Tell me about a new sound…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 9

Today dawned bright and sunshiny- well once the fog and my migraine cleared…huge white fluffy clouds interrupted blue as far as the eye could see and the sun warmed faces and and baked in much needed vitamin D. It’s amazing what a day of sunshine can do for the spirits. Our neighborhood crackled with sounds of life and it inspired me to come up with my very own writing prompt.

Today…tell me about a new sound…something that you haven’t heard for a long time or the first time or a sound you aren’t really sure you know…write for ten minutes….GO!

Our neighborhood is alive with new sounds this week. It’s been years since I have heard the amount of life coming from the trampolines and back yards on our street today. The dogs are so keen on it they bark back and forth like prisoners in isolation. Each guarding its own space, but letting the others know with a yelp and a shout what is happening on the other side of the fence or three doors down. Kids are playing, jumping and swinging and brothers yell back at sisters and laughter wafts through the air like the smell of my grandmother’s oatmeal raisin cookies.

It’s a cacophony of voices and laughter and somewhere, maybe a street over, a song or two. The windows of houses have been thrown wide and the songs of the lives inside are thrown out into the world for all to hear. It’s the crazy irony of humanity that in these days of social isolation I have learned more about my neighbors than I would have in the days of everything as normal. The sounds of daily life are a beautiful blessing in the midst of all this unknown. It feels like a sweet reminder that there is normal in the middle of new.

Keys

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 8

It’s Tuesday….I’m no officially into week two of this social distancing experiment and things are starting to settle into a rhythm. Whether that is good or bad, I don’t know yet, but here we are…doing our part….and I don’t hate it.

Today’s writing prompt comes from an art therapy online workshop I am working through called “Symbolic Journeys” by Shelley Klammer. She’s an amazing art therapist and online educator and I highly recommend ANY of her offerings as I have worked through several of them. This art prompt struck me yesterday, so I decided to sit in it a while and turn it to a writing prompt. So here you go…

Keys often symbolize opening and closing. Write for ten minutes about an area where you feel closed and what you want to open up to. GO.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

There is a part of me I struggle to let anyone see. A young, quiet part of my heart that isn’t wisened by experience, sharpened by trauma, or deepened by age. She sits and stares out at the world in wonder, but with a naivete I am ashamed to let the world see. She is the little one who doesn’t have all the answers. She is the one I’m afraid no one will love because she has nothing to offer the world but wide eyed wonder and a natural inquisitiveness to explore. She spills milk and breaks precious heirlooms and has no idea how to to pick the lock that lets her out into the world.

I hold the key to the lock on a janitor’s key ring on my belt loop. It’s an old key with three teeth and it hangs next to keys that keep all the other parts of myself locked behind closed doors. I’d love to let her out to play and skip and ask the question “Why?” fourteen times in a row, but the wisened, sharpened, deep part of me wonders if anyone will love this childish part of my heart. She brings no answers to the table, just more questions…and she’s likely to break an ancient artifact or two on her whirlwind tour around the house, but she sure would love to make the world her playground.

This is what I would love to open up to.

Sharing my young, immature, imperfect heart with the world and trusting that it would be accepted and cherished as much as the older, wiser, know-it-all part of me is. It’s a scary thing to unlock that door and let her out, but I’m gaining the courage to do it.

Coffee…

Coronavirus Survivor’s Log- Day 7

Wow, seven days….seven days since the world holed up and I started counting squares when using toilet paper. Seven days since community starved people actually started saying hello from across the street as we walk by with our black dogs in tow. Seven days since I’ve hugged anyone not in my immediate family. Seven days of home cooked meals and slow moments of boredom and time to do all the laundry and vacuum the floors more than once every couple of weeks. Seven days of writing for ten minutes a day and creating art each day and thinking through what happens if this is more than just a passing phase. A lot has happened in those seven days. It’s an interesting world we are living in right now. How are you making it? Leave me a comment…for reals, I’d like to hear proof of life right now.

Today’s prompt feels less heavy than the last few, but as I have yet to start my timer, we shall see. Tell me about how you drink coffee? When? Where? If you don’t drink it, tell me how you stopped. I bet you know more about coffee than the person drinking it. Write about it now. Ten minutes…Go.

