysm-detail-1

This Cataclysm image joins my Resilience Project series, along with the other more obviously inspiring principles I’ve sketched in watercolor, like Emergence, Allurement, and Centration.  Check out my other just-finished art quilt, Seamlessness, representing the generative space out of which everything comes and in which everything is connected!  (This science stuff still bends my mind and opens my heart.)

Seamlessness

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I can hardly wait to keep working on this ambitious project to complete 11 fabric art quilts embodying each of the Powers of the Universe qualities!  I’ll appreciate your encouragement and support….

With blessings as it all unfolds,

Melanie

……….

Melanie7Melanie Weidner‘s art inspires people of all kinds, especially those interested in spirituality, mindfulness, and healing. Her images stir the soul and inspire compassion, self-reflection, and peace.

Melanie also offers engaging creativity and spirituality retreats in summer and winter in the glorious Pendle Hill Arts Studio, a Quaker Contemplative Retreat Center near Philadelphia, PA.  See more on her Workshops and Events pages. You can find Melanie’s blog here, her Facebook page here, and her Listen for Joy shop here

Melanie lives with her wonder-full partner, Hollin, their dog Tashi, and Milagrita the cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

………

Important Thoughts on Life from the Lady in 18F

Apr 7 2016

I flew on a plane this morning from Oregon to Los Angeles, in seat 17F, and the lady behind me chatted away. She chatted away enough to make me feel uncomfortable, in fact, because I worried for her seatmates whom she’d clearly just met, until I began to really listen and to realize she’s a treasure. And wise. And savvy. And insightful. And funny. And authentic. And beautifully kind. So I pulled out my laptop and I started typing furiously, transcribing what she had to say, word for word, because we can all learn from the Lady in 18F on what was one of the best flights of my life. I hope you enjoy her as much as I did. She’s truly a gift if we would but listen. I’m sure you’ll agree.

IMPORTANT THOUGHTS ON LIFE FROM THE LADY IN 18F

On Stepping in Shit

You know what they say in New York? They say, “You stepped in shit.” But they mean it as a good thing. A good thing! Can you imagine? “Stepped in shit. Stepped in shit!” they say. “AH! Stepped in shit today,” and they mean it as a good thing. It’s like saying, “You got lucky.” Isn’t that wild? It’s a New York thing. I mean, you have to step in shit from time to time so you might as well make it a good thing. It’s just like saying someone’s got a shit-eating grin. They mean it like it’s a good grin. No one eats shit. Eating shit. Can you imagine? But they say it like a good thing. Geez Louise! Where does this shit come from?

On Call of Duty

Our grandson plays Call of Duty and he lives in New York. You know what? All those kids in New York, they talk just like the adults. Just cussing like damn sailors. Our grandson plays Call of Duty and he lives in New York, and he says, “I just blew that guy to hell,” just like that. In front of his grandmother. And I said to him, I said, “You don’t have to talk like that you know,” so he says, “I blew him to shit, Grandma,” and damn it all if that didn’t make me laugh.

On St. Kabir and Saris

You know how many grandchildren I have? Three. Three grandchildren. Twelve, 18 and 20. I can’t keep up. And one more on the way. Our daughter married a guy from New Delhi, so it’s an Indian house, you know. I had to wear a sari for the wedding. The whole time I’m going, “Oh my God, oh my God, this thing is going to fall off!” It’s held together with a tiny little knot. But I made it. I made it.

The mother-in-law comes to visit and the cooking never stops. Never. It’s 4 o’clock, and it’s time to have tea and biscuits. It’s adorable. She just loves those kids. It’s adorable.

Our daughter, she wears that red dot that shows she married, and she’s 7 months pregnant with that baby. Is that a trip? That’s a trip. Now they’ve named that baby already after St. Kabir. You know St. Kabir? In India, they don’t name them ‘til they know them. The baby is born and they wait. My son-in-law, his nickname means joy and that’s still what they call him. He is a joy. He sure is. But they went American with this baby and named him before he’s born. Except it’s an Indian name, Kabir, so it’s a mix of both. The Indian name and the American way. You know St. Kabir?

