35 Days

I'm missing home.

It's the first of October and the very first breeze is about to blow across the stark desert sky that raised me. The 100+degree summer that left the locals succumbed to swimming pools and ice-cold movie theaters in my hometown borderland has now made its annual pilgrimage to the fall; my favorite time there.

The weather is moderate enough now that movies in the park have started. Kids on Saturday evenings will douse themselves to their mother's delight with bug spray. Women will wander around in sandals and sundresses toting around plastic cups with wine while munching on tortilla chips, fresh guacamole and hatch chile from the potluck table under the gazebo. They'll talk about their children's teachers this fall. They will sit down, on the one patch of grass in the borderland, atop their picnic blankets and settle in for the fall as their kids intermittently watch the movie, intermittently play soccer.

Soon, Halloween night at Madeline Park will be happening, my favorite day of the year there. At precisely 5:30pm, the kids from Mesita Elementary will line up in their costumes for the judging contest, followed by the parade of costumes around the park. Adults will be dressed up, too...some more outrageous than the kiddos. Adults will have spicy-somethings in their beverages, after all...everyone will be walking home around 9. There will be pizza at one house, posole at another. The endless train of children each adorned with a costume better than the last will go up to decorated house after decorated house to get candy, using the restroom in their neighbor's house as needed. There are no strangers here.

I am so lucky that I miss this magical place.

Six years ago, I was at a birthday party for one of my friend's children. I ran into the kitchen to grab something to drink, and an acquaintance from high school happened to be in the kitchen as well. I didn't know him well at the time, I knew we went to high school, I'd faintly remembered hearing his band, Foss, play at one of the few high school parties I'd attended (after sneaking out). I knew he had just finished up writing his book after choosing not to run for re-election on City Council, and instead was was running for Congressman as a long-shot against an incumbent that had been in the seat for awhile. I was not the political type, so his friendly questioning and recollection initially came at me with a bit of a shock. I was surprised he wanted to talk with me, I wasn't even registered to vote, and I mentioned this in the first two minutes of our conversation. He didn't seem to care.

We chatted long enough that my then-husband came looking for me. I remember how interested he was in my story. I was more than ashamed, living with my family on Piedmont Road back in college with my grown-ass husband and two children. But, he didn't make it shameful at all. Instead, he listened with intensity...leaning in to make sure he heard my words when they were so soft I was hoping they weren't caught. I wasn't going to lie to him, but I really didn't want to tell the truth. His three kids in the other room were getting their face painted with my children, his sweet wife....his sister, my friend, also in attendance. But, he was there with me. In the kitchen. Leaning in. He was fully present, with me and only me. We chatted about the challenges of healthcare in the border city and my future life as a nurse. We talked about our high school days and all of the friends we had in common. I noticed myself emerging during the conversation, finding my words...feeling worthy. We talked about the school our children were attending. I asked him about the water fountain at Madeline Park, reminding him that is hasn't worked since we were children. 

I saw him a few days later, while picking up my children at school. He called me by name and asked me about nursing school. Our circle of friends were many the same, so I'd see him...at neighborhood barbecues, at the school night out events, at Movies In The Park, at weekend gatherings. We got more conversational, we got more familial. I felt comfortable asking his opinion on things. His son attended my son's birthday party. His wife and I would chat about what it means to love a man who's life is dedicated to service. Over six years, I would divorce, be a single-working mom as a night-shift nurse, would fall in love with another, and eventually leave my hometown to go where I felt called.  I would become his fan, his constituent. I would register to vote.

I booked a plane ticket to go home this November. In 35 days, I'll be home for four short ones. I miss home...I miss home in the Autumn, during Halloween, during mid-term election season when my friend is running for office and I want to be there...with him, his sweet wife, his kind and supportive sister. I want to be present at the victory party, to wear a shirt with his name on it....to share beers with my friends...to split a bottle of wine with the women that I love, and maybe get my face painted. I want to give him a hug. He honored me, 6 years ago in that kitchen...when I felt shame and he didn't allow it. He reminded me that good men really do exist. Now, I'd like to honor him.