Coffee…a beverage I never liked until forty creeped in on me and sleep stopped coming in the night. I have always loved the smell of coffee, but couldn’t savor the bitter taste that never quite lived up to the rich aroma it let off. Then those years of working full time, driving ballet car pool, math homework and worry over angry teenagers came rushing in and coffee’s bitter flavor was the taste of everyday life and I clung to caffeinated relief like a smoker clings to a cigarette.

I learned to love coffee in a small shop that opened downed the corridor from my office and across the hall from my daughter’s ballet studio. The shop owner had a way of caressing pastry dough that infused it with life and I fell in love with her and her place. She taught me that coffee’s bitterness was unique to each bean and I learned to savor it like a fine wine.

Now I’ve passed that passion to my son and we share its secrets together sometimes over a cup brewed in our tiny drip coffee pot and sometimes over a new spot one of us has discovered. I still think coffee tastes of bitterness and lies to your nose about it’s richness….but I’ve grown to love it. The bite of each bean is unique and tells a quiet story…it’s not unlike life really…bitter, sweet, aromatic and full of a story.

I’d love to hear your words here….you know since we are all in this together anyway….if you feel like it, I invite you to post your response to these prompts in the comments.

When Grief Catches You…

Martha Hayden’s “The Allegory of Grief”

It’s an odd sensation to come face to face with Grief when you’ve been avoiding her for so long. She catches you fiercely and winds around your chest and all the things make you catch your breath and squeeze feelings from your eyes.

It’s an even odder sensation to be in a mental/emotional/spiritual place to welcome Grief as a guest at your emotional table. Especially when, as the eternal optimist, I have never thought to leave a chair for her. I actually cast her as the villain in my story…alongside Anger, Sadness, and the cameo actress, Boundaries.

Grief snuck up on me quietly here in this space. I should of known she would…she’s been patiently waiting in the corner for everything else to quiet long enough for her to say, “Umm….hello…are you ready to chat now? Can we have a cup of tea and talk about all these other feelings in the corner over here?”

So I down an antidepressant with my coffee and pull up a chair at the table. “I’ve got a few days….what ya got?” I approach her like a to do list. Let’s get this one checked off, shall we? She smiles her gentle smile and shakes her head ruefully…Her big green eyes well with tears as she comes to the realization that I am not ready for her quite yet.

Grief…we prepare for it when we loose a loved one to physical death. It’s acceptable…allowed…heck, encouraged as part of the process of healing. So often, we forget that we experience death in so many ways in our lives….death of ideals, death of dreams, death of relationships, death of an identity. It feels like another world, but just last summer I helped write an original ballet about grief….you would think I would be a pro at accepting and processing it.

From the ballet, “Reckless Love.” Photo credit Flash 160

But truth be told, to grieve is to accept…and to feel…and I am so scared of those words right now. So I have powered through healing the giant hole that was left in my heart when I had to walk away from the dream I dreamed. I dealt with the guilt of pouring all my time, energy, heart, soul, health and finances into something that I eventually had to say I couldn’t be a part of anymore. With my therapist, I worked on healing the parts of me that had allowed relationships to become so terribly toxic they nearly tore me apart. I am working on setting boundaries and finding safe people to share my life with. I am learning so much about myself. It has been a golden road of self discovery and so, so cool to travel. Hard, at times, but very cool. But self discovery is a partially an intellectual process and easily compartmentalized in neat boxes that sit on the shelf of things I know about myself.

Grief is different. It’s a spaghetti bowl of emotions and memories and Kleenex commercials that tug at your heart. It’s missing people and situations and for me, it’s particularly difficult right now because all of those people, places and things have moved on without me. It’s fighting the envy monster inside that wants all of those things to grieve for me as much as I grieve for them. It’s not knowing if I should look at photos and watch videos and like all the instagram posts about how great things are without me (because truthfully, life goes on and shouldn’t I celebrate that?).

So I sit across from Grief at the table of my heart. She asks if I am ready for some others to join us…Anger saunters up and sits at the head of the table and Sadness and the bittersweet Nostalgia join us. I sit quiet and listen as they start to share with me. This is a process and more than one pot of tea and more than one moment of introspection will be shared here. I know that these companions will be with me for a bit, and that’s ok now. I also know if I want to invite Forgiveness and Acceptance to my table, that I must become friends with these here with me now.

Grief reaches across, and lays her hand on mine…”Let me introduce you to someone else who’s been waiting in the corner with us.”

