It’s Like I Love Them or Something

I woke in the middle of the night with an image from the movie Captain Fantastic in my head. In one scene, Viggo Mortensen (who was nominated for a best actor Oscar) looks at his son through the rear view mirror of their live-in bus. His son has just shaved off his long brown locks, and Mortensen’s character has just shaved his beard. Both were done as an outward sign of an internal change of direction: a tangible demonstration of their respective rites of passage. Father sees son, a look of acknowledgment crosses his face – a look of respect for his son’s this-is-me statement. He runs his hand across his head. The son looks back, slight smile, head tilted up, and runs his hand across his jaw. I think it’s my favorite moment in the film (of which there are many to choose). It communicates a paragraph’s worth of words in two motions and one long look.

I love words. I like to read them, say them, hear them, even invent them sometimes. I talk A LOT, and I write, and I read my writing aloud before I post it. I even talk to our bunny to have an excuse to say words out loud when no humans are available to listen. But I think often the most significant form of communication is silence. Either for good or for evil.

When my husband gave me the silent treatment early on in our marriage, it hurt more than nasty words ever could.

When I have moved past angry to brooding-quiet, my kids know it’s serious.

When I catch my husband looking at me from across the room, I carry that look in my heart all day.

When my kids get my total eyeball attention and a grin, they feel loved more than if I spew a slew of complements. And they carry it with them, too.

And so. I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to try (try, I say) to be a little quieter this week. I’m going to attempt some face time with each child, and with my husband. Because A. it can’t be done in passing, which means connection, and B. it will stick like glue. I’m going to sit down with my son and look in his green-blue eyes and smile. It will be weird – he will get to fully indulge the adolescent mantra that parents are insane. I’m going to touch his pre-facial-hair-face and hold it in my hands. The same for my middle-child brown-eyed girl and my not-so-tiny-anymore blue-eyed beauty. I’m going to say “I adore you” with my eyes, with my hands. And with my flared nostrils, because Mae will love that. For my husband, well, that’s private. I won’t go into that here. But I won’t be jabbering, that’s for certain.

I’m sure the creators of Captain Fantastic didn’t predict that some mom in Kansas would take that tiny slice of their film and be moved to action. That’s what art does, though. Good art, anyway. It moves people – to consider, or re-consider, to realize, to feel, to act. That one scene went a long way. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes. I predict eye-rolling, giggling, and maybe a request to play video games. But my hope is for connection. To stop and look long enough that words aren’t necessary.

Me. Giving up words.

It’s like I love them or something


Love Over Lust

I feel love in the age of lust.

I feel love in the age of desire.

That snippet of a song was playing as I walked through the kitchen one morning. Just two lines, but my ears perked up. I then googled it and found that the lyrics belong to Sam Weber, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose album I have now listened to in full. Many times. This happens a lot: my husband plays music from a new artist, I notice the words, a voice, or both, and a new obsession is born. But rarely with such a short introduction. These two lines sparked a rocky, complicated trail of thought, the way words do when at their best.

Since then I’ve been thinking and re-thinking about the idea of lust. What, exactly, is wrong with it, what separates it from love, or just wanting something badly. And I have to say, I got stuck. I couldn’t write about it because I wasn’t sure. Until I read a random comment on WoodenBoat Forum.



I know nothing about wooden boats except that my father built one with his bare hands (which is pretty badass). I simply googled the words “want” and “lust” together in a desperate attempt at clarity and the forum popped into view. And Ted Hoppe, whoever that is, made it all clear. He pointed out that once the lusted-after object is obtained, it “lacks the intense attraction it had before.” Whereas a want, once acquired, can be a “step in self-discovery.” Ted, you are a wise man. Thank you for sharing about boat building and the human condition.

Lust is not just about sex; It’s about wanting in general. But with more fervor. With less logic involved. As Ted Hoppe also said, “A want rarely leaves you with a burning sensation, a guilty feeling in the morning or a retainer fee for an attorney.” In high school I wanted things to the point of lust. To date certain boys. To have the right clothes. To feel popular; it all felt urgent. I wasn’t longing for these things for anyone’s true benefit, even my own, but for instant gratification. Immediate over long-term satisfaction, with no consideration of the end result. That is lust. And that can’t last.