St. Kabir was lovely. Just a lovely guy. Believed in love. The Muslims, they made him a saint. St. Kabir. And the Hindus took him, too. So they both claim him. Because he believed in love. Isn’t that great? I just love that story. The world could use more of that. St. Kabir. I tell you what.

They’re going to come. They’re going to come visit and bring the baby, and we’re dying. We’re dying to have that baby here. He’s got a big ol’ head of hair. Oh my God, he has the most unbelievable head of hair. My daughter has good hair, but it’s just European hair. He has this gorgeous, gorgeous full head of hair. Oh my God.

On What’s Good for Your Brain

You know what’s good for your brain? Learning something new. I mean, new new. Totally new. It’s how you fight dementia. When you’re old you have to overwrite your brain, you know. And the only way is to learn something new.

On Donald Trump

You know, everybody is taking Donald Trump so seriously, getting all worked up. You know who doesn’t care what he says? The New Yorkers. They’re used to people talking shit. He just doesn’t know how to say things. He is not a good communicator. He needs better people to help him out. He’s got some things to learn. Not ready to be president, though. No, he sure isn’t.

On Oregon and Washington and How to Take a Driver’s Test

Oregon’s beautiful. Washington’s not bad, though. Washington isn’t bad. We have this totally liberal state. It’s nuts. Nuts. The whole legislature; it’s all democrats. When someone gets out of prison, they get all their rights back. They can vote and work and everything. It’s the most progressive state in the United States. Everybody talks about Colorado but we legalized marijuana the same time they did. I’m going to miss being in Oregon and Washington. Now I’m not anything. I’m not even registered to vote because I need ID and have to take that stupid driving test. I failed that test the first time I took it 35 years ago. You know what you need to do? Take the video they offer. They offer you this video and you should take it. It gives you all the answers. All of them.

On Arches National Park

Have you been to Arches National Park? Oh my God. It’s like heaven. Desert heaven.

On Getting Old

Damn it; I just dropped my iPad. It’s just, I’ll tell you what. You get old and you start to lose the feeling in your hands and you start dropping things. It sucks. It really sucks. We’re about to fly over Mt. Shasta, though. That’s beautiful. A huge, gorgeous mountain. That makes up for everything.

On Mom

I love to visit my mom. She’s in Santa Monica. My mom’s a pistol. A real hot ticket. She was always go, go, go, but she’s slowed down a little lately. She’s old, but she’s trying to stay alive because we tell her, “Goddamn it, Mom. Don’t die. We love you.” Her 7 year old grandson wants to take her for a drive someday up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and there’s nine more years ‘til he gets his license, so she’s gotta stay alive, right? She’s gotta stay alive.

My mom was an orphan. Had no idea how to be a mom, so she was our friend. She read to us. Poetry. Longfellow and stuff. I bought copies for my brothers and sisters. There were five of us. She’d read the one about the unnamed soldier. She made us learn to read before we ever went to school. She was a great mom. Bionic.

She’d make us work so hard. She was tough. My mom’s a fighter. I had polio when I was a kid. They told her I’d never walk again. She said, “Oh yeah?” They told her all this shit. I call her now, still, to thank her that I can walk. I came out on crutches, but I learned to run on those things because my mother made me learn. My dad said, “Is she allowed to do that?” And my mom said, “She’s doing it.” It was a Catholic hospital, so they said it was a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle. It was my mother’s love. My little orphan mommy. She’s a fighter.

On How to Parent

I told my Uber driver this one time – he’s got a kid, and I told him – you do anything for that kid. You do anything. You go in debt for that kid. We did. You give a shit. You give a shit all the way. You never give up.

Here’s what you do – you go to all the parents and you exchange numbers and you raise kids together.

Your kids tell you they hate you. You love them anyway. Mad is not discipline, so you don’t think getting mad is parenting. Nope. You have boundaries and love. That’s it. Boundaries and love. You tell them how it is. You tell them you love them. You want to rip their faces off – just take that skin right off – but you just walk away and love them. They test boundaries. They’re supposed to. Their job is to test them. Your job is to set them. They drive you crazy. You love them anyway, even though it’s hard.

We survived adolescence. What do you know? One day you wake up and realize you did it.