I look up and look deep into two brown wells of compassion. “Cari, this is Peace. You’ve met before, but it’s been a while. ” He sits across from me with a smile and lays his hand on top of Grief’s on mine. This journey may be long, but it isn’t all discomfort and painful experience…Peace travels with us too.

Returning to this place…

Rapha….to release…to let go….

It’s been so very long since I have written in this space.  So very long since my words have been released out into the ether for people to read.  

So much has happened over the last two years, and especially, over this last year in my life.  It has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  But so rich…so full of beauty and adventures.  I have been holding onto the stories of this last season, waiting for complete healing and understanding before I share.  Waiting to arrive at a destination of wholeness to start leaving bread crumbs for others.  

I am not there yet…

I begin writing from the journey not the destination. I am learning so much in the season, and I feel the distinct call of God to share it from this space.  Someone, somewhere needs to hear this and I need to write it…so here goes…today…this day of Thanksgiving…I begin. 

And I begin by saying, “Thank you…”

I need to take a moment to thank my pack….not my tribe…my pack (look for a post explaining that statement!) I have learned so much about safe spaces for full vulnerability.  I have learned so much about who to allow to speak into your life- who gets the opportunity to challenge your identity and your value.  I have learned so much about relationship and life. 

I lost myself completely.  In doing so, I lost so much….my faith, my relationships began to suffer, and in the process, I lost the guiding message of my life….that the ONLY entity that has the right and voice to speak to my identity and value is God.  I gave away that power to a person…and it nearly destroyed me. 

But God is faithful…and never leaves us…and He never left me in that season.  He spoke to me through the people He placed in my life to call out that I had run myself into the ditch.  People who continuously questioned my thinking and didn’t give up on me….even when I made mistakes…even when I acted out of character. 

I cannot thank these people enough.  These light bearers kept shining on me….wouldn’t leave me no matter how I pushed away.  And I thank God for them every morning when my eyes open.  Thank you for my friends, for my family, for my pack that gathered around me, that nursed me back to health, who prayed and listened and sat silently with me when I didn’t have words or the strength to speak.  They came for me not once, not twice, but over and over and over again…and I am here today because of them.  

I want to share what I have learned with you…leave bread crumbs along the path…I’m steering clear of labeling the journey because I think what I have to share with you is so applicable to life as a whole…so here we go…a return to this space.  A return to writing.  A return to sharing. 

I’ll be honest, I’m a little rusty. It’s been years since I’ve written anywhere other than my journal.  And I am scared to death to share this story with you.  But I am leaping anyway.  

Love to you all, 

We’re all speaking in tongues…

“Denominationally, we have chosen to be at war with one another. We use our words as weapons…words central to our faith.” – Charlie Kaufman

“I’m looking for couples who express the fullness of God’s gifting in their lives to walk along side me in a new work.”

I cocked my head to the side and looked hard at him for a second.  It’s taken me years to learn to say these next words….

“Tell me, exactly, what you mean by that…what does that look like in real life?”

He began again in simple words, but strung together in way that sounded more like poetry than the mathematics I was looking for, and I had to stop him.

“I’m not sure you’re speaking a language that I understand.”

It was his turn to cock his head and look at me quizzically.  We had been serving together in ministry for years, and, I think, misunderstanding each other for about that long.  I watched as that realization broke like dawn over his face.

“I need some couples who are mature and secure enough in their faith to pray with me, to serve in church with me and, most of all, to tell me when I don’t make sense.”

This conversation got me thinking…as a person who began her religious education as a practitioner of Wicca, converted to Christianity and practiced as a Southern Baptist, and now finds herself as an ordained minister in a non-denominational church plant while working on staff at a Lutheran (liturgical) church- I have a fairly ecumenical vocabulary.  But I have noticed that we, the  people of the church, often use the same words to mean vastly different things…or perhaps at times incrementally different things…and either way we use those differences to draw a line in the sand and create a deep sense of disunity.

Some of my most frustrating conversations find their source in these misunderstood words.  I generally have no problem asking about words I have never heard before.  This is a good thing- my work in the Lutheran church has forced me to rub up against a whole new Christian vocabulary, but I do find myself wondering if the words my friends, pastors and other Christians are using mean what I think they mean.

