I am sitting in an airport

I would like to write a not-so-serious post.
And hey, I guess I’ll just do that since this is my blog and my life.
Doesn’t it feel so good to have ownership sometimes?
MY blog. MY life.
I think this is why so many little kids are yelling “MINE!” at each other.
It’s a human thing. We gotta have something that’s ours.
Sometimes we grow up and learn to share.
Even still, certain things are just yours, even if you share them.
Like your blog. Or your life.

I am sitting in an airport.
This gate keeps filling up with people and then they all fly away. And then it fills up with other people and then they all fly away too until it’s just me and the carpet cleaner guy. He’s doing a great job. I don’t fly away for another few hours so I’m here on my laptop hustlin Craig’s List like a BOSS. Because once I get on that plane, I’m flying to Texas. And once I’m in Texas, I’m going to LIVE there. With Ken. And we need pretty furniture for small amounts of money. And I am great at finding things for small amounts of money. I will unearth them from the dust by my sheer willpower. Or just find them on Craig’s List. Whichever happens first.

I am sitting in an airport.
I think it’s beautiful that as soon as I sit, no matter how or where I am sitting, my legs form a surface for a notebook… and my arms are the perfect length for writing on that surface. I’ve been referring to this spot as my lap for my whole life, but I never thought about how magic it is. Laps just happen when you sit down. It’s a great thing. It’s the reason why my lap never gets as tan at the beach. I can also use this spot for a book, a baby, a sandwich — whatever I’d like to sit with for a while. Fantastic. I bet people were made this way on purpose.

I am sitting in an airport.
Next to me is a book I read on the first plane. It’s called What Wildness Is This, and it’s full of essays and poems that I’ve loved for years. Recently, I discovered that it was published by the University of Texas, which I of course interpreted as an omen from the universe.

I am sitting in an airport.
Annnnnd something smells like fried chicken,
which of course triggers the involuntary urge to seek out the source.
Fried Chicken trumps blog.
See you in Texas.

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This is me talking about God.

Story time:
I used to be a teacher at the MTC.
That stands for Missionary Training Center.

I often asked the new missionaries,
“What do you need to feel in order to experience conversion?”
I wasn’t looking for any one answer in particular, just trying to get them thinking.

I often heard things like:
“Feel that God loves you.”
“Feel a desire to believe”
“Feel that He is listening.”

Once, from a brand new sister missionary in the back corner, I heard this:
“You need to feel uncomfortable.”

She explained that conversion requires a change of heart.
Some sort of self-renovation.
You cannot change or progress without leaving your comfort zone.
And so, she concluded, you need to feel uncomfortable.

I believe she was right.

Let’s talk about this.
Maybe the word conversion is strange and foreign to you.
You could call it inspiration or enlightenment or something more ambiguous if you like.
For me, that move can sometimes be deceiving.

Watch:
God >> Divine Being >> Higher Power >> Vibrations of Light >> Force of the Universe.
With each move, your subject becomes more broad.
You are covering a larger scope of ideas with just one word. This type of language is good if you’re speaking to a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds. It helps us unite and relate to a large spectrum of ideas. Yoga teachers are masters at this. But here’s the deal: in embracing that ambiguity, in trying to include every possible belief that others have, you may pass over the opportunity to clearly define what your belief is.

And so, I believe the safety of ambiguity also comes with a loss of clarity, relevance, and intimacy.
Who is God to you?
I think it can be simpler than a vast, vague sphere of ideas.
I think God is a man we can know, rather than a force that comes and goes in mysterious waves but is never quite as personal as a friend. I can be uncomfortable to try and communicate with someone you don’t know. But that is not the type of uncomfortable I’m talking about here. What I’m saying is that while the conversion experience must at some point feel uncomfortable, our relationship with God as a being, as a Father, does not have to be. It can be simple. And clear. And awesome.

Kind of like this:
There was a time when I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. My good friend Jared offered to help. He was kind. He didn’t mind that my musical background consisted solely of jammin to the radio, he was just pumped to teach me–so I decided to try it. Still, it was uncomfortable for me. Holding the guitar, finding the chords, staying in rhythm–all of that was weird. It was a position I’d never been in before and most of the time I felt pretty embarrassed. Jared was patient. Sometimes he would explain things in a way that didn’t make sense to me, but I trusted him. I knew he was listening and that he cared about me, but learning to play like him was hard. It required much more. Same thing with God.

If you want to know Him,
You must be ready to go where you have never gone,
Learn new things. Embrace awkward positions.
Leave your comforts behind.

This means you will feel uncomfortable at times.
Not so much in your relationship with God,
but in the experience of becoming like Him.

I could leave you with a beautiful ending about how I stuck with guitar until I mastered it and was no longer uncomfortable. But that wouldn’t be true. I gave up on the guitar pretty fast. I just didn’t know if I was capable of the results I wanted. And if I was, would it be worth all the time I spent feeling uncomfortable? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped trying, and went back to the way I was. Now I listen to music like I always have, appreciating it from a distance without being involved. I think this is how I am with God sometimes too. Distant. Complacent.  But not happy. Not anywhere close to the potential he created me for. I keep having to remind myself to seek that potential–leave the zone of comfort.

