Can we talk?

Her bouncy blonde curls hang wildly down to a soft, mustard-colored sweatshirt. She is smiling, and her blue-green eyes, the light of her face, squint ever so slightly.

We lean close, trying hard to fill the space between us with all the things which have happened since we last sat here, our favorite table in the corner, drinking matching diet cokes and sharing popcorn from a red and white bag.

This is love.

The feeling is big, and yet so simple; connection, familiarity, safety.

Our friendship was forged years ago as young girls trying hard to be seen and heard in a sea of middle schoolers. Something drew us close then, but we seem to have forgotten it, or maybe it lay buried under all the things.

Nearly a year ago, while dodging post-hurricane waves in Florida, our hearts opened up and spilled out to one another. Forged in the powerful surf. Tougher than the wind. We remembered.

We used to borrow each other’s clothes, sing loudly in the car, skip arm and arm down the halls, stay up all night talking about everything and nothing.

I want more.

More of her. More of us. More of the space between women which is sacred and holy and fucking amazing. More time to see her fully, all her complexities and contradictions, hopes and fears, everything.

I want more.

A week ago, I left for a writing retreat to this hippie camp near the ocean and the redwoods. I wanted something to happen, sure, but I feared nothing would. Anxiety, like the proverbial devil on my shoulder, whispering all the ways I would fuck it up.

But I didn’t.

I couldn’t.

Magic became not only attainable, but real; with a fairy path leading to a yurt, a unicorn chef who cooked concoctions worthy of the Gods, and a bonfire where truth was spilled out and passed around from one to the other.

The whispers of the ancients, things I know to be true in my bones, rocked me as I stood every morning on the damp redwood deck in my wool socks, the cool wetness seeping in, a hot cup of coffee clutched tightly in my hands.

The breezes would carry bits of conversation from the women inside, voices of strength and of hope, gathered around a fireplace adorned with candles and trinkets from those who came before. A sense of divine connection filled my soul.

I want more.

Since my return, I’ve dealt with rotten jack-o-lanterns, sick kids spewing mucus and whining loudly, piles of laundry, seven million voices in the carpool van all talking at once; the layers of responsibility trying desperately to bury the ancient truth again under all the shit.

I’m terrified another five, ten, twenty years will pass in a blur before I have another moment of remembering.

I want more.

So, my friends, as I stare at you too long, hold you too tight, forgive me. I’m lost in the redwoods still.

I just want to talk.

 

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The Magical Place

 

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My phone makes me lonely

phoneHe sits a few feet away on the couch. I’m in my comfy chair. Lonely, I reach for my phone.

The next hour goes by. He is lost in the world of the History Channel and me into my little box.

I really want connection.

He probably does too.

But we are tired.

Always so tired.

So instead of asking for the hug I really need, I like photos on Facebook.

Instead of telling him how angry I am about the way a friend treated me, I read the news and feel the hopelessness of it all.

I used to think my cellphone was my friend, helping me stay connected with the people I love.

Now I’m not so sure.

The more hours I stare at its little white screen, the more acutely alone and isolated I feel.

I read a friends post and I know they are sad. I want to put my arms around them and let them cry big tears into my neck. I want to hold them tight, feel the warmth of their skin and let them know they are not alone.

Instead I write, “I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time.” I might add, “<<hugs>>” or “I’ll pray for you.”

Lame.

These are not the ways humans find comfort and connection. Our words are powerful, but eye contact and touch are infinitely more.

There is never time though. We are all so busy.

It seems nobody wants real comfort anyway. Not really. That’s a version of intimacy very few, myself included, even know how to handle.

Better to text a friend a sad emoticon with, “I love you. I’m sorry. Things will get better.”

Maybe share a quote of inspiration or a funny picture.

Typing the words is easy. Saying them and following through are completely different and require much more.

How many times have I saw a post of a friend whose pet or family member has died and I’ve typed, “sorry for your loss, let me know if there is anything I can do”?

Far too many times to even recount.

How many have taken me up on my vague offer of help?

None.

They aren’t going to do that. To ask for help in our culture is to admit you are weak. Americans are supposed to be strong. Pull yourself up. Push past it. Get over it.

We assume if they don’t turn to us, they have someone. I’m sure their spouse or close family is offering all the support they need. I’m sure they are fine.

We tell ourselves they would ask if they really needed something.

We stay hidden behind our devices, safe from really being there for them.

I’ve been told to keep things in perspective, be grateful for what I have and to just choose happiness.

I’m trying.

This week my body is telling me to stop it. I can’t just push it away. I can’t will myself to just be fine. There is no way to reframe the pain I feel in my heart.

Pain is pain.

It’s not competitive. It’s not subjective. It’s not a choice.

What I feel does not have to be explained away or pushed away. I can’t take a pill to make it disappear. I can’t bury it with food or drown it with alcohol. I can’t distract myself away from it with movies, TV or my cellphone.

I’ve tried all of that.

The pain keeps returning and it demands to be felt.

So I’m going to allow myself to slow down again, even though the voices in my head call me “weak,” “pathetic” and “crazy.”

I’m going to be gentle with myself. I’m going to try and be open. I’m going to ask for help.

This warrior is going to cut out her bit of sky

Tears flowed easily all morning as I felt pain radiate from my burned hand and crawl all over my body. It coursed like blood through me, stabbing me with the overwhelming sadness that has become my default emotion.

I made myself get out of my car and sit under a tree in front of my children’s school. No more tears, Bridgette. Just write your sadness.

