Friday, July 25, 2014

Sometimes you just have to say thank you

I had a different post percolating in my head, one that was going to be a bit difficult to write, and might be saved in "Drafts" for a really long time while I prayed about whether or not to publish but then ...

I cashed out at the end of my shift and everything balanced, and someone smiled at me, a deeply genuine smile, and then I walked out into the cool night air, the breeze a caress on my skin, and I realized I hadn't been triggered all day and I came home and Brad's greeting was so upbeat and the dog was delighted to see me and the thistles I sprayed with Round Up seem to be dying like they're supposed to ...

And I thought maybe I should just sit down and say Thank you, God, for this life, this here and now life, full of all these small goodnesses.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Current favourite song

From her CD "Travelers", Carolyn Arends

It Has To Be You

I don't know quite who I am anymore
I don't know if that's normal or not
I don't know if I know You at all anymore
At least not in the way that I thought
But I know there are canyons in Utah
Red as fire, high as the sky
And they make me cry
'Cause I don't know one living soul
Who could carve out of stone such a view
So I know -- it has to be You
It has to be You

There are days all of my faith slips away
There are days that I don't even care
There are days I find myself desperately praying
And still cannot feel that You're there
But the sun, it comes up every morning
Blazing glory, consuming the night
And it's quite a sight
'Cause I can't find one human mind
Who could make the sun shine ever new
So I know -- it has to be You
It has to be You

Well if I've built my hopes on mirrors and smoke
If it's all been a dream from the start
Why then can't I deny the yearning inside
More real than the beat of my heart

There's a voice I cannot hear with my ears
There's a voice I can hear all the same
There's a voice that speaks
In my dreams and my fears
It is endlessly calling my name
And on warm summer breezes it whispers
Rivers carry its soft lullaby
And it makes me cry
'Cause I don't know one other love
That would go to such lengths to break through
So I know -- it has to be You
It has to be You

Monday, July 14, 2014

so here's a thing I was thinking about

Facebook statuses, let's take one of the latest ones, for instance, where I said something along the lines of "I would just like to take this moment to publicly thank God for the song of the redwinged blackbird."

Isn't that lovely?  I'm apparently having a gentle summer morning, listening to the birds, and being thankful to God for His creation.  Such a peaceful life I'm living.

Someone else recently posted a picture of herself doing some great summer holiday thing.  A friend who I know has struggled with depression, and I look at the picture and think, "Oh, she's doing well."  Well, I don't really know that, do I?  All I really know is that she had the emotional energy, in that particular moment, to post something cheerful.  Which - go her.  I know how hard it can be to find that energy some days.

This is IN NO WAY a criticism.

I've just been thinking that maybe, just maybe, it might be more honest to write about why I was so thankful for the redwinged blackbirds that particular morning.

It was Friday, 8 am.  I'd just dropped Amy off, and the morning was free.  I thought I'd go home a different way from how I  usually go, even though I'd had another sleepless, nightmare-laden night.  I started driving rather aimlessly, taking random turns, and just generally not paying attention.  I ended up on a dirt road at the back of beyond, somewhere north of Calgary, parked by the side of the road, overcome in the aftermath of yet another flashback, unable to formulate a plan to get home.  I was pretty sure I could get home - after all, I'd gotten myself *there*, I just couldn't quite work out how. 

I have a list of people to call when I need help.  The deal is to call until I get someone, and if I don't get anyone on the list, I go back to the top and try again.  I didn't have the list with me, but I called the people I could remember - no answers.  No replies to my texts.  Just me and God and a black cloud of despair, on a gravel road in rural Alberta.

I was pointed towards the mountains.  I liked the view, so I reasoned that driving west couldn't hurt anything, and would be nice scenery, at least.  I started driving, slowly, rather hoping the phone would ring or someone would text me, and just a few hundred metres from where I'd been parked, I came upon a huge flock of both redwinged and yellow headed blackbirds.  I love birds.  I do not remember ever seeing yellow headed blackbirds before last summer, and they delight me.  There was also a mudhen mama with several fuzzy babies in the ditch beside me, and I turned off the van and rolled down the windows and listened to birdsong, and watched birds being birds, and lifted "my eyes to the hills"* and thanked God for, once again, having my back when I just couldn't go forward.

