Tiny Miracles and Holy Shit

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Finally.

It is True Fall over here.
A blanket of yellow and red quivers on a bed of peridot grass. The air – slightly colder than my body would like it to be – drops frosty kisses on my plants and windows.
Here in California, rarely do we get to experience a season in true form. Usually it’s this hybrid creature – a mixture of all the seasons, in no particular order, splattered like paint on the months leading up to the close of the year.

I can no longer leave the house without coming back with an arm full of color-confused leaves. On especially lucky days, I also come home with a pinecone or two in my clutches. I scatter them throughout the house, mystifying a husband who does not see art and architecture in their unique form, but a sappy mess.

Oddly enough, as those of us in the state celebrate Thanksgiving, I am no more grateful today and I am on every other day. Relentless gratitude behooves a life of chronic illness. Being ill means I’m prone to anger, bitterness, and discontent. Gratitude keeps me soft, pliable. It keeps me aware of all the tiny miracles and holy shit whirring about my life like a beautiful tornado. Without gratitude, I would break and tear and wither like the trees outside my window.

Today, my goal is to further investigate the GIVING part of Thanksgiving.
We are called not only to be thankful, but to react to that thankfulness with generosity and kindness and Love. To be a fragrant offering.

So, today, may all who come near you be met with the decadence of gardenias.

Happy Thanksgiving, sisters and brothers.

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You Are Enough

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You Are Enough is my song.

I listen to it in the morning when the gremlins are whispering I’ll never get it all done. I put it on in the afternoon when I realize the jerks were right. And I listen to it in the evening, when I’m at my most contemplative and consequently most vulnerable. You Are Enough is my all-inclusive ticket. It’s how I travel from Today to Tomorrow.

Lately, though, between getting ready to move and trying to “stay creative,” I’ve neglected to play my jam. Instead I’ve been listening to “Just 3 sales this month? Kinda sad, don’t you think?” And “Definitely not your best work, Cara.”
Strange, but for some reason, I’ve been feeling anxious, exhausted, listless and afraid. I feel stiff. Like old bread or frozen celery. Like if you tried to bend me, I would snap in half.

And so I took all of that with me today as I began a new piece; and what do you know: it pooped itself on to the page like pomegranate run through tree shredder.

The day is happening too fast.

I feel like I’m barely holding onto its coattails, as it drags me from hour to hour, whisking me from morning to noon without even a pause for the beautiful day happening for me.

A second ago, I did two things.

The first: I ate chocolate. Because — as if we needed a reason — it makes me pause to savor. Savoring leads to gratitude, and gratitude leads to joy. Joy is a superpower. It is the best superpower of all superpowers because, unlike every other superpower, it does not depend on things going well to work. Sisters, hear me. You do NOT want a thin body or flawless skin or worldwide recognition. Those things taste sweet but they quickly turn sour. Then they go rancid, and start to eat at all your most special soft parts. What you want is JOY.

Joy will feed your whole broken heart.

The second thing I did was put on my jam. I’m listening to it RIGHT NOW. I’m also praying for each one of you by name, asking God to send my jam into your hearts, so it can be YOUR jam if it’s not already.

This is what I know: you are enough. You are. The amount of enoughness in you could light up Times Square. It could fly a plane from Hawaii to Russia.

It could change . . . everything.

It’s My Heart Beating

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You wouldn’t know by looking at me,

but I’m sick.

Not in THIS moment. Right this moment I am eating a delicious bowl of rice in preparation for a workout. 3 months ago, however, I was writhing on the floor, every molecule on fire. 18 months before that, I was fighting for my life. Specifically not to take it into my own hands and end it. Pain. Pain. Pain. Depression.

Anxiety.

Delirium.

More Pain.

This was my world. My tiny, little, needle-sharp world.

Most days I would lurk near the kitchen window, look out, wonder what all the healthy people were going to do with their day. I became very angry with and resentful of healthy people, convinced that none of them were grateful enough for their lives. Today they would complain and grumble, spend hours worrying about things that didn’t matter, miss a thousand moments hand-stitched just for them.

During these horrific months that were just like geodes – bleak and hopeless on the outside, impossibly beautiful on the inside – I determined that being healthy is its own kind of affliction; blindness and apathy and joy atrophy.

Still. I envied them. Healthy people. Sometimes I would imagine trading places, dream about how I would spend their 24 hour day sooo differently.

I told the Lord, in one of my many pleas, bargains and wrathful monologues, that if He were ever to make me well enough again to leave the house, I would never take a minute of my life for granted.

Honestly, I’ve not been a perfect steward of the life He gave back to me. But I AM changed. I’m better. I think maybe sometimes God has to make you sick so He can make you better.

And fuller. And braver. And softer.

This life is gorgeous and brutal and fleeting. It’s NOT to be wasted. Not a smile, sparrow, or a sunset of it.

It’s ALL for ME and YOU. There’s a buffet of magic right outside your door. I swear it. I’m looking at it. It’s looking at ME. Reminding me I have eyes and ears, legs and feet, a tongue to taste, and lips with which I can kiss the love of my life.

I have no greater gifts than these.