It's Saturday night and Foss is playing. I want to go out, but I have to wait until my parents go to bed first. We are so divided right now, we are so polarized. But, there is hope. There is a way. Leaders will rise. Madeline Park on Halloween night is not a fictitious place, it really does exist. When I close my eyes, I can feel it.

We can always find our way home.


When Love Hits

The church.

"Fight for your marriage. Be tolerant and forgiving. Have faith, patience, and forgiveness. When someone smacks one cheek, give them the other so that they may hit it also. If someone demands that you carry them one mile, carry them another."

I have listened intently to some of the most amazing preachers that America has known. Often, they will give lessons on staying in marriage, the importance of remaining together. Be steadfast, they will say. It's true, people become bored or lonely or get those itches and leave their faithful and kind spouses instead of working through their problems. I should know. A much younger, immature, unkind version of me did this once and hurt someone deeply. I truly believe, to this day, that the lessons that followed were either penance or the fiery experience of what I was searching for, or some kind of combination of the two. People say that nobody deserves violence, but I believed that I not only deserved it, but searched it out.

Real conversations are often avoided. These are the moments of truth that I see pulpits steer clear from. Rape. Incest. Violence. Addiction. Denial. Control. Uncle Tommy preying on niece Suzy while Mommy and Daddy are out of town on the couples retreat. A lover wrecking his car with his boyfriend in the passenger's seat. A wife's prayer that her family won't find out that her husband is in drug rehab yet again instead of visiting his family in Houston, like she told them. A man finding excuses so that people won't know what is really going on with his wife. A woman medicating herself with food, unconsciously making her body unattractive to abusers. A woman isolating herself away from others because she's afraid if they get too close, they'll see what's really going on. The thankful prayer that a wife has when he held a knife to her throat or a gun to her head instead of hitting her...because that doesn't leave a mark. Staying busy. Being vague. Self medicating. Avoiding. Overachieving. Denial. Denial. Denial.

As an ICU nurse, I see family violence on the daily. As someone who once fled with her two children in tow, being escorted to a safe house by a uniformed officer, I have a message for preachers...

Preach truth.

Violence is real, and both victims and perpetrators sit in your congregation each Sunday. Victims of violence are looking for hope. "Be steadfast," you will tell them. "Fight the good fight, finish the race, God rewards the faithful. Your day is coming." Victims want to believe that God will fix their abuser. God will heal their marriage. He is greater, He is bigger, He is truth and light and love. These things may all be true, but that might not be her truth. Her truth might be that she is trying desperately to make her reality into her fantasy. She's in love with the idea of the godly family, the godly husband. She sees in him his potential, avoiding the actual. Her reality is that she has neither a godly marriage or a godly husband. What she does have will make her poor and hurt, if it doesn't kill her. Literally.

Perpetrators sit in your congregation because you do a lot of their heavy work for them, feeding their argument. Their spouse needs to be even more patient and steadfast. Stay with them, forgive them, turn the other cheek, walk another mile. Their sins are momentary and forgivable, but marriage vows are eternal. A well-delivered sermon can make the most faithful, most abused spouse feel shame for even thinking about trying to find a way out.

Victims entrusted in your flock need to hear truth. They confuse strength with violence, and do not know how to distinguish between the two. They think that if they just hold on a little tighter, they can fix it...or if they can't, then God will. They listen to you say that it's always darkest before dawn. I've seen more patients admitted with baseball bats to their heads waiting for dawn to come than I care to count. With bloody wounds, they are itching to go back to the person who hurt them. I've seen people admitted with HIV and Hepatitis C, and their girlfriends don't know that they probably now have it, too. I've seen people expose others they claim to love to drug use, hoping to trap them into submission, manipulation, and shame.