I watched birds, and remembered to breathe, and remembered I had a GPS on my phone, and then someone answered a text, and then I drove home, awash in gratitude.

*(Psalm 121:1-2 "I will lift my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help.  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Two a.m.

(Somewhere, someone else feels this way, or felt this way, or will feel this way.  Some of us need to name it, for the rest of us, who will be up in the middle of the night, not wanting to wake anyone else up but desperately needing community.  This post is for those people.)

It starts with anger this time.  No discernible focus, just rage, building, building ...

I want to bite something.  Myself, preferably.  But J gave me a contract to sign - no hurting.  ("You've been hurt enough", she tells me.)  I roam the house looking for something to take edge off.  An ice pack, shock of cold on my palms, my face.

Breathe.  Breathe.

I know this is a memory struggling to surface - some come so hard.  (Some strike swift, stunning me out of myself, but not this one.)  I decide to go to bed, remember J's advice:  "Surround yourself with items of comfort."  Right.  Essential oils - there's a new blend I'm trying, the word "sleep" in the name on the bottle.  A few drops on my pillow, a few drops on a teddy bear.  Music on, low and gentle.

I sleep.  "To sleep - perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub."  Less than an hour later, I jerk awake from nightmare.  Lie disoriented in the dark, and I cannot remember what year it is, but I am convinced that the world is not a safe place for the people I love.  Find my husband, my almost-grown children.  The older one is out with friends, doesn't answer my text.  I am about to dial her number when I remember another promise I made to her, to myself - "My anxiety is not my children's problem."

More essential oils on the pillow.  Breathe deep, deep - it's a layered blend, soothing.  I try to name the separate aromas.

I finally decide that I'm sabotaging myself by insisting on sleep as the final goal. One slow breath becomes my goal, and then another one, and then another one.  When I am still wakeful after an hour of this, I run a cool bubble bath, thankful that I do not work the next day.  Open the blinds, lie in the cool dark, looking for stars, considering the misshapen moon.  Damaged, I think, like me, and yet - still lovely.

Terror shivers beneath my skin.  "'Old stuff", I whisper, "old stuff.  Let it move through you."  The fear, long suppressed, rises to be released.  The fear is real, from so long ago, but the danger is not.  There is no danger.  When the shaking stops, I go back to bed, and finally, as the first rays of the new sun feather the window, sleep comes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

either you get it, or you don't

No Hunter in the Field
By Karen Connolly, from "Come, Cold River" (you can buy it here)

now comes the part
where the father
lies dying

at last

this part has taken
my whole life to arrive
I've waited for it
like a child starved
for Christmas

forgiveness is

the old man
coughing up
the slag in his lungs
his face hollowed out
ashen with the work of it

his fingers are gnarled
but they grip the steering wheel steadily
hold fast against gusts of wind
feints of ice
he knows the road with his body

he drives himself
towards death
wearily, irritated
by the traffic
for crissake these assholes
never signal

(though after the poem
he will rally. typical.
he will go to white sand,
blue sea, Thailand,
and lie down
with a black-haired woman)

but today I believe he will not survie
the winter. so it's kind of him
to drive me
back to the house
for Christmas dinner
the first one I've been to
in a decade

the animals
will be cooked
before I arrive
nothing has to be gutted
or plucked, thank God

forgiveness is

that the car
smells so strongly of him
cement dust

I thought that the smells
would diminish with him
stranger still is the

I glance around as we drive
digging to find the old fury
that shakes the body
ruptures mind underskin
thoat caving in hammering shut -

but it's cast out of  me
no demon between us
no hunter in the field

just blown snow
under herringbone sky
I sit beside an old man
who cannot hurt me

forgiveness is -


a deer no one
has ever tracked

the coyote I glimpsed many times
but could not touch until now

the long spine of grass piercing snow

the ribs of an old fence

the lone grace
                         of a tree
                                        out there
                                        speaking plainly

                                        here is a way to stand
                                        in the world

and when I push open the door
the ice-splash
of wind in my face
is forgiveness
                       wake up, you are alive

this air! this freezing air
floods my nose
my throat

yes! come
cold river
rush in


Saturday, May 24, 2014

A little birdie told me ...