A passionate desire for something. 

“a lust for power”

And some of the synonyms it lists:

greed, desire, craving, covetousness, eagerness, cupidity

In contrast, here’s what I know about love:

It is patient and kind, not easily angered, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In high school I didn’t know much about love, as is the curse of the teen brain. I thought short-term. Perseverance played no part in my yearnings. My desires for popularity weren’t motivated by kindness and patience or protection of others. My cravings were all about boasting. Completely self-seeking. Add hormone fluctuations and lust was clearly running the show.

When I had my first child, something I had wanted for a long time, I experienced an explosion of self-discovery. Luke’s birth met a desire which had long been smoldering in my body and heart and satisfied in a way that lust never could. My love for him was patient and kind, not easily angered, and it certainly always protected and hoped and persevered. It’s the closest I’ve come in my life to the love described in an ancient letter to some corinthians, and it pointed me toward something higher. Someone who loved me in the same fierce but gentle way.

It seems that for most (minus a certain political candidate, and those like him), age brings a mellowing of lust. A realization that it will never satisfy. That wanting can be good when it comes from love – love of a person, an idea, a line of work or a hobby – but only then. I want to write, for example, because I love writing. I don’t want to conquer or claim it just for me; I want to experience it, and share it with the world. It continues to satisfy because it is a “step in self-discovery.”

That’s what I’m after. Discovery of myself, the world, those around me. Sam Weber’s song helped me think such thoughts today.

From the last verse…

There’s love in the age of lust.

Like a fool I chase this desire

Like a fire, the constant reminder

Of what will comfort me

I know that I’ve had enough

And I know what’s taking me higher

I feel love in the age of lust

I feel love in the age of desire


Hear Love In The Age Of Lust

On Paper

Relationships are so damn hard.  All kinds.  Every day.  It’s exhausting.

I can’t think of one relationship with a human being (I’ve never been that mad at a dog) that hasn’t involved tension at the least and heartbreak at the most.  In love, in friendship, even in acquaintance (though lessened) the opportunity to be hurt exists.  If you looked at it through the lens of pure pessimism, or self-preservation, or in weary defeat, interaction with other people would seem ridiculous.  A futile and even damaging endeavor.  From the just-touching-the-surface discomfort of miscommunication to the violent wrenching open of your heart, letting pain and hollowness pour in simultaneously, human contact is absurd on paper.

And then there’s the untouchable, indescribable, incalculable other side.  The part where your heart stops with joy.  Where you swear death-by-happiness is a thing.  Where a friend writes you a birthday card full of the right words that couldn’t be more tailor-made and you remember why you shouldn’t give up.  Or when the man you love hugs you tight in response to your snarky, hateful comment and you get a glimpse of mercy that you wouldn’t know if you retreated into yourself for good.  Or your blue-eyed four-year-old says with a lisp that she’ll take care of you when you’re old and your heart gets soft and open and ready to love the whole world in response.  This loving stuff.  This caring about others.  This willingness to be vulnerable despite how it looks on paper is actually worth every ounce of effort.  I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  Welcome to being homo sapiens.

Yes, if you looked at if from an evolutionary point of view, relationships have helped us stay alive, create communities, thrive better than we technically could as singular people.  Let alone the propagation of the species.  On paper it does seem scientifically sound to relate with others.  But science can’t put love on paper.  It can measure brain waves and how they change due to circumstances, how chemicals and hormones can affect the way we think and feel, how brain injury can make us completely different people.  But there has never been a scientific study that explains sacrificial love.  The act of putting another’s needs above your own.  And I would argue that loving people is a sacrificial act in general if it is really love at all.  That relationships take mercy, overlooking wrongs, or dealing with them head-on in a way that is uncomfortable at best, in order to continue for a lifetime.  Which is exactly how long I want to know my favorite people.