From your pulpit each Sunday, you look out onto at least one face who is living this. They need to hear truth, and they need to hear it more than once. When you tell them that, "Nobody is perfect, couples do better who stay together," you are reinforcing their denial. They hear your message that is meant for couples who have the natural, growing pains of marriage and think that you are speaking into them. Your messages need to be clear, distinctive, and specific. You need to address the difficult topics just like you do the easy ones. Vanilla words are meant for vanilla problems, and should not be applied to the complexities of the dark side. And, if you'll remember, it was with the hurting that Jesus broke bread. He wasn't afraid to move among the shadows. And, His words pierced.

For anyone in an abusive relationship who wonders what truth looks like, here it is...

Love is patient. It is kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking or easily angered. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. You will know love by its fruits...joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, self control, and perseverance. If the fruits you see in someone are intimidation, manipulation, humiliation, isolation, harassment, name calling, threatening, stealing, lying, cheating, hitting, blaming, or shaming...then what you are looking at is not love. You only need to see these fruits once, for the fruits of the darkness are easily concealed, they trick and deceive. It is easy to confuse them if you've never experienced real love.

Do not become unequally yoked. If you feel that you are doing the heavy lifting and being taken advantage of, that you are becoming controlled or enslaved, then you probably are. Look inside. Are you a people-pleaser? Have you invited the abuser in with your optimism, your belief that there is good in everyone, that nobody is beyond being saved? God says otherwise. "For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?" There are people who want to take advantage, they might not posses a conscious. Or, they might be so soul-sick that they do not know any patterns other than the ones they've learned, the patterns that have been reinforced for them repeatedly. Identify these people, heed them. Do not become yoked with them. In psychology and psychiatry, there are terms for them...psychopathy, sociopathy, narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. The abuser will find their victim, if it's not you, they will move on to another. You will not fix them. Square pegs do not fit into round holes.

Love does not hit. Love does not call you a cunt. Love does not take, or threaten to take away, your family. Love does not have sex with someone else. Love doesn't try to hurt you when you're in a fight. Love does not manipulate. Love does not tell you that they will hurt your family member if they cannot find you. Love does not hold a knife to your throat, a gun to your head, force you to have sex, infect you with disease, expose you to addiction, empty your checking account, or run up your credit card bills. Love does not keep their options open, give their cell number to the chick at Starbucks, hit on your girlfriend, chat with their old boyfriend, or buy you things or be sweet to you after they've hurt you. That is not love. That is the circle of violence.

Love also doesn't try to save others from themselves. Love doesn't try to fix someone who is broken, try to get someone un-addicted, or try to heal the wounds of another that were caused during their childhood. Love doesn't try to get another to become faithful to them. Love doesn't attempt to save people from the consequences of their actions, robbing them of lessons that were meant for them. That is not love, that is the controlling nature of victim-hood. Some people like to live as a martyr, they must find an abuser to do so. Psychology and psychiatry have terms for them, also. A non-abuser won't play that game. Square pegs do not fit into round holes.

Preachers...preach truth. If you were thirsty for water, but all I gave you was wine, have I not done you a disservice? Have I not further dehydrated you and intoxicated you instead of giving you the water of life? This is what your words do when the wrong person gets the wrong message...it feeds the intoxication of their denial. Roll up your sleeves. Get training beyond Seminary, become comfortable with difficult messages and uncomfortable silences. Visit ICUs in trauma centers and see what victims of violence can look like....with bolts in their heads and paper bags on their hands...then write your sermon. Learn to distinguish messages for healthy marriages and unequally yoked ones, and give examples of what love is and what love isn't. Learn how to spot perpetual victims, the codependents. They use language that is easy to pick-up on for the attuned ear, for it is from their martyrdom comes their sense of self-worth, their significance. Learn to spot abusers, a much harder task. Offer your door for free counseling, and get proper training on the circle of violence. Learn that an abuser drains a victim of everything slowly...money, health, credit, free time, friends, family, self-confidence. They trap, isolate, and intimidate. Often, if the female is the abuser, she will make her husband appear to be the perpetrator, for the strength of her abuse does not manifest in the physical, but the psychological. Be perceptive. Ask what is hidden to be made known. Listen beyond what is too painful to hear, for the words you cannot even listen to are their reality. You are not there to fix, you are there to illuminate. This is what it means to be a city on a hill.

