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books, writing

Answering the Call

I giggled to myself on Saturday morning.  I woke up before anyone else in my parents’ house.  A late holiday weekend celebration underway.  The house, still cold and quiet, as everyone else snoozed away.  The early morning Winter sunlight barely showed through the tightly shaded windows, promising some minute heat as the day wore on. 

Seeking out warmth and looking to escape the frozen tundra that was my old bedroom (now deemed the guest room/Pell abode), I tiptoed down the hall.  Tim and the boys still snoring.  Ryna and Eric’s door still closed and nothing stirring at my parent’s end of the hall.  

When I was in high school there used to be one tile that was warmer than all the others, a little short of midway down the hall.  A malfunction of some missing insulation on the basement heating ducts, I think.  My toes searched for that warm tile but found only uniform temperatured flooring.  Then I remembered my dad telling me how he fixed the ducts below the house a few years back.  I mourned that warm tile that used to welcome my blue toes each morning.

I managed to make it down the hall and next to the fire without disturbing anyone else, not even Clementine.  Someone had been up earlier than me.  The evidence lie in the extra two logs burning bright and already blazing throughout with neon red embers and white charcoal falling off the bone.  Whoever it was had already gone back to bed for a few more minutes of shut eye.  Lucky me though, the family room was nice and toasty, a stark contrast to our bedroom.

A cup of coffee would have been nice in that moment but I didn’t want to wake anyone with the grinder.  That sacrifice for the quiet stillness would be worth it, especially if I got a chance to thoroughly dig into my new book.

I tucked myself into the blanket on the couch and cracked open my bright yellow book.  New pages smell so good, don’t they?  Always in need of a few stains from greasy fingers and some accidentally dogeared pages.  Pristine, unused and crisp, with so much promise of new worlds to explore, new ideas to discover, rich words to dissolve into my soul.

And that’s when the real giggle occurred.  I thought, Wow.  I can read the shit out of anything.  It’s always been this way.  If I can write half as well as I can read, this author thing might really turn out well.

All throughout my life, when my counterparts were outside, I was holed up inside, or at least in the shade, so the sun wouldn’t blind me to my page.  Don’t get me wrong, I still liked to get muddy outside, build forts in the empty lot next door and run crazy around the neighborhood, taking breaks to quench my thirst with the garden hose.  Yet even as the dirt layers grew on my bare elbows and knees, those words on the pages called to me.  Come back, we’re waiting for you.  

So I split my time living and reading about living.  I found kindred spirits in the real world and in the pages.  Both kinds real.  Both true friends.

When a rare sunny Summer day showed up in the Pacific Northwest, there was a 50/50 chance I would be inside soaking up the words as others soaked up the sun.  Most didn’t understand why I would actively choose to be inside.  Maybe they didn’t know that my soul needed to consume the written word, more than my skin needed the vitamin D that day.  Reading, an active kind of rest for my inner being.  When others needed the fresh air, I needed to breathe in new worlds and new characters.  It wasn’t an escape from my real life, it was more of being unable to deny the beckoning of my book.

On those days I picked my spot and settled in for the long haul.  In high school my parents had these forest green leather couches in the family room.  A matching overstuffed, shiny rocking recliner became MY spot.  I’m sure there is still a buttprint matching my teenage hiney in that chair.  That spot vacant only when I left for a food refill or a potty break.  I discovered the life and times of a red-haired girl from Avonlea in that chair.  Tolkien’s Eowyn kicked some ass there too.  Right there, by the fire, I traveled to other worlds, lived other people’s lives and spewed out emotions on all sides of the spectrum.  My body lay sedentary, but my mind flew.

Another time, I took over the hammock set up in the shade at our Eastern Washington campground.  Aslan was on the move and I couldn’t leave that spot, not even to jump in the cool lake.  The sun crossed the sky as I swatted gnats away and flipped page after page.

As these stories called to me and paralyzed me until they concluded, I began to feel more alive.  I needed the stories and, somehow, they needed me.  Lately, it’s been the same with writing, except the story is begging to be told instead of consumed.  And just as I stumbled along as I learned to read, I’m still tripping up as I write my own story.  Someday, I hope I can write the shit out of anything.  For now, I will attempt to free my soul pounding out one word at a time.

In my parents’ warming spot by the wood fire, I thought about how not much has changed.  Well, the green recliner is gone and other life loves and responsibilities don’t allow me to spend all day reading, but that new book still beckons to me, it always will, threatening to hold on until the last page is reached.  And so, until that first person walks down the hall, maybe searching for the elusive warm tile, I will crack open my book and answer the call.

books, deep down

Scary Vulnerability

I struggle with making decisions based on shame and guilt.  These decisions are the major, life changing ones, the little bitty every day ones and everything in between.  I know there is a good version of guilt, like feeling bad for sitting on the couch reading instead of going down to the basement to play in a Nerf battle with Tim and the boys.  That kind of guilt makes me a better mom and I’m grateful for it.  This is not the kind I’m talking about today.  I’m referencing the kind that overtakes my priorities.  I hate when guilt gets played as the trump card.  My tendency to people please double teams with it and I make rash, horrible decisions just to try to make the shame and guilt shut the hell up.

I just started reading this amazing book by Brene Brown.  The Gifts of Imperfection has helped me understand this whole process.  I’m only through chapter two and it’s blowing my mind.  I always knew that guilt had an overarching power over me, but I didn’t know how to combat it.  You can’t just say, guilt isn’t going to affect me anymore, and poof, you’re free.  At least for me, it doesn’t work like that.   Understanding how it works in our brains and then how it flows out through our actions is helpful.  If I can see each piece of the cycle and categorize feelings and actions, I can finally start to get a grip on it.  I have to tangibly process things, talk about it, write about it, then be given measurable steps to follow through.  Only then, can I even approach the idea of changing.

Along with her study on shame and guilt, Dr. Brown found that people who don’t let these monsters rule their life cultivate vulnerability.  I think this is the very reason I haven’t been able to shake those monsters.  I always try to put on a smiley face, make my life sound Pinterest worthy and shove everything else in the dark closet.  I can do all of the things myself!  Everything is fine!  Being vulnerable takes a lot of bravery and courage.  I don’t think I have enough right now but I’m sure going to wake up each day and try my best.

Actually, today I’m feeling especially low, so this post is even harder to pound out.  When I get like this, I feel like I have tunnel vision.  Anything perepheral is fuzzy and I can barely focus on the things right in front of me.  Using my brain feels like walking through a thick mud.  So, my apologies if none of this makes sense.

She also says that there are certain behaviors that work against being vulnerable.  Blaming is one of these.  It’s funny how I can totally see myself in all these negative behaviors.  When something goes awry, my default is to blame.

We protect ourselves, by looking for someone or something to blame.  Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgement or by immediately going into fix-it mode.-Brene Brown

So blame is equal to self protection.  I have to get over this.  I’ve put all my energy into putting up walls, while silently suffering under guilt’s heavy pin.  Now, instead of lashing out and wondering why I can’t change, I’m working at tearing down these barriers.  It sounds pretty scary to me, but this post here is my first baby step.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
-Brene (again, isn’t she wise?)

I want that light.  I want ownership of my own story, even if some of the pieces turn out to be really ugly.  I want to be vulnerable and celebrate with those who want it too.