We are not looking in our rear view mirror at rights that have made us equal for generations.
I graduated high school in 1995, having never taken one elective class I’d really wanted to take. Every year I asked my mom, and every year she told me she would refuse to sign off on any schedule in which I tried to register for the class.
You want equal rights? You got ’em. Shut up already.What are you even marching for?I have never felt inferior to men. I earn the same as them. I don’t know what you people are talking about.
Putting aside all of that, I am a feminist because our hold on these freedoms you claim we have feels tenuous, at best.
By Jonathan McIntosh (Own work) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
As a child I curled up under the Christmas tree to read. Every year I received books as gifts, in addition to some toys. While the shine and glitz of a new toy tended to wear off quickly, the books were forever.
The stories never ended.
I’d hide under the lowest branches of the fake tree my family put up year after year. My grandmother had crocheted a large tree skirt that wrapped around the base and splayed out in a circle on the floor beneath. I’d lay upon it, my book in hand, and read my way to someplace else.
Somewhere quiet and less chaotic than the world I inhabited.
There were moments though when I’d look up, through the branches twinkling with light and adorned with tiny whimsical figures and shiny, gleaming globes, and I’d stare.
Up through those branches I found silence. It waited for me in every tiny nook. I’d hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing and the faint whisper of a magic that only exists in timeless moments. In moments where the real world falls away and one can believe with absolute certainty that something fantastic can happen.
I stared up through the galaxy of stars that blinked through the branches andfelt them upon me. Shifting shades of red and green and blue and gold. Nothing else existed for me then except the lights that danced across my skin and a tree that breathed with possibility.
I curled up, small and silent, with stories dancing through my head and it was a tiny thing, that moment. A young girl in the corner of a silent living room in a small house that stood in a small town on a tiny plot of the earth.
But it was big enough for me. Big enough to transport me. Enormous enough for me to believe that maybe something existed in that tree that I couldn’t see. It felt so magical, like a place where fairies could be found fluttering or tiny mice in clothes bustling about their errands.
There was silence enough beneath the Christmas tree that it became sacred.
Now I wonder if that’s what I’m seeking. Moments, where I believe in something. Something outside of myself and my experience.
A silence. A connection to something that feels big to me.
A something that leaves me believing in the magic of how improbable, yet possible, everything is in this world.
If someone lets go of all else, and believes.
By Alexander Baxevanis (Flickr: Sailboat & Sunset) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I want to be the sails.
I want to unfurl myself into the wind and be caught up and set free. I want to see all the things, travel to all the places, meet all the people.
I want the only sound to be the rushing, whipping force of moving forward. The only thought through my mind that of where I land. What’s ahead. I want to be focused only on me, the sails, and getting better at steering myself into the storm. I want to feel lightness against brutality and the freedom that comes from holding up against the wind.
But really, I’m the anchor.
I’m heavy with doubt and every chain is built from leaden thoughts of why I shouldn’t and how I can’t.
I’m holding myself down, and anyone who might be on the journey with me at any given time. I’m the anchor that keeps us still, stagnant. While there may be rocking now and then when the sea kicks up, the wind can’t take me anywhere but in circles.
He’s the steady crewman.
Hands on his hips. Shaking his head now and then, but generally with a cocked eyebrow and lips always on the verge of smiling. He’s the one who claps his hands together and rubs them for a bit as he eyes the situation and springs into action.
He pulls me up, hand over hand, out of the muck I’ve sunk myself into at the bottom of the sea. Makes sure I’m back on board, even if I’m just curled up at his feet coughing up water.
Then he raises the mast, unleashes the mainstay, and steers into the wind.
Even if he’s warily eyeing the storm.
Even when he’s worried he’ll be tossed overboard.
He holds on, steady and true. Because no matter how low that anchor sinks, and how much I think I’m wrapped up in its chains . . . somehow he still believes I’m the sails.
When he looks for me, he looks up. Eyes squinting against the sun, sure that he’ll see me there in the wind.
I love that he looks for me in the sails, even when I’ve slid off to sink into the sea.
The season for bridal showers came when I was younger. That rush of marriages taking place every few months. Friends and cousins and co workers all at that age where they start tying the knot.