Preachers...identify, accept, ask, receive, deliver, wait, watch, and listen. Speak life.

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."   -Maya Angelou
   


Mountains And Ocean

I feel myself jerk just a little bit and hold my breath. He's driving on a different side of the car, on a different side of the street, in a foreign country. A windy, tiny road that represents the island's only freeway wraps around the the cliffs and rocks and surf leading us south towards the mountains for which this island is known. I'm anxious at best, and close to terrified during certain portions of the drive. There are very few natural beaches here, no...this island is known for an entirely different kind of experience.

Volcanic mountain cliffs of luscious jungle plunge into the ocean. Mangos and bananas grow in orchards in the small, shallow valleys as the car comes into low lying areas, and I can smell the rot of standing water. I see men smoking weed at fruit stands and women with baskets on their heads. Children are playing wearing tattered clothing and no shoes, goats and chickens roam freely, unafraid of the cars whizzing past on the low ground.

Then the car whips up again, climbing and winding up hundreds of feet as the island wraps us around and around in the folds of her skirt, opening up to reveal her beautiful surf under jagged rocks below. She's showing off.

I think of this the next day as I'm lying on the most beautiful beach on a different island, white sand in between my toes and every shade of ocean before me. I recall the events of the mountain island the day before.

Today, the ocean belongs to me.

"The water is speaking in a language I knew before the world taught me it's language.
I lie there and let the sound of the surf massage my soul for two hours.
I let it speak to me and I do not speak back.
I just receive.
I understand with great gratitude I could rest here forever, offer the sea nothing in return
And it would never stop speaking to me.
The surf is gentle and selfless and steady.
This is not a transaction.
This is a gift."        -Glennon Doyle

Yes, today the ocean belongs to me. I hear its gentle surf and sip on rum as music plays. I put on a mask and a snorkel, and I venture out a little deeper to receive some additional fruits from her tree of life. A turtle feasting on chum, gracefully gliding in the water playing with the fish that float by...coming up for air, and down again in childlike banter with us humans watching from above. The ocean gives, and it gives, and it gives. It never asks for anything in return. Come play with me, it says. Come rest on my sand and swim in my surf until you are so tired that you nap. Eat my gems, I will feed you with my bounty. My salt water heals, for inside you is salt water and you came from me...for your life originated in the sea.

But yesterday, the mountains told a different story. Every turn and every twist of the road resembled the people there, trying to make their next meal. Their forceful nature was a product of living in such treacherous conditions, climbing up winding streets only to come down again for flat road does not seem to exist there. No, the mountains are theirs. These are the mountains their ancestors were brought to on slave ships, coming to St Lucia against their will. The history of violence on this island is evident everywhere, and the jagged rocks happily tell the story that the inhabitants won't.

My thoughts drift to the mountains that do belong to me. The mountains I've just finished climbing culminated in the wedding, honeymoon, and marriage of my visions. My goals were fierce. My mountains were steep. There were many...my relationship with my children and my new husband, financial goals, weight loss goals, career aspirations...those were my mountains. I realize that I've just reached the summit of every one of these crests simultaneously as I look up at Grand Piton. I think about what new mountains are on my horizon. I realize that I can't wait to find them and start ascending. Something about the climb draws me in.

In the weeks before we left DC for Texas, four people I knew of took their own lives. Two were famous and rich, one was a soldier's wife. The last was a student at my son's school, an 8th grader. He was fourteen. His younger sister was in my daughter's 5th grade class. I think of them on that beach, with that ocean giving and giving. I think of them as I look up at Grand Piton. I allow the hallows to infiltrate, just for a little while, for this moment is holy and must be ordained. I open myself up to the salty air and realize that beauty does not come without pain. I don't understand it, but I know I must acknowledge and honor it. I have my own little moment of silence for them. For the slaves that came to Saint Lucia, for the children in the streets without shoes, for the chickens scrounging for a bug...I open myself up in my porous way that I don't fully understand about myself. I let in the light. I let in the darkness. Those mountains are not mine, I only get to witness them and their treacherous beauty. They only share their view with me long enough to give me a taste of something spectacular on the horizon. As much as I'd like to climb them, we must each find and conquer the mountains that are meant for us.

