Saturday, September 19, 2015

Simple gratitude, for persistence's sake

For Ally, with all of the lovey love.

I don't remember if it was the second or the third time that I had come home to a note on my door written in beautiful, clear handwriting, something to the effect of "would love to get to know you and your kids, lets get together for a playdate." It was another note I placed on the table inside and went about my day, back in the relative safety of my house, nursing the fresh wounds of having made yet another move in a short period of time.

We had just moved back to Seattle, leaving our newly-settled life in Cincinnati for a return trip to a city that I loved but didn't want to leave friends for, to a house on a block in a neighborhood that, at that time, would change my life in ways I couldn't comprehend.

And here was this note, again, from the cheerful and lovely mother my own age down the street, beckoning me to come out of my shell and into the light, to make friends, to start living my life where I needed to be instead of living in the last life I didn't want to leave. Patient, persistent, loving, kind with just enough pressure to nudge me. Those early days of Ally knocking at the door of our friendship were the traits that have run deep and abiding through a relationship that has spanned the past 11 years.

It's impossible to describe what my friendship with this woman has meant to me. This morning I was scrolling through past Facebook Instant Messages, looking for a nugget of wisdom that she had shared, past dips and turns in each of our lives, alongside words and advice so profound I savor them every time I read them today. But it's always been like this, after I got over my initial resistance, be it sitting on her leather couch drinking wine while our children played in her playroom or marking miles around Greenlake, those physical presences shifting into digital spaces where we could both write our advice, consolation, cheerleading, handholding whenever things got good, bad or indifferent, a digital Room of Requirement where the advice I need to reflect upon seems to magically reappear.

She is wise, this woman, and fierce and loyal and loving and creative. She's the Ally of the chocolate cake. We have an odd sisterly synergy, often experiencing the same things on parallel tracks, our timing slightly before or after the other so that we can lean into one another's experience. Tapping into her spirit is like getting onto an electric grid where you are fed a stream of low current love. Always, you always know she is there, consistent power on reserve. And she creates a space for you to share your energy with her and with others. She's at once a conductor and a generator. If you know her, this idea makes total sense.  She's electrifying and stable at the same time.

As I am writing this, I'm thinking of too many things to write at once, all the while with tears streaming down my face in simple gratitude and the overwhelming feeling of being so. damn. lucky. to have collided with such a generous and loving spirit who kept at it at a time when I needed it in ways that I didn't even understand. I trust her with my very heart and soul, this girl, and am so very blessed.

I love you, sweet friend. And thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Feeling with clumsy fingers

The girlchild and I had a fascinating conversation today about wanting to help when help is not wanted. 

She and her brother got into it hardcore over him making mac & cheese for lunch and her wanting to teach him a more efficient way to do it because she’d done it so many times and is good at it. And she loves to help, to be seen as a helper, to love the people she's loving through the help. She stomps off, he rolls his eyes, emotions fray all around. 
So we talked through the wanting to help and what that feels like and how to separate wanting to help because you care about the person and wanting to help because you feel like you have something to offer and wanting to help because it satisfies something in you. And how sometimes, in the best of all worlds, it’s all three. But sometimes, it’s not and sometimes you have to check in with yourself about that. And sometimes as much as you want to help, it’s more important for people to do it on their own, to feel their way through an experience with clumsy fingers, not to rob them of the learning that they need and desire. 
This concept of wanting to help when help is not wanted has been my most powerful and profound lesson this summer, from friends and former loves and people I would give a kidney for. Wanting to help is clumsy. And checking yourself as to why, to what your frustration might be, to how you orient yourself in relation to the person at the center of the trauma (Susan Silk pretty much nails it in this piece) is critical. Awash in the warm bath of good intentions, we forget that part. Next comes the anxiety of being seen as a "nonhelper" or not being helpful or aidful and you've tied intention squarely to identity. Pow! Pow!
So chicamia and her bro did a little back and forth about how to decline help politely and how to receive that decline graciously. It was a moment as a parent where you are teaching, but you are learning 100000x more, or to quote Robert Heinlein, "When one teaches, two learn."

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.          -Mary Oliver