Gifts of Hope

Last Saturday gifted me with surprises. I wasn’t searching for hope, yet it still slapped me silly with its glorious presence.

After my husband left for his weekly golf game, I blinked my eyes open and realized there was no coffee in the house. I must have coffee, so I pulled on my clothes, grabbed my journal and phone, and walked the three blocks to our neighborhood coffeehouse. I brought my steaming cup to one of the outside tables, and then settled in to watch customers and write a little. I soon noticed a group of women and their dogs gathering at a nearby table. I caught bits on conversation pertaining to the proliferation of gun violence, and yes, I found myself eavesdropping. I turned around to comment, and then, surprisingly, I was invited to join their circle. I spent the next hour listening to these wise women discuss subjects close to my heart. One, an immigrant from a small South American country, gave me insight to the crises in both of our countries. As I rose to leave, one said, “We’re here every Saturday morning. You are welcome to join us.” I had accidentally stumbled upon hope, at a crooked, black rod iron patio table just blocks from my house.

After I walked home, caffeinated and rejuvenated, I decided to hop on my bike and ride down to the historic part of town. My first stop was the small Saturday farmer’s market that is located in a parking lot close to the river. I wandered the different booths, admiring fresh produce and baked goods. One of the last vendors had rocks, crystals, and sun catchers. I admired her work and we chatted about how she collected most of her beads from old jewelry and the prisms from dumpster diving expeditions. I wanted to purchase two of her sun catchers, but she informed me she didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have any cash. Stupid move on my part when visiting a farmer’s market, by the way. The artist then said, “Take ‘em. You can owe me.” At first I shook my head. “Oh no. That doesn’t seem right.” She replied, “I do it all the time. Most people pay me back, and those who don’t, oh well. They still have my art.” After some hesitation, I picked out my two favorites. She wrapped them up, and then wrote her name and phone number on a small piece of paper. I told her, “Oh, don’t worry. I will be back next week.” She said, “You seem like an honest person. I can usually see it in people’s faces.” I smiled. I will return next Saturday with what I owe her, and will purchase more of her work. This quirky, open-hearted, trusting soul handed me hope at the farmer’s market.

I stuffed my new treasures in my wicker basket and rode down to my favorite outside restaurant, The Bike Stop Cafe, one part restaurant-one part bike rental/repair shop. I left my bike alongside others at the rack, and went inside to order my usual lunch: a veggie sandwich with an iced tea. A breeze was blowing in off the river, and bikers and young families were scattered throughout the patio. Halfway through my sandwich, a man behind me stood up and said, “A man knocked over two bikes. He did pick them up, but then took off. You might want to check if yours is okay.”

I glanced over at the rack, and my first panicked thought was my bicycle was gone. “I think my bike has been stolen,” I gulped. My ten-year old tan Schwinn from Target. The one with the wicker basket and clanking gears. My grandma bike that takes me to bookclub, the neighborhood grocery, and the mail room. I adore that bike. I flew to the rack, but quickly realized that whoever had knocked over the bikes had just moved them. My basket must have become dislodged in the fall because it was now hanging from one of the handlebars. But here’s the amazing part. Just before this discovery, many of the diners were ready to go after the alleged perpetrator. “I think he rode up to Main Street,” they said. “We may be able to catch him.” All these strangers, without even blinking, were willing to run after my nonexistent thief. After checking to make sure everything was working and returning the basket to its rightful place, I waved at the crowd and said with an embarrassed smile, “Thank you. I’m good. You can go back to talking among yourselves.” 

I headed back down the trail, pondering the morning. All I wanted when I woke up was coffee, yet I also found a table of intelligent, social justice-minded women, a generous and trusting artist, and strangers looking out for me. In a world swirling in the language of hate and conspiracy theories, hope just danced with this girl on a sunny Saturday morning. It is easy to become mired in the mud of despair, but often hope tiptoes into our lives, presenting us with the possibility of hot coffee, true human connections, and smiles.

“I dwell in possibility.” ~Emily Dickinson

When I first turned on the trail, I spied this guy slowly making his way across the gravel toward the river. I stopped my bike to snap a photo. He froze, but didn’t retreat into his shell. I said to him, “You’ve got this, buddy. Keep going.” On my way home, there was no sign of him. I’m confident he made it safely to his destination, this little guy with his determined hard-shell self.
Hope.