So this is how I choose to live.  To end my days knowing that what looked like a bad move on paper – setting myself up for pain by investing in other, jacked-up humans and not giving up on the whole thing – was energy and tender heart well-spent.  Even if it got bruised along the way.  Even if it’s wilted and used up at the end.  I plan to wring it out for every last drop of affection and call it a day.  Hanging around a few, equally beat up souls who chose the same hard-but-worth-it way of life.  Drinking tea and margaritas and reading and writing and watching movies together.  And laughing.  Always laughing, with our worn out lungs and our knees that don’t bend and our hunched over backs.  And I’ll head into the everafter having tasted, just slightly, the goodness of the love that is to come.  All because I decided way back when that the way things look on paper doesn’t always matter.

When I’m buying a house, yes.

When I’m giving away bits of my heart, not so much.

“Good luck with that,” you might say.  And I’ll reply, “Luck is for those waving cats.  I’ve decided.  It’s as simple and super-hard as that.”

Secret Heart

Marc and I had a decent sized fight last week – big and frustrating enough to actually make me at a loss for words.  You can ask him – that doesn’t happen much.  Words are my forte.  They flow from my mouth like a rushing river when I’m upset, my arguments clearly outlined in my mind almost instantly.  It’s a strange and mostly unhelpful skill since I’m neither a lawyer nor a politician.  My kids don’t use logic, so it’s of no use in that realm.  And I’m pretty sure Marc loathes my undefeated debate record from high school.  But I can’t help it.  I’m wired to present my case, defend my case, and end with a lengthy closing argument.  In this instance, however, I was so angry, feeling so hopeless, I just gave the hell up.  Whatever.  That was my closing argument.  That’s when you know things are bad – when you’re beyond mad, beyond furious, all the way to I don’t give a damn.

I saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few days later.  It was my fourth Lyle Lovett concert (I knew almost every word to almost every song), but the first time I’ve seen John Hiatt.  I’ve long appreciated Lyle Lovett’s gift of phrase-turning – his ability to be both funny and poignant in the same breath.  But I realized that John Hiatt is a master wordsmith, too.  Lyle has a creamy voice that sinks into your bones and a sweet, light touch on the guitar, so it’s easy to hear the words that sit on top.  In contrast, Hiatt’s gruff voice and hard-strumming guitar mask his wisdom.  But it’s under there, and worth digging for.

I sat in the fourth row, so close it was like being in a living room watching the two of them banter casually, each playing his favorite songs for a friend.  My proximity gave the lyrics a weight and immediacy they wouldn’t carry if heard from the back of a large theater.  When Hyatt sang what I’ve always thought of as his cliche song Have a Little Faith in Me,  I heard its’ cut-to-the-bone truth and how it applied to us.


An’ when your secret heart

Cannot speak so easily

Come here darlin’ from a whisper start

Have a little faith in me

An’ when your back’s against the wall

Just turn around an’ a you will see

I’ll be there, I’ll be there to catch your fall

So have a little faith in me

Cause I’ve been loving you for such a long time, baby

Expecting nothing in return

Just for you to have a little faith in me

You see time, time is our friend

‘Cause for us there is no end

All you gotta do is have a little faith in me


It’s a simple idea – don’t give up on me – but what a nice way to say it.  My secret heart could not speak.  My secret heart was pissed, and confused, and forlorn.  But the song says Remember who you’re dealing with here.  He’s not your enemy.  He’s your partner.  And this is forever.  You catch his fall and he’ll catch yours.  

It’s extremely cheesy, but I made Marc sit and listen to it.  And I had him follow along with the lyrics as the song played.  Yep.  I’m not joking around with this making-my-marriage-work thing.  I won’t settle with biding our time until a better day comes along.  I’m all-in, and that takes effort.  It takes sitting down with the lyrics of a song written by a love-embattled writer, with experience in the area of relational strife, and paying attention.  Whatever is no good.  Trusting that we’re on the same team, having faith in each other to catch our mutual fall is better.  Under John Hiatt’s scruffy vocals is hard-won wisdom, and I’m willing to listen.  Luckily, so is Marc.