So here’s the ending: I think that process is normal.
That is how you find out the details of who He is and how He works with you.
That is how God goes from someone you hear about, to someone you know.
That is how you move from an ambiguous notion, toward a firsthand, personal clarity.
It is also, I believe, the point of life.
We can do this.

Status

Six Steps.

1. I am listening to The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isokov over and over and over again. I can’t dissect all the lyrics in my mind, but somewhere beyond that, I feel exactly what he is trying to say.

2. Today Emily took me to playgroup at the pool so I could hang out with the Moms and their kids. I am not a Mom. Does that mean I am more a kid to them? I’m not sure, but I hope they want to be friends with me anyway. I watched them all try to discipline their kids quietly but effectively, while juggling the fragile feelings of other kids:

One tells Jill, “We need to ask Benny if it’s okay before we splash him. Do you understand?” Benny’s Mom pipes in “It’s okay Benny, Jill didn’t mean it. Did you find a new toy? Does that belong to Alison?” Alison’s Mom is next: “Alison, no yelling. We need to share. We are sharing with Benny now.”

3. I would really love to be a Mom, but I’m not ready to write to you about that yet. For now, I stand waist-deep in the water. I watch the other Moms.

4. Last night Ken walked to the paper store with me. Ken is my husband. I like to take him with me. I wanted to pick out an amazing piece of paper so I could make an amazing envelope for a letter I am sending soon. I am nervous about this letter and I must have been hoping that if I encased it in something beautiful and made with my own hands, the words inside would read just right. As soon as we got to the big glass door, the lady locked it and put up a CLOSED sign. I made a very sad face at her by accident. Ken said we could go get gelato instead. He even paid the way-too-much-price for a teeny cup of fancypants gelato. Thanks Ken.

5. We are sitting by the big glass wall with our gelato. I am in the middle of a chocolate cream bite when Ken tells me he will soon be gone underwater in an undisclosed part of the ocean. For a week. With The United States Navy. To all of my follow-up questions about the possibility of blowing-up or imminent death, he responds, “I can’t tell you.” It’s just testing…engineering…secret stuff, he says. No big deal. I shouldn’t worry. “This is not NBD.” I tell him. I stop tasting my gelato. I keep eating it, but I stop tasting it because my mouth is busy articulating a million hypotheticals. Ken smiles. He thinks it’s funny when I get worked up and worried and talk this fast. I think: How is this funny? Just then we see bunch of hip people with tattoos and neon clothing posing for a picture on the other side of the glass wall. We are in the background, so we make a photo-bomb face.

6. I feel like this a lot lately: there is me, there is glass, and there is something on the other side. I can make a sad face. I can make a photo bomb face. I can eat my gelato or I can keep walking, but I can’t quite be on the other side of that glass. All these transparent barriers, like water in the pool.

I sent the letter in a plain, white envelope.

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Nineteen years old.

Today I was riding shot gun next to Lacey on our way home from the beach. Lacey is my little sister. She is 19 years old and recently dyed her hair the color of Cheerwine. It was red and messy and free. She was singing to the radio.

Just then her phone beeped. I read her the text so she could drive. Mom had forwarded her something from a conversation with our neighbor, Mrs. Rhonda. Mrs. Rhonda used to watch our brother Bradley after school. Lacey knows her well from walking to her house each day and talking with her by the door while Brad got his shoes on and tried to find his glasses. Mrs. Rhonda also happens to be the mother of a boy Lacey loved loved loved in high school. She loved him after high school too, but she moved away and some sad things happened and after a million back-and-forths, she trained her soft-heart toward a strong-resolve to stay away from him from now on. She has succeeded in her distance for a long time. I would even say she is happy. She is drivin home from the beach with her red red hair, just singin along.

I read the text aloud. Simply put, Mrs. Rhonda said she loved little Brad and misses him. (Mrs. Rhonda is a tough love type of lady that hardly ever gets mushy about anything, so this is a big deal.) She also said she really misses Lacey. And then, just briefly at the end: “I know my son misses her too.” 

I could feel it hit her in the stomach and just like that I looked over to see a few tears behind her sunglasses. I cried too.

I just knew. I knew because a million times in my life I have driven along, singing to the radio, and been blind-sided just like this. I knew because I was her. Her with the dyed hair and the sun tan and the fresh resolve to keep her tired heart moving forward. Mostly, I knew because I love her so big that I felt it in my stomach too. I wished I could show her: it gets better.

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Someone Must Be Stretched Out…

Update: Our stuff is in Texas. The lease is signed. Now we’re here in Reston, VA with Emily and Barry for the rest of the summer. Ken has an internship with the Navy in DC, and I’m hanging out with Emily and little Colin, searching like mad for jobs in Austin.