In Search of Hope/Reality Bites

This past weekend illuminated again that devastating evil permeates our realities. In less than twenty-four hours, back-to-school shoppers and Saturday revelers paid the price of hate and fear. The pictures were terrifying, the words divisive, and once again we stick to our sides, our talking points, like in a bloody game of Red Rover. 

By Tuesday I am heart-sick and exhausted. I need a break. I want to just drive, so I turn up the radio, slip on my Ray Bans and take off down Route 94 in search of hope. The skies are blue. The tunes raucous. Yes, this two lane road taking my little car along the banks of a great river will offer up peace for my aching soul. Yet. Yet as I drive deeper into the backroads, I soon discover that escaping isn’t possible. Not today. Not yet.

I begin to see remnants of the massive flooding that devastated our area last spring and early summer. My first indication that things are not back to normal is the abandoned fields where scruffy weeds clog the once flooded ground. A few bean fields look like they were just planted, rows upon rows of tiny seedlings the first week of August. Water still covers a closed side road.

Then I approach the town of South Alton where I see concrete human evidence of the effects of the flood. Piles of garbage are stacked at the end of driveways. Scraps of torn drywall, moldy furniture, and family memories sit, waiting for dump trucks to clear it away. A few homeowners have haphazardly tacked plywood to garage doors and spray painted warnings to potential looters of security cameras and guns. Appliances litter lawns. My stomach churns. In our old house we fought water in the basement for years. I cried every time it rained, but those tears do not compare to the destruction tucked away in this small, scruffy town. It will take years for these families to recover.

I cross the Mississippi and drive up the Great River Road toward Grafton. High bluffs to the right and the churning river to the left delivers a dramatic view. Still, there are bits of flood residue: yellow police tape strung across broken fences, shuttered businesses, and mud. Mud everywhere water had once been.

When I arrive in Grafton I head up a bluff to one of my favorite vistas, Aeries Winery. Grafton had been under water most of the spring and into June, but now it’s back in business. Bars and restaurants welcome tourists while workers in yellow vests manning huge machinery work the water’s edge attempting to clean up what nature has destroyed. From the top of the bluff, the residuals of the spring flooding aren’t visible. Just a panoramic tableau of a great river at work: tow boats lugging their goods up north, a lone ferry waiting on passengers.

The main purpose of my day trip was to escape from the dark realities in the news and find hope despite the gloom. Instead I drove straight into reality. Life is not all good or all bad, all rainbows or all storms. It’s a complicated palette. One moment your heart is shattered as it aches with grief, but then you smile at the children gleefully jumping on the trampoline next door. This is life. It is why we tell funny stories after a funeral. Amid the mourners as they pick at casseroles and sip cheap win out of plastic cups, stories about the deceased filter through the sadness. Then there is laughter, a funny anecdote. This is reality. This is life. Sorrow, laughter, tears, grief, and hope.

Hope is not denying the ills of this world. It isn’t putting our hands over our ears and muttering “blah, blah, blah” as Rome burns. We must never close our eyes to injustice and lies and pain, yet I also know there is beauty amongst the ashes. On my day trip in search of hope I found it in yellow butterflies, white herons, a glass of rose, and a panoramic view of the Mississippi.

Life’s truths are a paradox. Anne Lamott writes, “Paradox means you have to be able to keep two wildly different ideas in your head at the same time.” Life is hard. Life is miraculous. We sit with the suckiness. We dance in all its joy. We learn to celebrate the paradox. We dig ourselves out of hopelessness and continue to search for wonder. 

“All truth really is paradox, and this turns out to be a reason for hope.” 

“We have all we need to come through. Against all odds, no mater what we’ve lost, no matter what messes we’ve made over time, no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which create breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day.” 

~Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Asking Questions

“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” James Baldwin, The First Next Time

“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” – Albert Camus, The Plague

“There is no dignity in wickedness, whether in purple or rages; and hell is a democracy of devils, where all are equal.” – Herman Melville

How do we navigate the struggles in this world? Where do we gather the strength to battle the demons that inhabit society? Who do we turn to when our hearts are cracked wide open? How do we fix the broken light in the deep darkness of our souls? What gives us the courage to confront evil? Are we all so mangled in the mire that we can’t see beyond our own shores?

What if we bravely walked beyond the smashed glass, opened our hearts, expanded our minds, and looked past our egos? Could we offer dignity where we see indecency? Empathy instead of judgement? Grace in place of neglect? Kindness rather than hatred? Compassion, not cruelty?

Could we live, thrive, love, feed, embrace, and love with rapture? Or is the world too harsh, too cruel, too mean, too small, too evil? Do we accept defeat? Or do we scream into the wind, summoning strength for another battle?

What if today we decided to support dignity, breathe empathy, enfold grace, grasp kindness, and devour compassion? How would the world around us react to such behavior? Would it cower? Would it laugh? Or perhaps, it would blink in surprise? And what if the world then began to mimic our words, our acts, our hearts?

Dignity is an elevation of character, a worthiness in the world. We all deserve dignity, yet with every hateful epithet, dignity is lessened. Humans should be able to walk through life with pride.

Dignity is our inalienable right.

Empathy is seeing the troubles of others. It is identifying with their misery and wanting to alleviate it.

Empathy is our hearts bursting from our chests, exposing our salty tears.

Grace is the possession of mercy, goodwill, and honor. It is how we conduct our lives, our place at the table, inviting others to join us.

Grace is our truth.

Kindness is our behavior. It is a smile, a gesture, an open door, a generous tip. Our hearts reach out to grab others with love. It is courage wrapped in a whisper of silk.

Kindness is omnipotent.

Compassion is deep sympathy. It is our tenderness. It is our hearts, full and accepting. We feel others hurt. We acknowledge their pain. We sit with their sorrow. We respect their troubles.

Compassion is our humanness. 

So what if today we opened our doors to difficult truths? Listened to others? Held each other in solidarity? Tasted bitterness, yet still accepted the food? And lit a candle to wipe away the gloom?

What if for just today we saw dignity in each other, empathized with the downtrodden, walked in grace, spread kindness, and felt compassion for all suffering?

Could we change the world?

“Without dignity, identity is erased.” ― Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” – Audrey Hepburn

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”  -Og Mandino

“There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.” – Robert Frost

The Ache for Home

love.

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling

My husband and I are fans of HGTV. Watching House Hunters, we chuckle as couples wander through three houses, nitpicking every small closet and outdated kitchen. We gasp at some of the prices, even though the structures are run-down and lacking adequate heating and air conditioning. We also love all the rehab shows, especially ones that have quirky pairs (cute Southern couple, mother and daughter, brother and sister) renovating old homes with “good bones.” 

Here’s the thing, though. Neither of us are very handy. We just love to see others demo walls and lime green bathrooms, although we personally have no desire to ever gut a house. The house we bought two years ago was a fairly new build with little need of rehab. We did have wood floors installed, and yes, the kitchen needs a modern overhaul, but that has to wait until we can afford it. For now, we have settled into our little home with the quaint double porches and tiny backyard.

Dictionary.com has 31 definitions of home: twelve nouns, four adjectives, four adverbs, seven verbs, and five idioms. It has 41 of house: twenty-two nouns, eight verbs, four adjectives, and seven idioms. But when posed with the question, what is the difference between a house and a home, most of us will say a house is the physical structure where we keep our stuff, and a home is where we live and love.

The home improvement industry is a billion dollar behemoth. People pour hard earned dollars into expensive tiles, farmhouse sinks, and trendy wallpaper installation. We are taught to believe we won’t be happy without the granite countertops or that top-of-the line gas oven. It is a vicious form of house shaming. How dare you live with popcorn ceilings! What, carpet instead of wood floors? Your house looks like the others on your street? Shame! Shame! Shame!

But here’s the truth. No one really cares. All that is important is this: Does it give YOU joy? It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford the improvements. Just fill your house with love. Cook good food. Display beloved items you’ve collected over the years. Invite family and friends to sit at your table, no matter how battered or small or mismatched your furniture may appear. That is a home.