I’m not dumb enough to think that a song is going to change everything.  The lyrics aren’t magical.  The tune tugs at the heart but it won’t save us when we’re beyond angry.  Which will happen again.  But the right words can point me in the right direction.  A well-written paragraph, or sentence, or phrase can stick with me forever and help shape my perspective.  Shakespeare has advised me.  Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.  So has Paul the Apostle.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  And now, so has John Hiatt.  Next time my own words won’t come I’ll remember this song.  And refuse to simply give up.  And have faith that Marc is my ally even when it doesn’t feel that way.

Here’s to the beautiful, difficult odyssey of marriage.   And to to all the writers who help along the way.


Love Story

I just started a book my mom got me for Mother’s Day.  (The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write).  And I mean just.  But I’m already hooked…

As Robert Stone states, with blazing simplicity: “Storytelling is not a luxury to humanity; it’s almost as necessary as bread.  We cannot imagine ourselves without it, because the self is a story.”  Amen.

It’s true — the universe would survive without decent writing, much as it did for a trillion or so years before writing was born.  And it’s true that the vast majority of people on earth will continue to live full, eventful lives without the benefit of Jane Austen or W. S. Merwin.  But by this reasoning, you could also argue that almost nothing matters.  (Or, rather, you could argue that if you knew how to write well.)  People can live without basketball, domestic pets and real butter, too.  If the question is simply one of literal survival in its ultimate sense, eating twigs in the wilderness or Pringles in front of the Xbox, we can survive with almost nothing, we’ve demonstrated that.  For those who want to live in a deeper, funnier, wilder, more troubled, more colorful, more interesting way, a way in which not only writing matters but also beauty, memory, politics, family, and everything else, put on your reading glasses and turn the page.  Your people have something to tell you…

– Jon Raymond

So ends the best introduction in a book I’ve ever read.  It left me both sure this writing thing is where my heart lies and convinced that I should stop trying to write at all, because I will never reach the level of artistry Jon Raymond clearly possesses.  He did his job perfectly: made me eager to read the book immediately, wishing I had the whole day to dig in, while also arguing a larger point with dexterity.  With technical accuracy, humor and logic.  I wish I could quote the entire piece.  But that would be illegal.

How can I add to this?  Not with any better argument in favor of the written word.  But perhaps with my own story to back it up.  A personal tale to defend the artistic genre that I love.  A story to promote the importance of story.  That’s all I can offer.  And so I do:

In my third year of college I enrolled in Fiction Writing I, along with my good friend Marc (who, because he had a harder time getting a story onto paper than onto film was taking it for the second time).  He wasn’t a great writer, but he knew great writing.  I was nervous.  I had been writing since I could remember.  Little poems, songs, stories, a scintillating screenplay for a puppet show when I was in grade school.  Then more poems, songs and a Poe-like short story (that in retrospect was reeeeeally similar to Psycho) for my high school Gothic Lit. class.  Then tons of essays in college.  TONS.  All of which were boring to write and probably also to read.  About other people’s writing, or historical events and their relevance to the present, or why Nietzsche was wrong.

But I hadn’t written fiction that bore my soul since I was little, when I didn’t care who knew what was in there.  I was old enough now to know people might mock.  Might not like what they saw.  And to worry that my writing might actually be terrible.

And Marc was in my class.

My Marc.  My secret future husband.  If my first short story was bad, he wouldn’t know what a hidden jewel I was.  Wouldn’t see me as I longed to be seen: as, duh, this beautiful, intelligent artiste.  Right in front of his eyes all this time.  The pressure was on.

So I went home and did my thing.  Saw a photograph in my American History textbook that sparked my imagination and began.  Hunkered down in my dorm room with pen and paper (yes, actual pen and paper, back in the olden days of 1995 when computers lived in the computer lab).  I got in the zone.  Threw in some historical details.  Scratched out entire paragraphs.  Wrestled with the words until I was happy with my story, or out of time.

