Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And Then We Came To the End

I've talked about this before with some of you, about how what I put on the screen is an abridged version of life as it really is. It has to be. Otherwise every moment would take a page, every day a book.

What I've put on this particular screen is, I think, the most truthful I've ever been. But I've left parts out. The ugly parts, the boring parts, the tedious parts. I'm not completely the person you know through this blog.

I haven't told you about how, once every couple of months, I scream at my kids so fiercely that my throat aches the rest of the day. I never mentioned how M and I had a not-quite-whispered argument in the car in front of a dear friend and how it embarrassed me. And this: if you are skinny, or rich, or otherwise remind me of certain girls from high school, I might not like you upon our first meeting. Yes, I'm shallow. Less than zenful.

Please don't mistake this as a call for reassurance - I have good qualities, I know. I am generally happy with who I am and how my life works. But people have said things to me about this blog, about how my life seems to be full of raucous laughter and sweet kisses, and it is but I don't want anyone to get the impression that joy is a constant, that I have reached the nirvana of family life and every day is sunshine and lollipops from the nice ladies at the bank.

So - it isn't.  Sometimes the lollipops are not the right flavor. 

That picture of me - I hate my teeth.  And my face is too red.  And one eye closes more than the other.  And is my nose really that big? But there I am. This is me.

We're going to keep going. B and I, we don't get to see each other very often even though we don't live all that far apart and we work even closer, geographically.  This is a way to stay in each others' lives and I don't want to give that up. Plus, the fame and fortune of blogging is just too much for us to resist. So join us in the new year at our new blog, www.letusgothenyouandi.wordpress.com. This isn't so much as goodbye as it so long, see you soon.
There are doors everywhere you look, some of them are magic and some of them don’t look like doors until you step through them.

Two years ago we came up with an idea for this collaboration. At the time it seemed like a lark and making it through all one hundred words was perhaps a possibility. Like seeing your child off to kindergarten and wondering what the cap and gown will look like at their high school graduation. Never has one felt so far away from its counterpart with the two extra zeros. Yet it’s never just a hop, step and a jump to the other side; rather its baby steps--one next to the other until you turn around and realize how far you’ve come. Turn around sometime and see for yourself, I promise that you will be amazed.

The writer, Mollie Hunter, says children are the ones who ‘never pass a secret place in the woods without a stare of curiosity for the mystery implied… who still turn corners with a lift of expectation at the heart.’ No matter how many years old I am this is how I live my life, always wondering and full of wonder. This is the season for delight and merriment, feeling like a child and realizing that anything is possible. Even magic.

If you just believe.

The next time you have a chance, say yes to a collaboration and see where it takes you. Open a door to another world and step through without hesitation. Little by little this blog has become a part of my weekly routine. By saying yes to this weird and wacky idea we had, there’s been the opportunity to reflect on our lives and connect with people we didn’t even know two years ago. Looking through my lens each week—every day if possible—has been the most incredible gift I could have ever asked for. Seeing what my dear friend a saw and reading her words next to mine has been surprising, funny, heart wrenching and has shown me parts of her I didn’t know. I cherish each and every one of these posts. Somehow we’ve created this mosaic of our lives, a bit of beauty from broken pottery and a little bit of somethin’ to make it all stick together.

As crazy as it can be, December is also the time of year when we start to wind down, wrap up presents and loose ends. We’ve finished our challenge and are taking on tackling another literary work, which should last about another two years. After a brief break we’ll post here every week starting in January. If you have a moment, please comment and let us know some of your favorite photos and stories. Hearing from you would be quite a treat as we gear up to step though another doorway into the beyond. We hope you’ll join us.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Why do I dread these writing these posts? At the beginning of the week I am hopeful, even joyful for the challenge. Come Sunday I keep wishing for wisdom and a perfect image to appear in front of my lens. It often takes me forever to put into words what my heart is longing to say. I reach out and they fall like sand through my fingers. I’m afraid that the words I do capture fall short of my intention. It’s like they aren’t good enough, and by extension I’m not good enough. As if someone will read what I have to say and make these judgments.