On Being the Grandmother

You know what I like? I like being the grandmother. That’s what I like. My grandson is a teenager. He’s smart. He plays soccer. He’s going to college. My daughter calls me up and she says, “This kid is making me crazy. Why does he do this shit?” I like being the grandmother.

On the Music Scene

I hated disco. Let me tell you what. I hated disco with those big platform shoes and all about the beat but not about the music. Then came rap and I stopped listening. I didn’t listen to music for 20 years. But rap got better so I’m listening again. It’s interesting now. Not so nasty. Better lyrics. Smart.

On Landing

We did it! I knew it! This was a good plane. Solid. Solid.

 

And so, madam, are you. Solid and chatty and wise. And I’m so very glad I sat near you on the plane.

With joy and gratitude,

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Apr 6 2016

That’s it. I’m out. Like, out out. Out of here. Gone! I keep threatening to run away to Mexico. Daily. Sometimes every hour on the hour, because they say it’s important — essential, really — to be consistent when raising kids, so I consistently mention my plans for Mexico; a beach, the water, a coconut drink in my hand, and my ass in the sand, as the Zac Brown Band so eloquently put it. It’s just… this time I mean it. I’m out.

Greg and I are headed to Mexico tomorrow, and we’ll be away for a week and a half, which is a thing we’ve never done, not ever, since we tend to prioritize frugality over time away. But we need a break, and we need some time, and we need to quit crediting “nodding to each other when we pass in the hall” as our Grandest Romantic Gesture. Enter a killer vacation deal and some significant help from the grandparents (thank you, grandparents!), and we fly away tomorrow.

The other (secret… shhhh) reason we’re leaving is so I can spend some quality time with the book proposal I keep promising (and not delivering to) my literary agent. I haven’t done a good job of keeping you in the loop on book progress, which is fair since I haven’t done a good job of keeping myself in the loop, either. The truth is, I sent a meticulously crafted and complete book proposal to my agent last fall and promptly rescinded it 20 minutes later because I realized after pushing “send” that it wasn’t the book I really want to write for us and that the book in my heart is weirder and wilder, more messy and magical, than the structured proposal that made marketing sense. So pfftttt. Here we are; proposal-less. My aim during this time away is to rest, yes, but also to dig deep and loose chains and enter the vulnerable places where the wild and weird and wacky play, and to write a proposal that beckons us closer to the Village and each other and our truest truths, whether they’re fanged or mangled or majestic or mysterious. Pray for me, if you will, or send good thoughts and fervent wishes if that’s more your style. I want so desperately to represent us well and to write something terribly, triumphantly realPresentation1-page-001

In the meantime, from April 8-18, I’ve asked some friends whose hearts I trust to participate in what I’m calling The Authenticity Project. Their goal? To guest post in this space and to share something true. I gave these folks very loose parameters — no word count, no guidelines, no rules to follow — and I asked them to be free with what’s real for them these days or in days gone by, whether that reality is thoughtful or funny or poignant or ridiculous. I hope you enjoy meeting these people as much as I enjoy counting them among my friends.

Be back soon.

With love,

Signature

 

 

On Nuts, Bacon and Bonfires and the Best I’ve Got for Now

Apr 5 2016

I found this piece in my gray purse this morning, stuffed at the bottom with a used napkin, a loose mint, a penny, and an earplug embedded with sand and crushed to death. I wrote it last week, on a pad of legal paper, with a pen that’s bent an a little leaky, and I got ink on my fingers which stayed for days. It’s not finished, but it is written to you, so here it is anyway because it’s the best I could do that day, and also today, and I bet you’ll understand.

With love,

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The sun is shining in Oregon and it’s warm and gentle like the breeze it brought along which is a measure of grace and also confusing because there are people I know and people I love — some of whom are you — who are hurting and in pain, living with confusion and uncertainty, bearing great burdens, and I do not understand how the sun can shine or the wind kiss our skin while we simultaneously live in the nighttime of our grief.