Our class workshopped everyone’s stories, a few each class period, so we had to read them in advance in order to give each person feedback.  My day had come, and I was terrified.  I got up, dressed, walked down to the dorm cafeteria.  Knowing I would likely see Marc – his curly ponytail bopping around the cereal dispensers, the sight of which always made my stomach turn with excitement/anxiety.  And there it was.  I watched where he sat.  Got my daily dose of LIFE with milk and headed to the booth, heart pounding.  And when I turned the corner to sit, and he saw me, he stopped talking to his friend and looked at me.  For a long time.  Longer than necessary to acknowledge my presence.  Longer than anyone looks at anyone unless they are seeing them differently than usual.  Maybe for the first time.  I just about peed my pants.  I didn’t know what he was going to say – maybe he didn’t know how to tell me it was awful.  But then he smiled and I burst inside.  I stayed cool, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t want him knowing how desperately I wanted him to love my story.  But he did.  And it was the beginning.  I had been right in front of him all this time, but now, to him, I was a writer.

And that, my friends, is just one of the love stories I can tell you about my relationship with the written word.  It’s in my bones and has worked its way out my whole life long.  I may not be as good as Jon Raymond, but I will defend this art form until I physically cannot.  By writing.  Plain and simple.  It matters in the world.

Now to read the rest of that book…


My friend recently said that she wished she and her husband had a referee.  Which echoed my thoughts about my own marriage.  Someone to mediate between two opposing sides and objectively point out each one’s offenses. Marc and I could use that, as I suspect all couples, toddlers and warring nations could.  As long as the referee wasn’t paid to throw the game.

That’s what counseling is, I suppose.  Or should be.  An outside opinion of how this sport of marriage is played.  A third party to point out when and how we go wrong.  Preferably without a whistle.  Or a coach who can show us a game plan and give us strategies to win against all obstacles.  Help us work as a team.  I could use both.  Because though I long for a sense of solidarity in my marriage, I find my natural state of selfishness creeping in and smashing the very idea to bits.  Daily.

Here’s the thing:  I love my husband.  He’s my best friend.  He’s the person I want to hang out with nearly all the time: funny, smart, kind, generous.  He loves movies.  Me too.  He likes great music.  What a coincidence.  He cracks me up, the importance of which cannot be overstated.  He’s faithful.  He loves his children.  He makes me eggs every morning.  “What’s not to love?,” you may ask.  “Well, it’s complicated,” is my answer.  And that’s the problem.  It’s the problem in every marriage, in every human relationship.  People are complicated – a big tangled mess.  I’m a lot of great things, but I’m a big mess, too.  So big mess + big mess = bigger tangled mess that is hard to get a comb through sometimes.

There are certainly times when things are smooth.  The conditioner has been liberally applied and love reigns.  But boy, there are times when it doesn’t.  Days when I wake up fully committed to my own desires, unwilling to sacrifice.  As there are for Marc.  And when those days happen to be on the same day?  Ugh.  Somebody get a referee.

My son and I were talking recently about a friend whose parents may soon be getting a divorce, and his heart was broken for him.  It made me wonder how he perceived Marc’s and my marriage.  The kids will say “You guys always fight,” which of course isn’t true, but to their young minds it must feel as such.  Which breaks my heart.  “You know how Dad and I argue sometimes?,” I asked.  Nod.  “Well, that’s because when you really love someone, if they hurt your feelings it really hurts.  Like, Arghhh!  I LOVE you. Why did you DO that?  Or sometimes you just disagree, strongly, and you can’t figure out how to agree.  So you argue.  And you work and work to resolve it.  It’s hard.  And we’re people, so we’re bound to have conflict sometimes.”  (Being the son of a writer and an ex-literacy-program-director, my son has known about “conflict” since he was in-utero).  He got it.  And when I asked him why he was upset about his friend, to help him talk it out, he said to my great relief “Because he doesn’t have a good family like we do.”  Oh hallelujah.  He hasn’t been too scarred by our fights.  And he might even be prepared to have arguments with his own wife someday.  Because it’s inevitable.  Mess + mess.  I just wish I could give him a referee as a wedding gift.