I think of my three children, two born from my womb and one that God gifted to me. My heart aches a little, here in paradise, for they are not with me. There are many trips that belong to them, but this is not one. I miss them. Beauty and pain. The shallows and the depths. Light and dark.

Mountains and ocean.

Torch


I clip in.

The world and my phone are locked away, outside. The door closes and the light changes. My eyes take a minute to adjust to the darkness. I see four candles burning. They seem to burn brighter now that the room is darker. I hear her voice come into my body and penetrate my soul. I turn my knob all the way to the left, taking off any resistance the world has left on me as I entered, and then I slowly add two deliberate turns to the right. And then the music starts...

"Divine sorrow. Thank you for the joy that follow..."

Wyclef Jean's sultry voice smooths out any edges I'm still holding on to. His masculinity oozes in through my pores, begins flowing through my veins, and finds itself implanted deep in one of my viceral chakras. I fully engage. It is from that place of deep down that I dig to find all of my energy. This workout will help me locate it, and from somewhere between my solar plexus and my root, it will radiate long after I've left this room.

The first four or five sessions of SoulCycle, I just thought it was about getting a good workout...a great alternative to boring cardio. Novelty sport while we're living in DC and have access to fun stuff. Somewhere along the fifth time I'd done it, I realized that I was getting up at 5:30am on my day off to drive into the city when my regular gym is only five minutes away. I'd succumbed to a gateway drug. I was craving my next dose of high endorphins and breakthrough. As tears and sweat mixed together fall from my face onto the floor where they belong, I realize that somehow the heat generated with such powerful, intentional movement along with the collective soul in the room is exactly what I need...for the way we do one thing is the way we do all things. The staircase doesn't change, only what we put at the top of it.

I climb.

Everything is intentional. I paid for the series. I signed up for the class. I chose the date, time, location, and instructor. I picked the bike. I set my alarm. I left early. I filled my water bottle and drove into the city, found and paid for parking. It is not an inexpensive experience, and it teaches me that I don't appreciate things unless I earn them. They must cost me something. I must earn them...I must earn them. I must EARN them. For, then they are mine and mine alone. I'm the one who puts the turns on my wheel. They are intentional. Me. Mine.

The depression weight that I gained with a year of chocolate, red wine, and sleep drips off my body in the heated room, and I know both my body and my spirit will feel lighter when I leave. For, along with the weight is the feeling of loss that rises up and chokes me with its last breaking breath before it leaves my body...the emotion that I carried with the cost of sorrow; the price I paid for trying to save someone who didn't want to be saved. They are all incinerated in the torch. As the intensity increases, I feel my soul wearing thin until it is nothing but a translucent membrane that barely holds me in. It is permeable, the light enters. The words enter. The music enters. I am completely vulnerable, wide open, ready to receive. She speaks wisdom into me, she speaks strength and power and truth..."Energy is neither created nor destroyed. The hill is not going to climb itself. Nobody is waiting around to give you your best life, You've got to claim it. We cannot inhale and exhale at the same time. To give from your saucer, your cup must first be overflowing. Pain is holy, it was bought at the price of love. We choose what we choose, and then own it."

Two more turns to the right.