Surely, I am not the only one…so I asked my Facebook community to share with me words they found were commonly misunderstood, particularly across denominations. I found the replies very interesting.  I guess I was fairly certain we would misunderstand the larger theological concepts between denominations (and we do, largely)…but the words folks struggled with the most were words like:

God

Saved

Jesus

Gospel

Holy Spirit

Grace

Words formative to our identity as Christian.  Words that are central to our religion as a whole….these are the words that, by and large, Christians are unsure of in a general ecumenical context. Or, worse yet, we think we are all speaking the same language, but in reality have very different understandings of the these words that we interact with every day as Christians.

Turns out…we are all speaking in tongues…and most of us don’t even realize it…

Perhaps what we need is more folks with the gift of interpreting….

Or religious dictionaries that strictly define these words…

Or better yet, lots of coffee and tea and open discussions about faith, belief and the foundations that form our traditions…

That’s scary business and requires a disciplined insight into your own language and the ability to step into the fire of the question, “what does this word mean to me?”

It’s time though…

to stop drawing lines in the sand and start pulling chairs up to the table…

Coffee, anyone?

Memoir Writing Prompt…a little test for you :)

Grade A

Every now and again in Old Friend from Far Away, Natalie Goldberg throws in a little test.  These are multiple writing prompts that you write on for two or three minutes each.  It is a fun experiment to flex your writing muscles.  Let’s do one today! 

Here’s what she says about the test:

Here is a test.  The good thing about it is all answers are correct.  Right off the top you receive an ‘A”.

You have two or three minutes to answer each question.  Make sure you are specific.  Nothing vague.  You might want to begin each answer with ‘I remember.’

Ready? I’m going to share all the prompts with you, but only some of my writing responses cause…well…cause it’s my blog and I can! Don’t skip any though…you can do it! Here we go!

  • The first one:  give me a memory of your mother, aunt, or grandmother.  If it’s an aunt say her name, for example, “I remember my aunt Gladys…” Be detailed. Here’s mine for example:

My aunt Margaret was a brash drunk of a woman.  Her wealth made her lack trust for anyone around her, especially young children and she yelled about as if we were all servants.  She loved roses.  Her roses were the most beautiful bushes I’ve ever seen and like her, screamed the warning, “Behold my beauty! Beware my thorns!”

  • Give me a memory of the color red.  Do not write the word “red” but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.  For example, ruby, tomato, fire, blood.

His Chuck Taylor’s waited at the end of his feet begging for notice-signature shoes that shared his name and shouted Arkansas school spirit.  He wore them always with matching Umbro soccer shorts, even when it was cold. They matched his nose when the sun would bake it or the cold wind would chap it.

  • Give me a memory of a sound.  Again, try not to use the word “sound” in your writing. Here’s an example:

The hum of the generators was a lullaby at 2 am, especially when the fate of the world rested on my alertness. The low rumble of it vibrated the seat I was in and made everything else feel quiet and peaceful. While watching for the end of the world, I leaned my head against the padded wall and thought, “I will just rest it here for a while.”

  • Give me a picture of a teacher you had in elementary school. Two minutes..
  • Tell me about a meal you loved. Where were you when you ate it? What was the weather like out the window? How old were you? Who were you with? Two minutes…go!
  • Last one, tell me about a time you remember rain. Rain might not be the main focus of the memory, but write about a time when it was there with you.

He offered me his umbrella as we climbed the hill to our next class.  I was reveling in the feel of summer as it dropped on my skin I told him.  He looked at me as if I was a walking poem- desire lighting his eyes and closed the umbrella.  He turned his face to the sky, but he couldn’t be free so he opened the umbrella and continued to walk beside me.  It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

So what’s the point here?  What are we trying to learn?  Nicole is teaching us to use our senses when we write.  We didn’t write about smell, so right now, list ten smells you remember. Be specific. For example:

  1. Wet dog
  2. sage and onions
  3. Charlie’s sweat
  4. buttercream frosting
  5. spring after rain
  6. Aunt Lora’s house
  7. old books
  8. White Shoulders perfume
  9. baby poop
  10. perm solution

 

This is what Nicole says about using your senses when you write…I love it:

Naturally, you are not going to cover every sense every time you write a scene. But doing this “I Remember” test is like acupuncture pricks alerting your mind when you write.  You go along describing something and then-ah yes, Snow was falling wet as my heart when I asked her to marry me. The word becomes bigger. Your love includes weather now- and feeling.