Friday, March 29, 2013

the waking up is like that

The past ten weeks have been full - of writing class assignments and co-leading a ministry at church and trying to stay connected to friends and trying to keep my bedroom live-able and my clothes washed and dealing with some messy emotions and feeling like I wasn't doing anything well enough and ...

Still, I had some Big Plans for this week, the week after the crazy ten. On Saturday I went to Barnes & Noble to buy some writing books and look through some magazines. I had essays and articles to write, ones I'd been putting on the back burner and that I promised I wouldn't procrastinate on any longer. On Sunday night, I sat down to read those writing books and my eyes wouldn't stay open. I went to sleep soon after 8pm, thinking that I'd be ready to start early morning writing sessions at 5 the next morning.

And then I slept in.

And as if my body knew better than my mind, which is constantly in motion, I just kept sleeping. Sunday night, 9 hours. Monday night, 10 hours. Tuesday night, another 9. For the better part of this week I showed up at work feeling like the haze that hid the mountains was fogging up my brain, and it was all I could do to stay sitting up. I just wanted to sleep.

I've been thinking a lot about sleep and my complex relationship with it. I love it and yet resist it. I've always had difficulty taking naps because I can't seem to settle down. I set my alarm earlier and earlier, thinking maybe that will help me get ahead, get control. I think something's wrong with me if I do it too much. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and my body was a mess (and anemic), I would come home from work and take naps. I remember having anxiety dreams that I was sleeping my life away, afraid I would always be that tired. In fact, my anxiety dreams are often about being tired, being sluggish, not being able to wake up fully.

After I had knee surgery, and was so very tired, my friend reminded me that the body heals itself in sleep. I was still young then, not yet a prisoner to being tired. (That was 26, and that same friend told me that it all started to change at 27, and she was right!). I try to remember this now, that my body (and mind and spirit) must need those hours of being covered by that heavy blanket of darkness. I think of Adam, whom God put to sleep so that He could take something out of him. The result was Eve. And so I wonder about what God's  up to when I'm asleep.

The sleep is working, I think, because the past two days I've been alert and ready. I feel that spark when ideas come and I'm excited to write about them, when I read and think, how did they know that put those words, that idea next? When Adam woke up, he recognized the beauty and relevance and for-him-ness (what's a word for that?) of Eve. Sleep is so wonderful for many reasons, but maybe mostly because the waking up is like that.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

more than any words can show


The inside says:
And hoping, somehow, you will know
that more than any words can show,
you're loved because you're
such a special daughter!
Today this card came in the mail, from my mom. She still sends cards for every holiday. If you could see inside, you'd see a few words underlined twice, including the word "special" before daughter. At the end, she wishes me a happy whatever holiday it is, then punctuates the wish with two exclamation points made to look like bunny ears, with a smile underneath the two dots. (She does this for all holidays, not just Easter.) Then she signs the cards "Love, Mom and Dad, xo xo."

I used to open these cards looking for the twenty dollar bill she'd include. But right around the time she stopped including the money (did turning 30 cut me off?), I started to not care because it was the overly sentimental poetry that became the gift. I used to roll my internal eyes at this fluff, but at some point I remembered all those times standing with my mom in a Hallmark, CVS or Kmart while she picked through cards to send to relatives for holidays. She seemed to agonize over these decisions, while I impatiently told her that both of the choices she showed me would be fine. (They all said the same thing anyway, didn't they?) Maybe she got quicker at picking out cards, I realized, but also maybe not. She might have actually spent time choosing these words for me, even if they weren't her own.

The thing about my mom is that she has very unique ways of caring for people, including her daughters, including me. Her love is both so very pure and broken - and for both reasons it is hard to accept sometimes, but it also wholly hers to give. This took me a long time to understand because, growing up, I guess I expected my mother's love to look a certain prescribed way. Now I understand that driving me all over the greater Philadelphia area for freshman traveling team basketball games, dying my hair against her better judgment and sending me holiday cards with lines under words that she would speak if she could is her way of loving her moody, wandering youngest daughter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

the way to do it

Friday night hadn't gone as planned. The short version is I had a date that flopped. This outcome was unexpected, felt like complete u-turn from where I’d sensed we might be heading, so that it was the surprise, and not the situation itself, that had me feeling disappointed. The next morning my body woke up before the sun rose very high, and yet I felt like pulling the covers over my head as if it shined too bright into my room. I layed in bed texting my sisters about the night before, hoping their messages back would change everything. One said, “That stinks, Bets,” which felt as close as she could come to putting her arm around me, considering she was 2,000 miles away. Those kinds of gestures do change everything, just not in the way you thought you needed.

I should emphasize that things were not that bad. I hadn’t even had enough time to really fall for this guy. Like I said, I was just disoriented. After a few more minutes of lying in my bed, I threw the covers off to get ready for my running group. A steady pace, clear direction, the sound of others around me, and a challenge were things I knew I needed. And it was a good run, only I spent most of it replaying moments — embarrassing ones, confusing ones — instead of shaking the whole thing off. 

Later, after I’d run and showered and was putting away clean laundry in my room, Abby came in. Whenever she comes in my room, she hums a few notes and bounces up and down, her indication that she’d like to dance. That’s what we do together in my room. I put my phone into a speaker and chose music while Abby closed the door and climbed onto my low bed. By this point, we had our routine down. The words to the music were something about moving and shaking, and that’s what we did. She giggled and laughed and fell down and got back up. So this is the way to do it, I remembered. Dance it out, laugh and always get back up.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

on being stuck

One winter during high school, when I was at a weekend retreat in the mountains with my church youth group, our two fifteen-passenger vans got stuck at the bottom of an icy hill. It had snowed before our trip that weekend, and temperatures stayed cold, which meant that the weather was perfect, really. Perfect for a bunch of high schoolers to get in snow ball fights and go ice skating and then warm up by a fire with hot chocolate and card games. But on our way to the ice-covered lake, those two monstrous vans, filled with us teenagers, skidded down a hill. And when our leaders tried to drive them back up the hill, the wheels just turned over and over in the same spot on the icy road.

I remember freaking out. At the time, I was pretty scared and unresourceful about most things out of my comfort zone, so I couldn't imagine how we'd get up that hill again. Our leaders organized us to gather brush and sticks from the surrounding forest, so while we traipsed around the woods I held back tears and prayed desperate silent prayers that we wouldn't end up dead at the bottom of a hill in the Poconos.

One of my most irrational fears is being stuck. It keeps me moving. I like a plan, I like to know what's next, and I like some forward movement, or at least the appearance of it. On a related note, I can't stand running on a treadmill - it's like a human hamster wheel, all that work to stay in the same place. I usually crowd the front of the machine and end up almost tripping myself that way. Sometimes I wonder if this is a metaphor for life, but then I remember that running outside is the more natural habit, and that moving forward is a good thing.

But then I also need to remember that getting stuck is almost always temporary, and usually comes with some growth (and a good story).

My pastor sometimes talks about how quantum physics is a metaphor for our lives. The idea is that atoms often stay in the same place while energy builds, and then all at once are able to make a definable leap to another state. So they might look inert, or stuck, but something is building that helps them move up.

I guess that's sort of what happened that afternoon at the bottom of that hill. Eventually we gathered enough brush to put under the wheels, so that with the weight of us inside and some of the men pushing from behind, we got enough traction and somehow moved those huge vans up an icy hill. We didn't go ice skating that afternoon, but we did get our hot chocolate back at the cabin. And a good story to tell.