In this room, I am. I am what the words painted on the wall say I am, and I believe them. I am an athlete. I am legend. I am a warrior. I am renegade. I am the torch that lights all of the fires that need to be lit. I am presence. I am truth. I am light. I am love. Every answer that I need is found when I enter the room and take my wheel two turns from zero. Every answer emerges when I engage, when I let the music flow through me, when I am broke wide open and ready to receive the truth that is spoken into me. This is the way it's meant to be done, by closing the door to the distraction and clipping in to what is mine...for not praying for the climb to get easier, but turning up the intensity and showing myself what I am really capable of. This isn't just a workout, this is the blueprint for life. This is how we mother our children. This is how we wife our husbands. This is how we work for our clients. This is how we engage with every soul that comes into our presence. This is how we love ourselves. It isn't about what we've achieved when we get to the top of the staircase, it's about who we become in order to get there. Refiner's fire...Yes you can. Yes you can. Yes you can.

Two more turns.

Everything I need for the climb already exists within me. Stored energy is ignited. I will leave the room changed. The torch deep down inside of me is lit, I will carry it out to light the world.

Divine sorrow...thank you for the joy that follow.


The Prodigal

A friend of mine died two days ago. To be honest, she wasn't my friend. We'd had lunch together once, her son and mine played soccer together. She was someone I admired from afar, and while our lives constantly touched for a few years, we never had an intimate moment between us.

To say she was my friend dishonors friendship, and it dishonors her. She was beautiful, full of life. A big smile on her face every time I saw her. I watched her withering away through facebook over the past few years as she battled illness. I saw more and more the energy not of her, but of cancer. Her death was a stark reminder that no one leaves this life alive. When I think of her now, living with her creator, she is framed in love and light. I cannot try to imagine the loss her family feels. Her husband lost his best friend, and there is nothing she can do about it. I've heard the wisest of them all say..."Be gentle with yourself. The first year, you're numb. The second year hurts worse than the first. After 8 years, you finally see the benefit in living again...."

I believe it.

I think of her and those like her each time I sit down to the computer to write. I see my former patients. I feel the energy of those dying or dead. I think of the words I want echoing in my children's ears long after I've transitioned. What would I want them to know about me? What do I want to make sure is revealed that currently lives inside my heart so that I don't die with my music still inside me? How do I make sure my children can hear my voice long after I've left this beautiful earth? In their darkest hour, I want them to know that I am here, my energy lives. They are not alone. There is no such thing as a mistake.

The first time I married, it was about my father. I don't know why or how I devised this plan, but I know it has something to do with my dad. Deep down, I think I was looking for someone to father me. I remember in college...my first time in college...I had conjured up a plan in my head. It was a smart plan, and I was super proud of it. It went something like this...get the hell out of your hometown. Get your shit together before you get married. Find a kind, responsible man who has his shit together. Get married, get a house, and get a nest egg before you get pregnant. And, that's what I did, all the way up to the getting pregnant part. I had it going, I really did. I had an amazing man who loved me, he was kind to me. He was a compassionate soul who treated his mother well. But, something was missing. Instead of getting pregnant, I got an itch. After awhile, the kindness of his generosity started to feel stifling, and I don't know why, except that it must've been me. Some sort of wanderlust existed inside of me, some sort of lesson required learning...a treacherous climb, a plummeting fall. I needed grit. One day, much to his pain and my surprise, off I went to seek it out. I lamented for a long time over this, until one day I realized that I really did him a favor. That doesn't excuse my behavior. I still think of him often, what a kind soul he is....what a generous person and great father he must be. When I think of him, I think of him with gratitude.

The second time I married, it was about my mother. I didn't know this when I married, I just knew that while everything was wrong, something about meeting him felt incredibly right. I got pregnant before we got married, and I think that if I'd have never gotten pregnant, it's highly possible that the relationship would not have lasted. So I got pregnant, I had a child, then we got married, then we got a house. Well...a condo. We never got that nest egg. We sold the house and moved back to my hometown with a kid and a baby, a little bit of money, and no jobs. We went to school. Both of us. Two adults in college with two kids and no jobs and no home and no nest egg living with my parents. It wasn't until after a year or so of therapy I realized that I'd been trying to save someone who didn't want to be saved, the way I desperately wanted to save my mom when I was a little girl. That's a terrible form of control and judgement on my part...trying to fix one person because you couldn't fix another....and he didn't want fixing. The kindest thing I could do for him was to release him from this obligation that he so obviously did not want...to allow him to go be him while I continued to find me. I still think of him often, what a sour soul he is...how he was my greatest teacher. I couldn't have learned the lessons I'd learned if it wasn't for him. When I think of him, I think of him with gratitude.