IMG_9276I’m sitting outside at a metal table on a metal chair — the kind that will leave a waffle print on my skin — eating hazelnuts roasted with rosemary and bacon, so mostly picking out the bacon to eat and occasionally, accidentally snagging a nut so I feel virtuous about having a healthy, fibrous fat alongside the unhealthy, salt-laden one, and I feel like I have too much to say to you to capture it well and also not enough to waste your time, which is how I feel most days and is something I have to choose to overcome all the time, shushing the push-me-pull-you of Too Much and Not Enough in favor of using my voice anyway. Using my voice which is a lot like trying to pick out the bits of bacon I like and realizing there are way more nutty things in the mix I’ll have to have, too.

I wish we knew ahead of time which things in life we will struggle with and figure out and which things we will never quite manage so we could lay those things without merit to rest sooner and bid them adieu and spend this one wild, weird, wonderful life pursuing the things that will matter in the end. But I suppose that’s not how it’s done because there are lessons in our longing, and friends to be found, and a Village to be built when we carve out the tangled jungle together. Damn it. It’s just that there are some days — most, really — when I’d pick Easy over Triumphant, and bacon over nuts, and I’d prefer a Village already built and also perfect and also-also with a bonfire in the middle of the square so we can see each other in the dark and dance there with abandon because we’re not afraid of the monsters lurking in the inky night or the monsters lurking in ourselves. Instead, we have to build the Village, brick by brick, and the bonfire, stick by stick, and we have to find the monsters and suss them out and vanquish their power over us using the usual, mundane tools, like Invitation and Inclusion and Kindness and Welcome, even while we shoulder our griefs and short-comings. It seems like an ineffective system, frankly. I’m sure I could have invented a better one.

Schrödinger’s House

Apr 2 2016

We’ve left the teenagers at home today, all alone, which is our way of blessing them and ourselves, while we take our littles to their first lacrosse tournament a whole city away to play at the minor league ball park where the team is named after hops, which are used to make beer, which makes me happy and is why Oregon is great and weird and a wonderful place to live.

It’s sunny and warm and enough of a rarity that we’re all decked out in short sleeved shirts and short pants and wearing sunscreen that smells like coconuts because the only bottle we could find was at the bottom of a bathroom drawer, half full and gummy on the outside, a freebie from an ancient vacation that was long enough ago that we’re sure we were only blissful and not at all argumentative or impatient or grumbly or mean.

Our boys are rather terrible at lacrosse, with brains that work faster than their bodies, and helmets and muscles a little wobbly. They won’t be terrible forever, though, because they keep trying and flailing and working hard and listening to their coach and making mistakes and having small successes followed by failures and learning from it all, which is a lesson I wish I’d learn about being terrible at things and failing and flailing; that there is grime there in the mess, yes — grime, absolutely — and also grace and growth. In smaller measures than I’d like most often, but grace and growth all the same and all the time if I have the courage to see them and build on them instead of berating myself which I’m more practiced at doing and is easier and more intuitive.

None of which is the point. Or, rather, is exactly the deeper point, which I’m not trying to make today because I have one that’s more inane but scientific and therefore educational and worth our time, which is this…

We left our teenagers home today. And we do not know what they are doing. So when our friends and family see us out and about without our usual large brood, they say, “Where are your kids?” and “What are they doing?” and, when they find out, “Is the house burning down??”  which is an excellent question. EXCELLENT question, and can only be answered with science.

“Is your house burning down?” they ask, and we answer, “Yes. Also, no. We aren’t there, so our house is both burning and it isn’t. It’s Schrödinger House.” 

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. The scenario presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead — existing in a state of paradox — until an observer imposes reality, at which point the cat is either alive or dead, but not both.

So, you see, both are currently a reality. Our house is burning and it isn’t, and both will be true until we pull into the driveway, at which point the house will be standing or it will be ash. For some reason, this makes far, FAR more sense to me than the Schrödinger’s cat explanation ever did.

In conclusion, science for the win! And also, I hope the house is still standing when we get home.

With love,

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P.S. Parenting children who ask hard questions about spandex, marmalade, and hot, fiery penises is challenging, but parenting Erwin Schrödinger must have been a real bear. Let us retroactively pray for his mother. Bless her, Lord Jesus, and all the questions she endured. May she rest in peace forever. Amen.