Who's Beside You When You're Facing the Fire?

How was your first Monday of the year?

I don’t know about you, but today feels like the real first day of 2019. It’s the start of a week without any half days or holidays.

This week is a wide-open mouth to the new year.

IMG_1872.jpg

My first Monday was better than I expected but in order to explain just how Monday, this Monday was, I need to begin with the end of last week.

Friday was tough for me. Just horrific. I’m not a supporter of Facebook Vague-booking, but to respect the privacy of others, I cannot release specific details about why my Friday was beyond miserable. But I will tell you that something happened – and I hoped against all levels of hope -- that it must have been a gross misunderstanding and unfortunate break-down in communication. The whole event left me feeling humiliated, devalued and unworthy. I felt cast aside. Good God it hurt. It was that awful stinging sensation where it feels like electricity was running through my chest. I was in shock. I spent the rest of my afternoon and evening ping-ponging between rage and shame.

On Saturday, I traveled without my husband and kids to meet my sisters in the North Carolina mountains for the memorial service of a close family friend. The Cherokee woman who passed was more than a friend, she was family – like a cousin maybe – she was extraordinary.

In the early 1950's, our mothers were in nurses training together and they’ve been friends ever since. Nearly 67 years. Their lives mirrored one another. Each of them was married almost the same length of time before they lost their husbands to different types of cancer. Each of them had three daughters. We may not have been related by blood but were most certainly connected by heart. The memorial was a moving tribute to our friend who was young and vibrant, a relentless advocate for all things just, and a talented artist. Remarkably, her final works were purchased by the Smithsonian.

Her early death rattled me.

After the service, I had dinner with my mom and sisters. Our lives, normally separated by miles and different states, joined as we ate together and reconnected. Isn’t it amazing how births, weddings and deaths bring people together? It’s a reminder of how life gently nudges us to connect when we can.

I explained how awful my Friday was. How humiliated I was. I admitted that my complaint seemed even worse now and it embarrassed me to share it with them today, of all days, considering we had just said goodbye to our friend. I told them the unfortunate series of events and they listened to the story. I couldn’t help but notice the motion of our eating felt decelerated. It was like our table and the air around us was encased in gelatin. I would drag my fork over the crab meat and flounder. One sister would use her finger to catch the condensation from her water glass, the other would move the centerpiece and dish filled with pats of butter just so, out of the way. They were listening. They were hearing me. I needed their advice and I needed their presence and they gave me all of it.

One of the honest benefits of confiding in your sisters is that they won’t tell you what you want to hear. They will lovingly tell you what you need to hear. It wasn’t easy listening to their view of my awful, terrible Friday. Some of it I didn’t want to hear, but it helped me to look at the situation from another angle and appreciate that my lens was not the same lens of the other person. My perception doesn’t necessarily align with their position. My truth may not be their truth. It was a powerful conversation and I was grateful to my sisters for it.

I drove the three hours home and thought about everything they had said. It was late when I got home so I kissed my husband, hugged my teenagers – surprisingly they allowed the affection -- and collapsed into bed. I was asleep in seconds.

Sunday morning, I woke up and determined I needed a full day of rest. A day of absolutely nothing and zero requirement to accomplish, check off or plan. I wanted to not worry about anything for an entire day. I wanted to empty my mind from the frustrations of Friday and my sister’s solutions from Saturday. I wanted to just – be. I needed to let go of it all and allow things to settle. I wanted to amble around the aisles of a local antique mall and just get lost in all the curiosities of the booths. My husband enjoys the search for vintage oddities, so I asked him to join me. I needed him to be with me. He knows he helps center me, so I needed this time with him. We talked and strolled and explored the problems in a relaxed, nonjudgmental way. I was able to talk about the issues without extreme emotions. I was settled. I was discovering how I felt, but also considered how the other person may have perceived what happened. It was peaceful. Even though Friday was contentious, Saturday and Sunday waves were smoothing it over.

That’s when I found this print.

It was tucked behind an old radio and ceramic figurines and it captured me as soon as I saw it. The couple dressed in their finery appear sad – the woman more so than him. She seems melancholy and thoughtful. Maybe he’s being comforting and supportive. They stare into the fire in a modest cabin and hold each other. Something has happened. We don’t know what it is or why the artist felt compelled to capture it, but I was captivated. The longer I looked at the print, the more I wanted to come inside their home. I wanted to sit on the floor near the hearth and ask what was troubling her. Before I realized it, I felt a cold tear slip off my cheek. My husband moved beside me and studied the print. He told me to get it. He said it speaks to you – get it. I set it back on the shelf and said, I love it. I really do. The woman looks so sad, but not today.