Don’t despair if your house doesn’t have a pricey Wolf oven (I do covet one, though!) or Carrara white marble in the master bath. Instead, create your own refuge, whether it is downsizing to 1200 square feet, a dramatic dream cottage, or a tiny house on wheels.

Our little home will never win any awards. It has builder grade cabinets and vinyl flooring in the bathrooms, yet I have hung pictures that are dear to me on the walls. Every corner contains stacks of vintage books I have bought over the years. I love antique linens and inspirational sayings. I try to keep fresh flowers on the counter. There is no apparent style, except perhaps “Christie’s Cute Shit,” as my friend Nancy likes to define it. It’s a good thing my husband does not have a strong opinion on how I decorate because our entire house is my personal “She Shed,” complete with pastel florals and fuzzy pink pillows. But when I look at each room, I feel a sense of peace and comfort. Our house is our haven, our refuge, our sanctuary.

My sister Ann and her husband Mike worked for years on the design on their dream house. It took lots of planning and over a year from the demolition of the existing structure to their move-in date, but their home is a gorgeous example of taking a vision on paper and making it a reality. Their Craftsman cottage has layers of light that twinkle off the pond that peeks through the wall of windows that line the back of the house. Its simplistic yet careful design tells their story in every corner. It is a beautiful and inviting home to witness.

After my friend Leslie retired from teaching, she and her husband decided to fulfill their dream of traveling all over the country in their camper. They sold their house, and have recently logged over 24,000 miles since June 2018 with their small white dog Pierre in tow. They wander the country spending time hiking and visiting with family and friends who are scattered around the U.S. Leslie said, “My home is the wonderful spacial surroundings that I share with my husband and Pierre…Now we are kids again, like before children. We are looking for our next campsite all the time. Researching terrain, weather, and last summer avoiding fires.” They have gathered peaches in Georgia and are now headed out to Washington State for cherry season. Soon they will have a new hard sided camper that will offer better protection from harsh weather and bears.

My sister’s Craftsman is a warm, welcoming retreat. Leslie and Mark have found a rolling home where their sanctuary is nature. My husband’s and my haven has a green gabled roofline with a white swing on the front porch and pink roses in the back.

What is your home? Wherever or whatever it is, I hope your home is your heart, because wherever your heart is, you will find home.

“I could be your state and I could be your nation
It doesn’t get better than home, now does it?
Doesn’t get better than home, now does it?
I could be your welcome, I could be your greeter
I could be sweet and I could be sweeter
I want to be where your heart is home”

“Home” songwriter: Zooey Clare Deschanel

Leslie and Mark’s home parked in the desert.
My sister’s view from her deck.
My collections of vintage linens and aprons.

I know not all houses contain a sense of safety. In fact, some are dangerous places where the halls echo with hateful language and hurt feelings. Children cower in closets in order to escape abusive words and fists. I also acknowledge there are many out there who left their homes in order to attempt to give their families a better life, and now may be stuck in dismal refugee camps, worrying about about their futures. Others live alone, with no visitors to brighten their days. Some houses contain sickness, and no amount of fresh paint will cure the illnesses that seep throughout the halls.

I wish I possessed the cures for all these cheerless dwellings. I am not that powerful. I only know my heart aches for those who do not live in a joyful place, be it a trailer or a mansion by the sea. Home should be safe, yet it is a dangerous or sad or harrowing place for many in the world.

Here are a few organizations which you may want to donate money or volunteer your time in order to help families create safe and happy homes. These are only a few. Do your own research. See which fits your heart.

Building Homes for Heroes

The Fuller Center for Housing

Habitat for Humanity

Home for Our Troops

CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocate

International Rescue Committee

Acknowledge Fear, Breathe Courage

Breathe

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventures or to be limited by the fear of it.” – Judy Blume

I have a few true fears that make my heart race and my blood pressure soar. I try not put myself in situations where I may begin to feel the claustrophobic effects of a small, enclosed space or the stomach-dropping terror that comes when I am dangling from a ferris wheel. These fears are visceral. I have no control over the physical symptoms, so I choose to avoid certain circumstances that might accelerate the panic. 