With it come the bridal shower invites. At least, where I’m from they did. Is that a regional thing? You’d all gather around with your gifts and sip mimosas (or beers, depending on the crowd) and inevitably a journal or index card would get passed around the table for you to write down your best advice for the couple.
I was, during that season of my life, frighteningly unqualified to be handing out relationship advice.
I still am.
The difference is, now I know it. Back then I wrote little quips like Never go to bed mad and Always make time for one another.
Which, yeah, is valid. Sure.
Brilliant advice? No. It’s not.
Because that shit they can figure out on their own.
There’s no advice I would offer to couples today if asked. I can only offer my perspective. I can only share what’s worked for me in my current relationship. None of it worked in any previous relationship I had. All of it is particular to me and my husband. But I think perhaps people can extrapolate from it some juicy nuggets they can chew on, digest, and crap out some helpful morsels of their own.
(That sounds so gross. Sorry. Analogies aren’t always my thing.)
So there’s the first thing I’d share: Stop asking for advice. Because what works for one couple may be disastrous for another.
Also, the person you’re with today is not going to be the person you’re with years from now. Not because I’m fatalistic and believe you won’t stay together. But because people change. Yourself included. It’s natural.
It’s also scary.
There may be times you look at the person beside you and ask if you even recognize him or her any longer.
Does it matter?
The better question, for me, has always been Do I want to take the time to get to know this person? If the changes he’s shown haven’t changed the kindness or the humor or the tenderness that I so love and value in him, then it’s me I need to confront. Not him. It’s my aversion to change I need to examine. The same applies to him when I change.
You’re going to argue and it’s going to hurt. A lot of the time it won’t even be over what matters. You’ll be dealing with a sick child or a lost job or money trouble or all three and more, but it’s the laundry on the floor that will cause the big blow out. It’s hard though, in the heat of the battle over whether or not it’s a big deal for your partner to just throw the goddamn laundry in the hamper versus whether it’s a big deal to just pick up what your partner was too fucking distracted to care about and throw it in since you are already on your way to the hamper if you really feel so fucking passionate about it, to remember that your partner is as stressed as you and needs you to maybe hold some space for him.
You’ll want to throw things at the wall.
Remember that the more peanut butter there is in the jar, the bigger the dent it will leave in the sheet rock. Just saying. I mean, that’s what I’ve been told. Let’s move along.
You’re not perfect.
You’ll do things like scream for help while you cling to a wooden beam after falling through the ceiling of your kitchen because you didn’t know you could only walk on the beams in the attic. And he’ll come running and unwrap you from the wires tangled around your legs, help you down with a gentle hand, and dust you off while checking to be sure you are injury-free before calling your mother to laugh over it. Meanwhile, when he trips down your porch steps as you are both walking out to the car, you’ll spend your entire thirty minute drive with him next to you watching as you struggle to laugh in silence with tears streaming down your cheeks and your O-ring struggling from the strain of trying to hold in all those guffaws.
It’s ok though, because he isn’t perfect either.
Sometimes he’ll make you feel you’re not enough and sometimes you’ll make him feel like he has no voice. You’re both going to make each other feel lots of feels. Some of them, if you’re lucky, will feel so damn good. Some of them, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, will hurt.
There’s never a win or lose.
Except for this . . . if you both find ways to make the other feel loved enough that it carries you through the times when you feel otherwise. When you feel less than. If you both still hold onto that . . . you’re winning.
I have no advice.
I only know that it matters when he’s the calm one in the room. It matter when I pack his lunch. It matters when he reaches back to hold my hand as we’re walking. It matters when I encourage him to chase his dreams. It matters when he does the same.
There is no magic guide book that will help you navigate this, or any other relationship. But it helps to find the things that matter to you both.
I sort of can’t wait for the next bridal shower invite.
I’ll be looking for them to pass around the journal or hand out those decorated index cards. I’ve reached the point in life where I know that the flowery sayings are just that. They’re nice and pretty, but ultimately will end up as dry and fleeting as a flower in a vase.
No, I won’t write out any quips or advice. Instead I’ll share a story filled with laughter and heartache, highs and lows, pain and joy. It’ll be all about me and my husband and our life and the particulars, most likely, will never apply to you and your relationship.
But the hope?