If only.  I’m picturing a little guy with a striped shirt who lives at your house, up on a shelf.  He’s inanimate when things are fine, but as soon as the voices are raised or sniping begins he awakens, jumps down, grows to adult-height and intercedes.  It’s kind of a creepy image, but I’d be willing to accept some creepiness to stop Marc from losing it over my pile of papers in the kitchen.  Or me over “someone” putting the water bottles away by clearly throwing them on the shelf.  Or the bigger stuff.  The tangled messes we’ve been trying to comb through since the day we got hitched so many years ago.  But, since that little creepy guy doesn’t exist, I will have to trod through.  Get some counseling periodically, as I recommend for every married person.  Try to get perspective when the water bottles are askew and not to react so strongly when my pile is criticized.  Take a breath and remember: we’re on a team.  He’s my team.  My friend.  My partner for life.

And he’s funny sometimes.  Always remember he’s funny.


Dear future husband…

Inspired by Meghan Trainor’s song with this title, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make a list of things I wish I could have told my husband before we were married.  To help both him and me have less drama and more realistic expectations in our life together.  So here goes…

  1. I don’t like being cold, and I don’t like being hot, depending on the season.  But I always like scalding showers and ice in my water.  Yes, it’s fickle.  No, it doesn’t make total logical sense.  And I’m sticking with it.
  2. When I ask you what you think we should do about something, “I don’t know” is my least favorite answer.  I’d prefer, “I’ll think about it,” and then have you actually consider my question and give me a reply at some point.
  3. Your integrity, generosity and kindness are hot.  Seriously.  Well-fitting jeans and those will get you action almost any day.
  4. When I’m tired, I’m tired.  Even if you’re not.  When I’m hungry, I’m hungry.  Even if you’re not. (A nod to our early days of marriage.  Beginning with our honeymoon.)
  5. Just a heads-up: I don’t know how to cook anything but a roast and spaghetti, and it will take me about six years to rectify this. Sorry.
  6. A compliment and a gentle hand on my back will A. make me feel loved and B. increase your chances of getting action, too.
  7. You are not right and I am not wrong.  We are different, with differing opinions.  Some people don’t need the toaster oven to be crumb-free.  But I love you, so I’ll work toward a tidy home if you’ll give me specific ideas.  Deal?
  8. My love languages are “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”  There.  That should shave off several years of misunderstanding.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  The “romance” will fade, especially when one of us has the flu/bronchitis/a stomach bug or a series of all three, or we’re sleep deprived from having a newborn, or stress makes us act like jerks.  But that’s ok.  It’ll come back if we treat each other like best friends.  And you wear well-fitting jeans.


And, to be fair, from his perspective:

  1. I don’t like being cold, but I’d rather wear lots of clothes and not turn up the heat.  And I don’t mind being hot, so air-conditioning is frivolous in my opinion.  You’ve been warned.
  2. If you would spend less time feeling blamed and more time finding a solution to our problems, that’d be great.
  3. I think you’re beautiful and sexy much more than you know.  I don’t care if you’re “bloated.”  You – clothes = fabulous.
  4. Just a heads-up: on our first Thanksgiving – the first one away from your family and the town, and state, and region of the country you’ve always known – I will be giving you the silent treatment because that’s how I will handle conflict for our first few years.  Sorry about that.
  5. I can’t be the source of your self-esteem.  Find it in yourself and in the fact that God loves you.  There.  That should save us years of disappointment.
  6. I like things to be tidy.  It helps my brain function, and I will be nicer if things are put away, especially the kitchen.  If you love me, you’ll try.
  7. I really hate nagging, so please don’t do it.
  8. If I feel like you don’t respect me, it feels crappy.  Don’t talk down to me.  And remember that I do care what you think, even if I don’t say it.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  With benefits.  Lots of benefits.


And one for both of us:

  1. For your first year of marriage you will not have a land line.  You will have a giant brick-shaped cell-phone that will run out of minutes in the first third of the month.  So if you want to talk to anyone, have them call collect to the phone booth by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Main Street, Alhambra, California, and wait there at the allotted time.  Try not to cry too much or people will think things aren’t going so well.


It’s certainly not an exhaustive list of helpful tips to our young and inexperienced selves.  The full tome would overwhelm.  But this hits on some big ones.  It would have been constructive to read and digest in the months before our wedding, as much as any marriage book.  Alas, or maybe by better design, it has taken years to discover these truths about ourselves in relation to each other.  I guess that’s part of the beauty.  The storytelling element of a union.  Without the drama, the narrative would drag.  More of a dull report than a tale of adventure.  In the long run, I suppose I prefer an adventure.