My first full day here, I asked Emily about the little path that runs next to their place. She told me it goes all the way to the capital. That’s right, she meant DC, the District of Columbia, the capital of AMERICA. Of course my very next question was “Can you ride a bike on it?” You can, which means I have not ceased to dream of it since. A few days later we borrowed one of Uncle Jeff’s sweet old bikes, which is surely from the early 90’s and very purple, along with a white helmet–complete with rainbow squiggle across the side. So vintage. He helped me pump-up the tires and adjust the seat and today: I was out that door and on the path.

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This isn’t your typical city path: each tree planted neatly in a row, supported by a mechanically timed sprinkler system. No way. This place is wild. These trees and vines have been tangling and growing and reaching for sunlight since long before I was born. They are vivid in the thick Virginia air, and they are not alone. There are butterflies, bees, red robins and all sorts of other things I heard but didn’t see. In other words, nothing here is depending on human life or machine to water and sustain it. It’s nice to know that this was home to them before it was to me. It exists all on it’s own. This is another world. Even the breeze is alive with some humid language that seems to tell me I am only a piece in its history. As I raced down the first big hill, I stood up tall on my pedals and let the rush of air explain that to me.

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It reminded me of a poem called “The End and The Beginning,” which describes how every war zone eventually becomes a tranquil place again. I was the person in the very last stanza, who comes to look at the clouds, separate and ignorant from all that happened on that very ground before.

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This path was built over civil war ground.
America divided in half, and fought against itself here.

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If you’re more into learning from Signs written in English than Rushes of air speaking in humid tree language, then good news for you: they have signs and cites along the way to explain history to you. That’s how I learned that this path is called the Old Dominion Trail. It used to be railroad tracks. It used to be stuff underfoot of Army Generals like Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, who passed through here exactly 150 years (and 2 days) ago on his way to Gettysburg. Turns out he had to resign the next day because of an ongoing feud with Army headquarters, so watch out, Fighting Joe was a pretty feisty guy.

Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” once went through here on foot as well. While I ride along humming to myself, a free woman in the middle of the day, he passed through at night, warily searching out the infamous, most hated Confederate in the North, Lieutenant Colonel Mosby. Afterwards, he wrote “The Scout Toward Aldie,” which describes these very  trees in the night as “a globe of leaves,” and “moon-tinged—with crook’d boughs.”

So even though I know this path will become a home to me here, it also belongs to another time. To other people. To older moons. And I love that really, it can never be all mine.

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The End and the Beginning
Written by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)

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Biscuits, gravy, and a new life rollin in.

On June 7th I was at a very classy brial shower and tried some authentic scones made by a true Australian. They were topped with (get this) *Lemon Curd.* Yeah, fancy pants. When everything was winding down, the boys came in with leftovers from Claim Jumper’s. More importantly, Ken came home with a cup of gravy for me. That’s when I realized that those scones over there were a lot like biscuits. So I dumped some gravy up on those things and heated them up. In a few minutes, something new to me and known to another land became–with a few creative measures–something familiar and comforting, like home. I think this is how living in Austin will be for me.

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Audio

Sing it, yeah.

There are certain lyrics I love lately.
They just fit with me.
I’ll show some of them to you:

I will be rocks. I will be water.
I will leave this to my daughter:
lift your head up in the wind.

Those three lines don’t carry special meaning for me so much as they
SOUND so good to me.
The pace and syllables and short vowel sounds.
Ooooh. It’s a drum for me.

This one I love for different reasons:

Antarctica, my only living relative.
Antarctica, I can’t wait anymore.

Except she sings it like this:
Annnnnnnnt-arrrrrrrrrc-tica: my.on.ly.liv.ing.rel.ah.tive.
Oh it’s delicious.
Stay with me here.

I kept singing it and singing it one day while Lacey (my sister) was over.
“What does that even mean?” she said.
“It means there is a place somewhere way out there that is isolated and frozen in time and even though it’s an unlikely place for comfort, it is her only chance to be close to someone alive.”

Antarctica

As I explained this, it just felt like an obvious thing– like of course that’s what it means– didn’t you feel that too? And that’s why I love words. Because who knows what Deb Talan really meant by it… but I know, for me, exactly what it means. Because so often I am trying to say something that I just can’t find the words for. I am trying to get out all of this STUFF in me and I need words for it. But I just can’t find them. So when I do find them, or when someone else finds them in an obscure reference to an uninhabited continent, I am in love. And I just keep saying and singing and writing those words. Expressing. To clearly express what once was just a stuttering voice in my heart: It’s an act of healing.

Though sometimes there is that little disappointment– why couldn’t I have written that?
I want so badly to own those words.
But I can. They can be mine too. That’s gotta be part of why people write.
Somewhere in there we are hoping to connect not just to ourselves, but to someone else out there.

These songs brought to us by Deb Talan.
Sometimes in a band called The Weepies,
and sometimes just her. Thanks Deb.