Other are not so well-defined. I can’t swerve around sudden change, failure, rejection, or the unknown. These fears come at me like fast-moving projectiles in an 80s video game. I may attempt to dodge or side-step, but they are always there, bombarding me with anxiety.

The world can be a grim, terrifying place. Danger lurks, even in the bright light of day. How do I cope? Do I hide, cowering in the safety of my little house, never venturing out? Unless I want to embrace agoraphobia, that isn’t a realistic choice. 

Fear is a big part of my writing. I enjoy the process, but I fear everything about it. I’m too old. It is drivel. Someone will be offended. It is embarrassing. I’ve run out of ideas. No one wants to read my inane ramblings. These fears often block my creativity. Fear is my personal writer’s block.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book Big Magic about how she lives simultaneously with fear and creativity. She states, “…I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all that space for it. Heaps of space. Every single day…I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortable. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.” So she invites fear on the journey. Fear is allowed on the trip, yet it doesn’t make decisions and it definitely doesn’t drive. Fear must sit in the back seat as a member of the family, but it does not have a vote.

This is a novel approach. So much of our lives we are told to “conquer our fears.” If we are afraid of the water, we must learn to swim. If we are petrified of flying, buy that ticket. And if we are scared of the deep water, dive right in. Sometimes these approaches work, but often we are just more afraid. 

What if we invited fear in, introduced ourselves and told it to have a seat? We don’t feed fear any snacks, and we never let it touch the thermostat. We acknowledge fear is part of the family, but we sit it at a small card table in the next room, knowing it is there yet not letting it dominate the conversation. 

Acknowledging our fears is acknowledging our vulnerability. Creative work requires vulnerability, putting our voices out there for the world to judge. We are often shamed back into the cave by our harshest critics, which often are the voices in our own heads. I know this personally. Shame and fear run neck and neck in my world. 

I have been working on a novel for over three years about loss and grief and learning to forgive. Every time I enter the world of my characters I become lost in the smells and sounds. I want to live there. Yet. Yet, I have struggled with the ending. A few weeks ago my dear friend Ann came for a visit while my husband was on a business trip. We giggled, ate, drank wine, and shed a few tears over our shared stories. One night I began to tell Ann the plot of my book. After I was done, I looked at her and said, “You know, that is the first time I have shared the details of my story with anyone.” And she replied, “I’m honored.” I then said, “You know, I think I’m afraid to finish the book, because if I complete the story, then what do I do? I’m scared.” Ann replied, “Then you need to do it. Who knows what will happen, but you’ll never know until it is finished.” The day after she returned home I sat at my laptop and banged out the ending. I then printed out the 150 pages. Three plus years of words stared back at me. I read through them, circling errors and making notes. Some of the story was wonky, but other parts were good. Damn good.

My shitty shitty rough draft now requires hours of editing, revising, and reworking, but I have relegated my fear to the back seat. It is buckled safely in its car seat. I will glance at it from time to time, but I will not grant it power over my process. I will not worry about publishing. Now is the time to dive into the details and work on the flow, dialogue, and pacing. It terrifying and exciting and I’m ready for this journey.

Courage is not conquering fear. Courage is recognizing fear, not giving it power over your heart. Brene Brown writes, “Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by couraging.” Courage is knowing the truth and showing your truth to the world. My courage, my vulnerability, my truth is writing, and I will no longer grant fear the power to silence it.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something-anything-down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Not if. Not when. Now.

live.

This past weekend a young friend of mine posted a photo on social media of herself and her four month old daughter on a train ride at the zoo. Her caption began, “I wasn’t going to post this because my first thought was “I am fat.” She then wrote she worked through her doubts because she’s acknowledging motherhood is hard, post baby weight loss is difficult, and postpartum depression is real, but these moments she has with her baby are precious and she wanted to capture it. I am glad she decided to own the photo because it is beautiful in its exquisite spontaneity. 