So here’s to ours, babe.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

You’re my favorite.

I’ll Start

Nothing is different

But everything has changed.

That’s a line from a Paul Simon song.  And it’s the way I felt when I stepped foot off the plane in L.A. after a summer spent in Taiwan, when I looked at my husband the morning after our wedding, or when I watched the sky outside the window of my hospital room after my son was born.  My homeland, my husband’s face, the sky – they were the same as every other day, but they appeared completely new.  There were things I’d missed before.  New meanings to the familiar American landscape, the corners of Marc’s mouth when he smiled, the sunlight warming the clouds with pinks and reds.  Experiences can make that magic.  Cause us to view old things with new eyes.  Something deep in the soul changes – it sends a message to the brain: “Whoa!  Everything is new!  This is amazing!”  And the whole body responds.  It feels more alive, more awake, superhumanly able to appreciate.  To see with more clarity than before.

I thought it would be fun to gather a list of experiences like this from you, the readers of my blog.  I love a good list, and I bet you all have some neat eye-openers to share.  The great thing is, as in all stories, everyone can relate.  By reading about another person’s experience we are reminded of one of our own, reminded that we’re all in this together.  So leave a comment below, long or short or however you like, and let us know about a time when nothing was different but everything had changed.  Let’s see what we get…

Here.  I’ll start.

It was just before my junior year in college, I was at a summer training program in Colorado Springs with students from all over the country, along with my friend and only fellow-Jayhawk Marc.  I had just sent a letter to my best friend swearing off boys for the forseeable future, as they proved to consume and confuse my thoughts and I was ready for a break.  Then I left for a hike with the close group of five other friends I’d made over the two months.  Three guys and three girls, hiking up a canyon, talking, laughing, crossing back and forth over the stream that ran down the mountain.  At times one of the guys would reach out a hand to help me across the merely ankle-deep water, which should have impressed me as an act of chivalry, but instead annoyed me as a sexist view of my capabilities.  I didn’t need no stinkin’ man’s hand to cross a stream.  Until I did.  I was about to slip off a rock, so the guy in front of me reached to help.  I took it, looked up, and everything changed.  True story.  It sounds corny, and it is.  But that is how the letter to my best friend became null and void, and how I started my deep fall into love with Marc, the man I (much later) married.  He suddenly nearly glowed, I adored him so.  He had no such reaction to my hand in his, but for me it was magic.

There, now you go…

Leaving Mae

          Written April, 2012
          I just left my one-year-old baby for the first time.  I’ve left her for a few hours before, even for a long date after she has gone to bed, but that’s it.  So this five day trip from the middle of the country to the coast is going to be hard.  Perhaps harder on me than on her, but who knows.  It’s hard to tell with a baby.  Hard to tell what their little brains are thinking.  Certainly you can tell she’s sad if she’s crying, or mad if she’s throwing her bib at you when you try to give her another bite of peas.  But you can’t really look inside and see what being left by her mommy, just after being weaned no less, does to my baby girl’s heart.
          Maybe it’s not something I should dwell on; maybe I should just let it be what it is and make the best of whatever happens afterward.  That sounds good…but that’s not really me.  I like to dig, so that’s what I’ll do, and then maybe I’ll feel better about it.  Or maybe I’ll fly home.
          Sweet Baby Mae is actually, literally, should-be-in-the-book-of-facts, the most darling baby that ever lived.  She smiles all the time, sings happily with her nose scrunched up in sincerity, says “hi” clear as day to everyone in the grocery store, and gives hugs freely with back-pats included.  When she cries, you know something is very wrong.  I love being around her.
          As a mom of three I can certainly say that I could use a break from mothering for a few days.  Time to sleep through the night, drink some tea and read the paper without being asked to read the comics aloud, or go to the bathroom whenever I wish without company.  That sounds lovely.  I do need a breather from the older two – one seven and one four.  My constantly-talking, question-asking, repeat-button-on-the-cd-player-loving ones who tend to leave me exhausted by the end of the day.  I don’t need a break from my baby, though.  She says “hi” in the morning when I scoop her up from her crib, “ta-da” when I put the shades up, and her “Da-deee” is so clear and sweet and toothy I can’t even be bothered that it’s the wrong name.  We’re completely in love, and I miss her already.
          I know that part of my anxiety over leaving her is her disposition and utter cuteness, the lack of which is going to make me cry at least once while I’m gone.  And another is hoping that I haven’t scarred her for life by taking off so abruptly, for what in baby years will feel like six months.  But I think the deeper issue here is that she is my last.  As far as we’re planning anyway, this is my last baby to be born of my body, to be nursed by me, to be rocked while I sing her goodnight as she looks up with her big blue eyes and sucks her thumb, smiling slightly at the corners.  This is it.  And now I’m missing five days.
          Aha.  My self-love strikes again.  Really, this is a selfishness problem.  If I rank my reasons for being sad to leave, my own feeling of loss is at the top.  Love for my darling baby a close second.  I disguised my self-centeredness even to me.
          In light of this discovery I can rest a little easier about my trip.  I can let myself be sad about missing her, knowing that she, likely, is back at home not really realizing I’m gone.  Certainly not knowing I’ve flown so very far away, and am holding my brother’s four-month-old twin girls instead of her.  And maybe in baby years it’s actually like twenty minutes?  She does love her daddy – his is the one name she says .  So after all this fuss about leaving Mae, I’ve worked through it a bit and feel much better.  Despite my initial worries for Mae’s sake, apparently that’s what this was all about.


