Sunday, January 31, 2010

grappling with jealousy...

i have everything the world could give a girl to make her happy but, every once in awhile, without meaning to, i get jealous. i get jealous of people with children, people with lovers, people without dead parents, people with actual self-esteem. and i can usually pray my way out, before i become too crazy. but when i can't - when all my coping mechanisms fail - i go back to this poem and, while it's not optimistic, it's brutally honest about this crazy, jealous condition...

By Jennifer Michael Hecht

Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.

Tonight there are people getting just what they need.

The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some year. You were leaning against
a half-shed tree, standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

When I finally exhale it takes forever to be over.

Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January 25th, 1954

Tomorrow, my mother would have been 56. When she was alive, her birthday was spent as a brief pause in January and I always struggled with what to give her. I always found her difficult to shop for, and it was, honestly, usually a last-minute affair. Tonight, I prayed that, if it was possible, I could have all her birthdays to do over, to do right, to give her even a little of the love and care that she gave us. So I can be sure that she knew how much we loved her.

Since I can't do that, I figured for her birthday this year, I would give her two poems I wrote while she was alive but dying. I never read them to her and wouldn't have ever been brave enough to do so. But it seems like the thing to do. Happy early birthday, mama...

the final depot

In the end, it's just an ending,
it's just the end of a really beautiful tunnel
and the pulling up of all the inevitable train tracks.
there will be no detours, no stops between here and that great light.

There will be only one passenger left, and in her luggage she will have only love,
and pictures of children who have grown up wild. And it will be alternately too much and not enough
for where this train ride ends.

And we will stand, waving, on the platform until she can no longer be seen.
And we will continue to wave,
even after that, in case she can feel our hands from where she is.

And we will go home with the knowledge of a train, and a passenger, and the intractable pain that a one-way ticket causes. And we will carry engine whistles with us wherever we go.


a prayer for one heavenly and one earthly parent

to have been made, not a mistake and not a miracle, but some perfectly balanced in-between state - it's a constantly broken marvel, like some sort of carnival in a town that's sick of magic.

how could it have happened and so fast, this feeling that living is just the cracks of one broken heart and that love is just similar scarring between us?

i just want to focus on you before your gone. i want to love you like you're meant to be loved. i want to love you like you've loved us all along.

but loving those that are leaving feels both perpetual and inconstant. i will always be loving you, and from this point forward, you will always be leaving. even after your gone, i will remember the leaving more than anytime you were here.

i asked you one day, before any of this, what's it like to be one parent short? what's it like to live with a little less love than before? and your answer shows me now what i have to look forward to. it hurt like hell at first, you said. every day was raw and some were just unbelievable marathons of pain - christmas, his birthday, their anniversary. and then, some day long afterwards, it hurt just a little bit less. and then it became easier to remember his face, the way he danced with my mother, the way that he kept things together, and not just focus on the day it all came apart, the day we ceased to be a constellation and became just a set of stars apart. well, you didn't say that exactly. stars are really my father's thing, not yours. but it sounded something like that.

and i am trying to prepare for that day that our constellation will come apart, mother. i am trying to be a very good star. but the process of shining with grief is difficult and painful. and i focus more on my brokenness than anything else these days. it's not your fault - sickness (yours or mine) seems to exacerbate my inborn weaknesses and break me into big shards and little pieces, and it makes a mess that cannot be put together. i want to ask you to forgive it all - forgive my absence and my frustration, and most of all, my brokenness. that's the part that's so difficult to solve and so painful to live through.

forgive me, mother, my brokenness in sight of your brokenness. and Father, help me remember that this brokenness is not the sum of all my parts.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the story of this decade...

yesterday i came across this article on forgoing New Year's resolutions in favor of writing the story you want to live out. I love Don Miller and this blog posting specifically captures the writing style, and theology, which make me adore him so.

given that I'm a New Year's baby, my general resolution is to turn a year older, which always happens, and thus I always fulfill my New Year's resolution. Sure, it's cheating, but it makes me feel virtuous, for all of 10 seconds, at least.

but this post got me thinking about what I want my story to be. Although I'm not really the writer of the family, I love a good plotline as much as the next person. How I'm living my life in Chicago is a reaction to the fact that I had some not-so-great subplots in my storylife before...while I've loved being home and seeing family here in PDX, I know I've temporarily given up the storyline I live in Chicago in favor of the old storyline I'd been living here. And, after 4 months away, some parts of it don't fit as well.

Bottom line: I want to write a better story than the one I've been living. I want ALL of us to write a better story - one where people are fed, injustices are addressed, safety nets exist for all of us, and we wake up one day to see that we've built a part of God's kingdom and we rejoice that we'll someday see all of it.

So, without further adieu, here are the stories I'll be writing this decade. I'd love to hear (here or in person) what yours might be.

Storyline #1 - Cat gets arrested: okay, so hear me out on this one. Recently, i've become part of many communities which make up one amazing community of support. These are people I highly respect, who are committed to putting their physical bodies on the line for a cause. I've always been a little too shy about that aspect of things. But when I went to the School of the Americas protest this year, I began to realize how much that fear had kept me from doing lots of things which would truly demonstrate my commitment to causes I believe in. Getting arrested is just the climactic scene - a visible sign that I've used this decade to become a braver, gentler warrior.

Storyline #2 - Cat starts a family: so, this one, of all the storylines i want to write, is the scariest, most embarrassing one. but i feel like i need to write it down, so i can remember (and people who love me best can hold me to) the idea that this decade is the decade i stop using people as a way to work out my own personal issues and i start looking for someone i can build a communal storyline with - one that includes kiddos and a simple life and a common commitment to building the kingdom of God. It will take time and that's okay (probably for the best, really) and I just need to remember the end scene - bringing my kiddos to the SOA, for example, or living in community with singles and families, where my kiddos feel loved and supported by more than just their parents. It's a more radical example of the comfort and safety and love I felt growing up and it's something I feel called to do with my life. But it scares the hell out of me and I have a ways to go (and a lot to be honest with myself about) before I get there. This storyline will probably be the one that causes me the most pain before the decade's through, which is okay, I guess.

Storyline #3 - Cat becomes a restorative justice mediator with juveniles: It is possible that this profession will change, but this is the decade where I finally commit to a vocation. I love wandering and cannot imagine that I will stay at the same place for most of this decade. But I'm pursuing an expensive degree (well, two of them, really) and it's probably time that I really think about how to use them. I've always been pulled towards issues of nonviolence and I've always loved working with teens. Using nonviolence tactics to work with teenagers in a way that directly challenges our current criminal justice system is beyond thrilling to me. To keep this plotline going, I will be researching conflict resolution trainings I can participate in while in Chicago, as well as more fully researching organizations nationally which do this work and scheduling informational interviews with them. I understand that this is probably the least-riveting plotline, but not every story can have explosions of the literal or figurative kind, i suppose...

Thanks for reading (or skipping to the end) of this somewhat self-aggrandizing post. I'd love to hear any feedback folks have on the article linked above, or on New Year's Resolutions in general. I like learning how people celebrate my birthday :)