I own nothing more precious than Right Now.

It’s just a business card, says the photo. “No. No, it’s so much more than that . . . it’s my heart beating.”

San Francisco – Raw and Uncut

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Last May I paused for reflection. Reflecting is something I immensely enjoy once I’m doing it, but don’t do often enough because I tell myself too much is happening right this very moment to spend even a few moments thinking actively about the past. We live in fear of falling behind or missing out, and so we go, go, go until something happens to bring us to our knees, and it’s in that position we are finally inert long enough to notice where we’ve been. The peaks, the valleys, the plateaus. Some of it’s black and brittle, scorched by pain and charred with brokenness, but there, just beyond and up a little ways, is growth, healing. The past is no place to buy a home and raise a family, but it is a great place to drive by once in a while, especially during milestones.

When I consider some of the things that can be achieved over the course of a decade — graduating from the fourth grade, a decent bottle of Cabernet, hundreds of books read, the sheer number of toilet-paper squares and Q-tips — I’m more than a little awed by the fact that, in that time, Michael and I have never spent a night apart. Not a single one. But the substantially better reflection-worthy truth is that every single day for roughly three thousand, six hundred and fifty days, we have said Yes to each other.

Sometimes saying yes is easy, like for example when someone asks, “Would you like another piece of cake?” Yes, the answer is always yes.

And sometimes saying yes is incredibly difficult and makes your sphincter clench. “Can I borrow your (brand spanking new, never been opened) copy of Outlander?” . . .  yes; but which child will you be offering as collateral?

A great many of us are blessed and so fortunate to live in this part of the world that is constantly providing for us. Our haves largely outnumber our have nots. But it gets tricky where Love is concerned. The world gently thumps us on the back the way a mother coaxes a burp from her engorged infant, encouraging attitudes such as Mine, Me First, I Need. We look around – through windows, in magazines, at each other – and see that in order to be happy, we must always be acquiring the newest look or thing. Change is glamorized. Options are healthy. But what I’m noticing, in myself most of all, is that we are being taught to despise boredom. To fear it, even. If we are bored, if we are anything less than fully entertained, then it must be time for something new. Cut your hair, get a tattoo, buy a new outfit, purchase a new phone, renovate your kitchen, move to another state, fall in love with someone other than the one you’re dating/married to. I am guilty of all of these except two.

Once you decide to make another human being your forever person, saying Yes to them becomes a little harder to do each day. Their needs – which used to be a delight and honor to fill – become a nuisance, a bother, a bore. We struggle and we strain, because right over there is something fresh and green and affordable. I wonder it feels like, tastes like?

We do not have a perfect score. Our marriage is blotted and blemished with many Nos. There have been and are still times when I choose my comfort over Michael’s need. At night, when he is craving intimacy, and I am craving my body pillow and a book. Michael has put his shyness and dislike of confrontation before the protection of my heart. There is no such thing as the perfect marriage. But a happy one looks like saying Yes to each other when the world offers up alternative arrangements.

So, my darling, Michael, I dedicate this post to you, to our ten years, and to a thousand upon thousand more yeses.

 

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The Goods

It’s day 11 (actually it’s day 12, but I’m a slacker and have fallen behind) of the 30 Day Poetry Challenge, and guess what? When they said it would be a “challenge,” turns out they meant that it would be challenging.

Who knew!

Originally I intended not to spend any more than 5 to 10 minutes on these posts, but as they have progressively grown more challenging, I have been inclined to rise to the challenge. Which looks like me putting my forehead in my hand and grinding my teeth whilst I attempt to be clever and creative and Grand Canyon deep. I’m not sure if I have succeeded, but I am loving these prompts and I wanted to share today’s with you.

 

Happy Saturday/Sunday, friends!

 

Day 11 – Write a list poem.

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Tips and suggestions for the handling and dispensing of virtues and other savories

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Store kindness and mercy in reliable tupperware (nothing worse than stale charity)

Prepare and deliver intentions on the same day (possibly doesn’t age well)

Place humor at eye level and within arm’s reach (perspectives will clarify or conceal)

Poke theories and assumptions with a sharp truth (might still be gooey in the center)

Launder patience and keep folded in the linen closet (this will behoove you when unexpected guests arrive)

Begin each day with a bowl gratitude (otherwise you will forget to eat it)

Measure responsibilities for each day only (tomorrow is finicky and fickle)

If not on your person, peace should be kept somewhere safe and secret (I assure you this is for everyone’s benefit)

Rinse, rinse, rinse (rinsing is key to avoiding moods and attitudes gone bad)

Only serve opinions when the harvest is ripe (when in doubt, give it one more day)

Wisdom will keep for ages (but if you don’t share it then people will be none the wiser)

Wait twenty minutes before serving hurt feelings (additionally, running emotions beneath cool water reduces the risk of future cuts)

Look at all insights beneath a magnifying glass (this helps determine if they’re genuine or fake)

Be certain to monitor good deeds (they can spoil)

Generosity is like a tree: give it lots of water and plenty of sunshine and it will produce the sweetest fruit

Grace (give it prodigiously, and don’t be embarrassed to take some for yourself)