When our bodies make humans, they go through amazing transformations. We grow babies for nine months, and when these fully formed people arrive, we quickly learn our old selves no longer exist. Our new reality is motherhood: soft bellies, curdled milk, elastic waisted pants, and leaky boobs. The first few months are foggy. Our bodies rebel against us as we cling to these needy little beings who depend on us for their very existence. We try to lose the weight yet the comfort of the couch and a bag of Oreos sing their siren songs while we catch a few quiet moments between feedings. Photos of celebrity and royal mothers quickly bouncing back to pre-baby weight fill our feeds, making us feel unworthy, (even though we know they spend thousands on professional trainers and chefs, and are always on the trendiest diets.) So, we hate on ourselves, on our bodies, on what we think we see when we look in the mirror.

My babies are in their twenties. It has been years since I’ve sung them lullabies or pushed their strollers. I’m way past menopause, yet body image is still a struggle. I look down at my soft belly and sigh as I try to fit into a pair of jeans. I’ve deleted images of myself, thinking I looked fat and old. I’m currently on a weight loss program, but I’ve hit a plateau that is discouraging. Many of my friends are on the same journey. With our childbearing years behind us, we feel our bodies betray us each time we step on the scales. We pluck gray hairs, spend unspeakable amounts of money on “anti-aging” products, and learn how to do the “turtle” with our chins when our pictures are taken. Photos of fit celebrity women in their sixties and seventies fill our feeds, making us feel unworthy, (even though we know they spend thousands on professional trainers and chefs, and haven’t eaten a carb in years.) So, we hate on ourselves, on our bodies, and on what we think we see when we look in the mirror.

So, how do we love ourselves now? Not when we lose the weight or if we go to the gym five days a week. Now. What if we love our bodies for the astonishing things they have done over the years. Yea, those things. Remember? Our miraculous bodies have fought illnesses, birthed and fed babies, worked grueling hours, endured sleepless nights of worry, ran races (often after little ones taking off across playgrounds), built empires (even if they were assembled with Legos), and planned, cooked and cleaned up thousands of meals. How about we love on our alleged “flaws”? What if we see our curves and our wrinkles and our gray hairs as medals of honor? 

I will acknowledge this isn’t an easy task. In fact, it is gargantuan in its heft. We’ve been wired since before adolescence to see our size as our worth. I suggest we take our bodies back. Tell society, those damn Kardashians, every single asshole who has cat-called us, and our mirrors to fuck off. Yup. That’s right. I said it. Fuck off. Let’s own those jeans, our boobs, and the right to see our power. Let’s eat healthy, walk those miles, but enjoy a piece of the damn pie. When we look at a photo of ourselves, let’s not judge. Instead, see the beauty and the strength presenting itself to the world.

Are you with me? Let’s own this shit.

“Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” – Brene Brown

Years ago when I first viewed these photos, I saw only the double-chins, big thighs, and bellies. Now I see the beauty, the strength, the fierceness. Hallelujah.

live. love. breathe.

live.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

love.

“It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

breathe.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

We live. We love. We breathe.

Every moment, of every day. 

We live. We experience pain. We sit with grief. We dance in joy. All is living. Every bite of food gives us sustenance, yet we savor the flavors. Each sip of wine reminds us of the soil where the grapes were nurtured. Family recipes speak languages of communal stories. Our rituals awaken our memories as we gather for weddings, baby showers, and funerals.

We love. Every great writer has attempted a definition, an example, a story of love, but it is often undefinable. No one has the quintessential explanation of love. It is something deep and mysterious that awakens our hearts. Our first crush. That high school relationship. A good friend. Our wedding. Those babies. With love, though, comes a precarious tightrope walk, filled with the fear of losing it. We wrap our arms around it, often with suffocating consequences. This love of ours is scary, but it is also marvelous in its luminosity. Love makes our days sparkle and our nights sigh with delight.

We breathe. The average human takes 12 to 20 breaths per minute. We take our breath for granted until we can’t breathe. We marvel at its wonder. Breath gives us life. It is a direct link to our hearts. When we are calm, our breathing slows. When we are scared, we often can’t catch our breath. Breathing is the hub of the wheel that connects us to everything that is sacred.

Our lives. Our loves. Our breath. All are who we are in this world. We weave ourselves to one another with tenuous filaments of fragile moments. Life is a lovely, breathless dance, one to experience in all its pain and glory and bitterness and joy.

live.

love.

breathe.