Of all of the stories of the bible, the story of the prodigal son is one of my favorites. A young, stupid man decides to ask for his inheritance long before his father has died. While his father remains alive, the prodigal son sets out and leaves his home, squandering this wealth. He eventually finds himself starving and destitute, living among the pigs, wishing he could eat the food he was feeding to the swine. One day, finally, after being beaten down by the consequences of his poor decisions, he decides to return home. He is changed. He is not the same man who left years before. The weather and the road and the exposure he has suffered have changed him, hardened him while at the same time softening him. He is no longer arrogant. He is no longer indecent, self absorbed, or entitled. Instead, he is learned, a man confident enough to be vulnerable. He has found gratitude. He would not have become this man without the road of the prodigal. The treacherous road of the lost was also the road of the found.

There is no such thing as a mistake.

Tomorrow, I weigh in. At my gym. With a trainer. She's taking my measurements and putting me on a scale with a workout plan and an eating strategy. I've been here before...on the eve of the first day of my transformation. I'm incredibly sad, even though I know completely that these are first world problems and I have nothing to be sad about. I've drank my last drops of alcohol for the next six months, and binge-ate food that I don't even like just because I know they will be off the docket for the time being. The idea of giving up wine and carbohydrates has me feeling mournful. I hate the idea of putting myself this far out of balance, to create this much of a deficit to get the outcome I desire. But, it feels right. It feels like the right decision at this time, even though I feel sad about it. This time, it's about fitting into a wedding dress. Yes, a wedding dress. I hear the jokes rise up inside of me, the shame I can allow myself to feel knowing that I make an amazing wife, but I've yet to prove that.

This dress I will be wearing in June, when I proclaim vows to a man who possesses the sweetness that delights me while also having the saltiness and that keeps me interested. He provides the gruff direction that I am drawn to, while at the same time bringing me coffee just like I like it. The world gets to see his hard exterior while there are parts of his kind, generous heart that are only reserved for his most intimate relationships. I am honored that I am part of that circle, that policy of truth. I believe he feels the same, grateful to be with someone who is direct, loving, nurturing, and confidently vulnerable. He has taught me how to live without regret, how to rid myself of shame...how sometimes what looks like a mistake is really a door closing to a life you thought was yours, but now realize is no longer. If we'd have met before the prodigal road, we would probably have been two ships passing in the night. We both had lessons to learn before the time was right for us to meet. I cannot hate the road I traveled whilst at the same time liking the destination where I've found myself. It doesn't work that way. One is a product of the other.

If there is one thing I've learned from the prodigal road that I want to echo in my children's souls after I'm gone, it is this...in everything, have gratitude. My sweet loves, be grateful when the journey is light for your burden is soft. Your foot treads lightly, and there is a time for joy, for dancing, for abundance. We can keep great company and allow the tears of joy to flow. Be also most grateful when we are in the midst of the dark night of the soul. It feels like the place of the lost because it is. It feels like we are among the swine because we are. It is nothing more than a doorway, a moment in time that can extend for as long as we need it to where we learn to look inward for guidance, to trust our heart to illuminate our path. Close your eyes, you will see better.  Feel your way to it. Be grateful for the people offering you the most pain, for they are your greatest teachers. It is not through them, but because of them, that we are somehow able to become resourceful, locating the tools we need for maturity, opening our hearts up to what is waiting for us. If you must experience this hard, difficult road to soften your soil so that you are ripe for planting, then pay attention to it. Feel it. Be lost. It is your doorway to being found.

There is no such thing as a mistake.

I write these words to my children, and to myself. Between candy wrappers and the last bits of rum, I procrastinate going to sleep knowing the difficult path that lies ahead tomorrow.

Soldier on, prodigal. See you in June.