That always applies.
I stood on the side of my son’s baseball field yesterday and cried under my sunglasses.
I cried because it was sunny and the breeze felt good and the air was ringing with the sounds of kids laughing and playing.
Their legs work and their lungs work and they may not know yet of all the bad things in the world, but they will some day. There is no way to avoid the knowing of bad. Even if one were to die at a young age, that in itself is bad. There, with your last breath, you’ll feel it. The unfairness that exists. The sharp sting of cutting cruelty.
I cried because it’s summer and the warmth feels so good on my skin and I get to see my kids all day long, every day.
I cried because of the overwhelming happiness I felt in that moment. The unrelenting luck I’ve enjoyed in my life so far.
I cried because I know that all luck runs out.
I cried because I don’t know what I’m doing right or wrong to make it continue. I don’t know what it is that has brought me this luck and what misstep will make it disappear.
I cried because I want to live in that moment forever. I want an endless summer. An endless supply of innocent laughter. I cried because I know it isn’t possible and probably wouldn’t be as valued if it were.
I cried because I know it will end, but I don’t know how.
Not just that moment, but all of it. Which summer will be my last? Which peal of laughter will be the last to ring against my ear? Will my last lungful burn with wanting to breathe in one last scent of grass?
Who will remember how much it meant to me? How I wanted it all to go on for always.
How I stood at the edge of a baseball field and cried for the beauty of it and the luck that brought it to me and me to it.
I portrayed Emily in Our Town in a high school play. The entire end monologue stuck with me over the years. It’s tattooed on my heart. But the one line I remember most is this:
“I can’t look at everything hard enough.”
That’s what I did yesterday on the side of a baseball field. I cried because I can’t look at it all hard enough.
I want to wring every potential miracle from every fleeting moment.
I don’t mean the biblical style miracles or the stuff of fairy tales.
I’m talking about the real ones.
Miracles . . . like life where once was none.
An empty vessel that suddenly houses a being that kicks at my heart from within. The warmth of a tiny body and the grip of ten tiny fingers. Eyes that blink up at me from my breast and greet me with a familiarity bred within my soul.
Miracles . . . like love that gives without motive.
Love that says tell me what you want. Listen to what I’m hearing. Share with me what I have. See all that I gaze upon. Drown with me here in this bed. Let the sun fill our lungs with a new day.
Love that says ride this out in my arms.
Miracles . . . like friendship that feels like family.
People who come along and recognize in you something they feel in themselves. Moments where they turn their backs to their own lives to share with you in yours. Then invite you to share with them in theirs. Histories that weave themselves together so completely that the whole world can see you were cut from the same cloth.
My miracles . . .
. . . like the sun on my face . . . or words that seep into the air in my lungs . . . or a photograph that captures a memory I’ll never have to say good-bye to . . . or music that makes me soar . . . or ache . . . or dance . . . until the world falls away and I’m just me.
Not a mother or a wife or a friend or a label. I’m just me, smiling, and breathing, living that one moment. And loving it.
My miracles aren’t yours. But I want you to find yours. And love the fuck out of them.
It isn’t always easy. At my lowest point it became next to impossible to find one in any day.
But I’d hear a giggle from a loved one.
I’d feel his warmth at my back.
My phone would ring and I’d hear a smile. I’d hear it. A smile from a friend because she was happy to hear my voice.
Sometimes I’d have a hard time finding my miracles.
But they’d always find me.
I’m not here for any one purpose. I’m here to live. And maybe my way of living isn’t balls to the wall. I’m not traveling the world and jumping out of planes or rocking stadiums.
Those miracles are for someone else.
My miracles are here for me and I love living them.
I’m not here to achieve any one thing. I’m here to achieve as much as I can. To live every day cognizant of how miraculous it is that I’m here, that I’m healthy, and that I get to smile as much as I do.
I don’t worry about what will happen when I’m gone. What I’ll achieve or not achieve before my time runs out. But, if asked, I’ll tell you what I hope to leave behind.
Not of me or what I achieved. Not of who I was or what I did. Not of where I went or what I left behind.
A simple reminder for you who still lives . . . to keep living for as long, and as true, as you can.
A reminder for all who still live to keep finding your miracles . . . and keep letting them find you.