Therapy yesterday.  I started crying a few minutes after I sat down and about an hour later, I said "Wow, that's a lot of crying."  The crying was interspersed with talking, or trying to talk, or trying to make myself try to talk, but really - there was a lot of crying.

Just before I left, J said "You'll need to be intentional about being present in today this afternoon.  This was really intense, and you are going to really really want to check out." 

I agreed, but I really didn't know how to accomplish it.  I almost fell asleep driving home (one of my subconciously chosen methods of checking out) - I think it was only my vicious headache that kept me awake.

I parked the van in my driveway, took a deep breath, and walked to the front door.  Well, partway to the front door, because there in my flower bed, just a few feet from the sidewalk, was a Mama robin and two just-fledged baby robins.  (Robin parents typically feed their babies for some period of time after they leave the nest.)  One of the babies took off down the side of the house and hid far away from me, but the other one scooted forward until it felt hidden by the irises, and we sat there, the two of us, peacefully co-existing for several minutes.

The neighbour's nine year old boy happened past.  I showed him the baby robin.  He stroked it - just once - with a gentle forefinger, and then we spent about fifteen minutes talking about birds and baby animals and this really cool video he'd seen about animals and camouflage.

And then he was gone, and my headache was gone, and the second baby robin hopped off in search of his sibling and I sat on the bench and thought:

Jesus loves me, this I know
A little birdie told me so.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The One About the Poetry Contest

This is pretty much only partly about the poetry contest, and a lot more about how every so often, something happens that lets me know I am actually healing. 

I haven't written much lately - I journal, but not even a lot of that.  Writing is complicated and messy for me right now, and while I miss it desperately, I know that this season will not last, and one day I will write again.  However, last fall I had the great good fortune to attend a workshop held by Malcolm Guite, and over the course of the day, I challenged myself to write a rhymed, metrical terza rima beginning with a first line of Malcolm's that resonates with me deeply.  ("Begin the song exactly where you are.")  I rose to the challenge, and after a bit of tweaking, liked the finished (ha.  Poetry is NEVER finished.) so much that I sent it in to the yearly contest at  I am always happy to support the work that Utmost is doing.

I've entered this contest before.  In April of 2008, I blogged about that year's contest.  I placed 19th that year, I think, and if I'm remembering the numbers correctly, that was the top 5 or 10% of total entries.  I was disappointed.  Here's what I had to say:

"I was disappointed. Also rather annoyed at myself for being disappointed, but disappointed nonetheless. And frustrated. I think that I can see the difference between my poetry and the top prizewinners but I don't know how to bridge that gap. As I was hiding in the bathroom trying to figure out what was SO WRONG with just wanting to be the BEST, this question slipped quietly into my mind.

"Why do you want to be the best?"

I'm a Christian. I know all the right answers.
To give glory to God. To use the gift I've been given. To strive for excellence. "We are called to excellence", I have spouted many many times.

Those weren't my answers. They weren't even on my list of answers. The answers rose like monsters from the murk.
Because I am smart. I am not as good looking as my brother or as funny as my brother but I am smart. Because my dad won't mind that I'm fat if I'm the best in the class. Smart is who I am, and if I'm first, I'm the smartest."


This year, my poem recieved an Honourable Mention. And it deserved it - it's a good poem, technically demanding, and fairly well executed.  There are a few lines that aren't quite as clearly evocative as they could be, but it ends well, and redemptively. 

But did you notice the difference in my phrasing?  In 2008, I said "I placed 19th."  This year, I said "My poem ..." 
As with other year's, I am reading the poems that placed higher (three rousing cheers for my dear friend Ellen Gray and her poem!) and thinking about the judging process but this time? for the first time that I can remember?  It's not about me.  It's about the work, which is both me and not me, but praise for my poetry is simply that, praise for my poetry.  It says nothing about my worth as a person.

And I believe that organically, immediately, without having to think about it now.

Such a deep deep blessing.