          Every road trip I’ve taken has had a soundtrack of sorts – a certain album or  mix of songs that forever reminds me of a specific place.  As a kid it was Huey Lewis and the News and DeBarge (no joke) in Virginia, and John Cougar Mellencamp in Indiana.  Last year Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto played while we drove around Florida, and this year it was Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What.  Somehow I had never heard it, and the moment I did I fell in love.  So well-written, so intricate, so beautiful.  My favorite lines from the whole album are from the song Love and Hard Times.  
The bedroom breathes in clicks and clacks.
Uneven heartbeat.  Can’t relax.
But then I feel your hand in mine.
Thank God I found you in time.
Thank God I found you.
Thank God I found you.
          It’s a short story in six lines.  Amazing.  When I hear it I immediately feel the mood, picture the scene, empathize with the restless heart calmed by the hand of his love.  I’ve been there.  I’m there often, actually.  My husband’s handhold can calm me after a nightmare, make a heart palpitation from worry settle down, allow me to start the day with the warmth of my best friend’s touch.
          Marc and I had our 14th anniversary a few weeks ago.  Sadly, I was getting over a stomach bug so we celebrated with Gatorade and a rented movie.  Not exactly ideal.  But beyond the way we marked the occasion, we both agreed with complete sincerity that we love each other more today than when we promised to.  We have not lived happily ever after – an impossibility if you’re being real in your marriage – but we’ve made it through the ups and downs of these years and found ourselves as deeper, better, more understanding friends and lovers.
          When we were dating Marc and I would make each other mix tapes – yes, that’s how old I am – which is an art in and of itself.  The right combination of songs, in the right order, expressing the exact feelings you have or the mood you want to create.  We found a tape case full of them the other night and he asked which ones I’d like to save.  “All of them, thank you,” I said.   Because they mark a specific time in my life, just as the trip soundtracks do.  And the ones from Marc remind me how it felt when he first liked me, when we missed each other til it hurt, when he promised to stick with me no matter what.  Yes, I’m keeping those out-of-date relics.  Until death, or basement mold, do us part.
         In the grand scheme of things, 14 years is a smidge.  My parents have been married for forty-one years, my grandparents for sixty-six.  That’s truly an achievement.  I can’t imagine the like-the-back-of-my-hand feeling we’ll have about one another if Marc and I get to be together that long.  There will be days when I want to clock him, yes.  Days when we get mad and say things we later have to retract.  But so many years down the road, when I reach over to grab my husband’s hand, I hope I feel the same way I do today.
Thank God I found you in time
Thank God I found you
Thank God I found you.