So, this brings me to my first Monday of the new year. The misunderstanding I thought I had with the other person found brilliant clarity and the problem I thought I had disappeared. The person had not had a change of heart. All is well and I am grateful that what I thought was bad turned out to be just as it should be.

I was so happy that found myself driving back to the antique store. I bought the print I found yesterday. The woman in the painting will always remind me that sadness and melancholy will come and go but staring into a fire beside people who’ll weather life’s storms make it all worthwhile.

When Your Son Plans His Own Study Schedule - You've Done Something Right.

AGBH Ipad and List.jpg

It’s Saturday morning. Still early and dark. I’m in our kitchen and only have on the light in the pantry so my tired, bleary eyes can adjust. I’m waiting for the pot of coffee to finish and deciding whether or not I can interrupt the brewing long enough to pour myself a cup and not make a mess.

I look up and notice something on the kitchen table that wasn’t there last night before I went to bed. It looks like a note at my son’s regular place at the table.

For just a moment, I thought about how much time I have before he won’t be sitting at his regular spot at the table because he’ll be away at college. He’s a junior and my time with him sitting in that chair, telling stories and inhaling my dinners is limited.

The coffee isn’t ready and I consider getting a Keurig so the coffee process wouldn’t take so long. I walk over to the table and recognize my son’s handwriting on two sticky notes pressed together. He’d written more than one note could hold. I squint my eyes and focus on the masculine, micro-scrawl when I realize that he’s made a Saturday exam study schedule. Every hour and half hour is designated for specific subjects as well as reasonable breaks.

I hear the beep announcing the pot has finished brewing but keep looking at his schedule. I’m impressed that he’s self-regulated his Saturday and imposed a tight study schedule, but a bit melancholy over missing the sleep late and lazy days of his adolescence.

Our work to raise a young man ready for the world appears to have crossed another benchmark. Even though I should be celebrating his maturity and accomplishments, I’m missing my little boy with mussed up hair who asks for strawberry pop tarts then sits in silence as he wakes up slowly. It dawns on me just now who he gets that from...

I leave the note just as I found it and head to the coffee pot and pour my first cup. I’m proud of my son. I can’t wait to see what he does with his remarkable life and watch him grow into the man he is destined to become, but there’s a big part of my heart that wishes we could wait just a little while longer for the responsibilities, schedule and adulting.

✨I’ve blurred his note for his privacy.


An Argument, A Fainting Spell and a Journey Back to Each Other

Last night my husband and I argued. My words were unproductive and snippy, his were frustrated and a notch louder than necessary. We were the only two people in the car so I could hear him even though I was not listening. I pressed the right pedal past 80 mph hoping to drive away from this stupid conversation. We could not find common ground on anything. Not one thing.

hug.jpg

We gave up. We stopped talking and rode in silence for what seemed like forever. I’m uber stubborn and wasn’t about to give in and talk first. He was staring at his phone anyway and probably enjoying the quiet. I was playing a ridiculous childish game with myself— if I talk first I lose—but I think we both lost because we weren’t even trying.

We arrived at the venue and had to communicate about other things. Did you have the tickets, where should we park, do we have time to grab a bite before the event? Our conversation was practical and efficient and easier since we didn’t have to talk about our future past the next half hour.

Several of you know me personally but most of you know me based on what I post online. I try to be authentic and as close to real as possible. The next part of the story shames and embarrasses me but I’m not sure what to do about it since my brain has been wired this way since childhood. I’m not sure how to de-program what I’ve known since I was in elementary school.

The first time it happened I was watching a movie on the floor of the library with my third grade classmates. It was a story about a young girl who was thrown from a horse and her spine was damaged. The scene was a hospital room with this girl strapped to a bed, head, chin, shoulders, arms, waist, thighs, ankles anchored to the wiry, metal bed then flipped over so she was facing the floor and they could operate on her back. They never showed the surgery but the camera zoomed in on her terrified face just before the anesthesia set in.

That’s when it happened to me. I got hot so fast I started sweating. The room was spinning and I tried to stand to leave but my legs were unstable and wobbly. I collapsed but was determined to get out of the room and away from the disturbing medical sounds coming from the movie. I remember trying to crawl around the other kids, sweat dripping off my forehead and nose. I managed to stand and kept thinking I want to get out of the room and press something cold against my body. I was so hot. I remember falling outside the door of the library’s media room onto linoleum and that it was cool against my face. I woke up in the nurse’s office.