I make my own judgments about my life maybe too harshly. I can’t pass by a mirror without averting my eyes. I can’t-- won’t look at the me I’ve become. Being a student and now being a teacher (in addition to librarian, bookseller, wife and mother) have thrown my equilibrium off and distorted my sense of self. I found myself cringing a few weeks ago when there was a mirror in a scene of a movie I was watching. I soon realized the impossibility of the situation, the irrationality, and that maybe this is not your everyday fear, but perhaps a phobia. Otherwise known as  Catoptrophobia.
At night I dream of those same mirrors, or showing up to school unprepared, or driving off-road, downhill and being unable to stop. I wake up wanting to shake those thoughts out of my head, salt out of a shaker. But the dream that terrifies me to the core is the one that I wake up from and shiver, as if it was a reality that seeped under my skin. In it I am rocking in a chair, it is dark and I think I can see and hear but there is nothing around me. All I can feel is the emptiness that surrounds me. I am old and have been left all alone. What I can’t understand is how it happened. Surely in my old age I would have a cat or two. Could it be that I cannot care for myself, that in my old age I have become feeble, vulnerable, waiting for it all to end.

It cannot end that way. Each time I make a decision, choose a path, I think about where it is leading. Yet the end cannot be all consuming. It’s about savoring, living, noticing, taking it all in because it is
mine. These are the days I will revisit. Moments make the days, days make the years and together they make a life. I want to look back and feel full, not empty. In my old age I want to read and write. If I cannot read, I want to listen. And if I cannot do that I hope I can have my memories to comfort me. There are days now when I wish for the chance to rock back and forth. Slowly. An empty house around me, but only until everyone comes back, eager to share news of their day.

These words from Tara Sophia Mohr, hit home today and made me see that words have power. They can transcend and connect us all. Even if they aren’t perfect, not the words she wanted. She wasn’t afraid to put them out there, and for that I am thankful.

“What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this:
A memory that beats like a heart—
A travel memory, of what it was like to walk here,
alive and warm and textured within.

Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life.
 You are here to pay attention. That is enough.”

I say: Forget fear.  Be brave. This is the end, but there is no need to be afraid of what lies ahead. An end means there is room for a beginning.

When I was three I threw a rock at a truck.  And managed to hit it.  The driver braked and shouted, "Who threw that rock at my truck?" and I ran to the house and tried to open the door, but I was three and the doorknob was unfamiliar - this was my uncle's house in California where my mother and I were staying on our vacation - and uncooperative.  I couldn't get into the house, where safety and my mother waited for me.  I don't remember how the situation ended - maybe my mother opened the door, maybe my older cousin helped me out - but I remember the feeling of dread that persisted in my stomach for the remaining afternoon.  Would the truck driver come back?  Would he do something horrible to me, to my mother?  That's the most afraid I've ever been in my life.

At least that's the most consciously afraid I've ever been in my life.  I mean, there's the ever-present fear of death.  It's the death of my children that scares me more than my own.  Dying myself would hurt less than my children dying.  There's the fear of total nuclear annihilation.  There's the more pedestrian fear of the bank balance.  There's the fear of the unknown that I get every time I climb the stairs to my office, even after two months of working at that wonderful place.  There's being afraid of the month ahead with its resident deadlines, shipping fees, and hours packed too tightly with have-tos instead of want-tos.  There's the abstract fear of never publishing a book, never visiting Africa, never being invited on to Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

All of which I can mostly handle.  But that fear from thirty - ahem - four years ago of having done something terribly bad with unmanageable consequences looming over me, that fear can still keep me awake at night, lights blazing a weak defense.

But I learned: never throw rocks at passing trucks, even if there's no chance of hitting the target.  Because there's always a chance.  So feel safe driving your truck down my road.

Next Week: we wrap it up.