Over the years, I’ve fainted many times. My triggers are certain detailed medical situations. I’ve rallied through the birth of my children and successfully cared for my husband after his eye surgery and shoulder surgery but the less I know about specifics the better.

Back to last night.

We went to a book signing of one of my favorite authors Jodi Picoult She has a new book #aSparkofLight and it uncovers both sides of the controversial topic of abortion. You can keep reading, I’m not offering an opinion, I’m just explaining what happened.

During the course of the book’s discussion, the differences and specific explanation of what actually happens in a medical office during the procedure varied between something that looks like you blew your nose and see a little mucus and a bit of blood in your tissue to much more...

But that’s when I got hot.

I didn’t hear anymore. I was trapped in the center of the row and the exit door seemed a football field away. I fumbled in my purse for mints and rattled open the cinnamon Altoids. It didn’t help. The sweat was matting my hair to the side of my face and the lights were swaying. Danny looked at me and asked if I was okay but he knew the answer.

He cleared the aisle and started quietly whispering to our seat mates to make way. As soon as I hit the lobby I saw a sofa and fell onto it. I was hyperventilating and dizzy. My shirt was soaked. I knew I would blackout soon. The ushers came over and asked what I needed. My husband said, if you’ll get her a cup of water I’m going to wet some paper towels in the bathroom.

He looked at me and said I’ll be right back.

And that’s the point of this entire story. Danny comes back. Even when we disagree, he comes back and reminds me why I fell in love with the guy who knows me and loves me through all of my idiosyncrasies. Had I been alone or with anyone else, I would have been more anxious and distraught because I’d have to explain what was happening to me. Because he knew, I knew he was in control of my needs and I could focus on recovering quickly from my episode which lasted about 8 and half minutes.

I cooled off, drank the water, and pressed the wet paper towels to my head and neck. He sat beside me and searched my eyes for me to come back to him. And I did. And at that moment I didn’t give a damn about what we were arguing about earlier.

Love what matters.

A Love History of Guys - How Each One Helped Me Find What I Truly Wanted

guy holding record.jpg

I thought I wanted the bad boy with the hot car. Or my God, the guy with the eyes – every time he looked at me my insides turned into lava. Or the smart guy who helped me pass 11th-grade Chemistry. (Side note, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the smart ones…His wife looks super happy on Facebook.) When I went to college I thought it was the good looking Italian guy from New Jersey, who charmed me and my roommates by singing outside our dorm room window. Later when I lived in Atlanta, I dated this guy who made me laugh so much I couldn’t breathe. I thought I wanted that guy - the funny guy.

But through all of my boyfriends and friends who were guys, life would offer little glimpses of what I really wanted in a guy. My heart would nudge me to pay attention to the traits that would matter in the future. The important attributes more than fast cars, dreamy eyes or the romance of a serenade.

*Like the time a guy mowed my parent’s yard because my dad hurt his back.
*Like the guy who brought magazines and egg drop soup when I had my wisdom teeth removed.
*Like the guy who drove all night to sit with me when my dad died.
*Like the guy who stopped something awful from happening to me at a party where I never should have been.
*Like the guy who bought my lunch when I was in college, working three jobs and still broke.
*Like the guy who helped me get back home after a snow storm.
*Like the guy who sat with me in the airport before my flight to L.A. when I was terrified to host my company’s presentation.
*Like the guy who came to meet me in the middle of rush hour traffic after a van hit my car.
*Like the guy who said, “You’re a writer – I believe in you.”

The things that curl your toes and turn your insides into Jell-O will not matter when life pushes you. Yesterday, my husband’s actions reminded me of why I fell in love with him. It wasn’t that it was a difficult event or that he handled some big struggle or issue, but it was a little moment in time that captured my heart again.

I had an appointment downtown that was taking longer than expected. I texted him and asked if he could feed my meter because I didn’t have any more change and I was stuck in the meeting. At the same time, unbeknownst to me, he was on the phone with our son who was having car trouble (locked steering wheel and couldn’t get the ignition to engage – rookie mistake.) He also just hung up the phone with his mother’s assisted living facility and finished a meeting and conference call that took longer than expected. He has a stream of people with varied problems in his office every single day but he handles it with a steady, calm that I respect so much.

That’s the guy I want.

The one, who patiently guides our son, loves and cares for his mother, values and respects his co-workers, and drives the four blocks to feed my meter. Danny is funny and he is cute and he does help me in tough situations. He’s honored my parents in so many ways and he’s driven miles and miles just to see me. So when life gives you glimpses of what your heart needs, pay attention – because it’s rarely what you “think” you need.