My injured hand jerked across the paper as I wrote sappy poems about the meaning of life, letters to my younger self and declarations of finding happiness.

Then I looked up and one of my friends was standing there. The sunlight shining through the trees framed her face and she looked like an angel.

“You looked sad, so I thought I’d come over.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the book she just completed, our children and the power of music.

This is life, I thought.

Connection.

Love.

Compassion.

She picked up her boy from kindergarten and then brought over a CD of the band we had been talking about. As she pulled away in her truck, she and her joyous boy called and waved to me.

Thank you for that act of love friend.

You pulled me back.

Sometimes I feel like a caricature of sadness, like I have one of those little storm clouds drawn over my head with rain falling on me.

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It’s ridiculous and I want to slap myself awake.

But it is what it is.

I have been using that expression for weeks now. During that time, I’ve barely written anything. I’m not running. I’m impatient and being a crap wife, mother, daughter and friend.

It is what it is, though, right?

I’ve been telling myself that I’m using that phrase because I’ve reached a place of acceptance.

Nope.

It’s just another excuse. Another way to say “poor me” and not make myself accountable for my actions.

It is what it is.

Blah.

Enough already.

Time to fight.

That CD my friend gave me is a band called “Nahko and Medicine for the People.”

This is the stuff.

Seriously good medicine.

One song in particular, “Warrior People,” has become my rallying cry. I’ve been listening to it about a dozen times a day and singing it loudly until my voice cracks. Some of my favorite lyrics:

“I’m just a human being on another fucking journey.”

“I teach my children who to trust and how to listen.”

“I will learn to be peaceful but I keep my knife at my side.”

“Used to be restless, now I am relentless.”

“Everything you do in life is definitely relevant.”

I’m really getting bored and tired of feeling like an injured puppy lying around licking my wounds.

Time to be the warrior that I know I am.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel like a broken record on repeat. I’ve said them before. I’ve been in this place before. I keep feeling stronger, but then…

It’s always something.

There is always another stumble down the stairs of sadness.

Always.

And it’s OK.

I have lots of fight left in me.

As I struggle along, I keep my eyes upward these days. The sky has become a beacon of hope for me. I stare up and remind myself how small I am and how truly out of my hands some things are.

“He built himself a house,
his foundations,
his stones,
his walls,
his roof overhead,
his chimney and smoke.

He made himself a garden,
his fence,
his thyme,
his earthworm,
his evening dew.

He cut out his bit of sky above. And he wrapped the garden in the sky and the house in the garden and packed the lot in a handkerchief and went off lone as an arctic fox through the cold unending rain into the world.”

–“Fairy Tale”, Miroslav Holub

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Just a glimpse out the car window

He was sitting on the top step of the porch. He had no shirt on and his tan skin stood out in contrast to the stark white house. His jeans were dirty and he held a cigarette in one hand. His arms were crossed and he was leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. His blonde hair was sticking up in spots. His bare feet were on the step below him.

The light turned green and I stepped on the gas pedal. I took one last look at him and he lifted his face. Our eyes locked. It was just a second. Just one breath. I could feel tears in my eyes and I suddenly found it hard to breathe. The intensity and sadness of those blue eyes. The pain. The distress. I fought the urge to turn around and go to him.

“Mommy,” my girl said from the backseat.

“What?” I said swallowing hard and trying to concentrate on driving. Just a few more blocks and we would be to school.

“Did you see that man?” she said.

It was then that I looked back at her in the rearview mirror. She was clutching Panda, her protector bear, very tight. Her knees were drawn up and her eyes were wide.

“I did,” I replied trying to sound calm.

“That was so sad,” she said. I could hear the tears threatening to come.

“What man?” my son chimed up cheerfully. He had a bag of his sisters hair bands on his lap and was busy making bracelets for his friends.

“The sad man with no shirt,” my girl answered. “I hope he will be OK.”

“He will,” I told her.

“Good,” she said loosening her grip on Panda. Her head slumped to the side of her car seat.

“I’m tired now,” she said and yawned.

“Me too,” I said and reached for my coffee cup.

“What man?” my son said again and strained his neck to try to look behind us. Of course we were several blocks away now and almost to school.

“He’s gone,” my daughter replied. “But he will be OK.”

The rest of the ride to school was silent. We parked on the street and walked brother to class. After saying our good-byes and giving kisses we walked back to the car. Her kindergarten is at another school a few minutes drive away.

“Why do you think that man was sad?” my daughter asked as I started to drive.

“I have no idea,” I said.

“I think someone died,” she said. “But it will be OK. That person is in heaven and he will see them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said.

“I love you mommy,” she said.

“I love you.”

We parked at her school and held hands as we walked to the play structure. She ran around happily showing Panda all the things she can do now.

Her teacher played the flute and she ran off. Panda and I both waved good-bye.

She is going to be OK.

I’m going to be OK.

Hello? Anybody out there?

You are not alone.

At this very moment someone else is going through something just like you.

They may be sitting in their car blaring Johnny Cash and bawling their eyes out.

Just like you.

They may be fighting the urge to have a drink at 9 a.m.

Just like you.

They may wish to just keep driving until the world seems right.

Just like you.

Then why do we feel so alone?

Depression. Abuse. Marriage problems. Parenting. Addiction. Death. Health struggles. It’s all hard and so many are struggling with similar things.

Yet…

We feel so alone.

Our society is sick. Just keep marching forward with that smile. Don’t you dare show weak eyes. Distraction, distraction, distraction. I am not sure, but maybe its always been this way. Maybe that’s just the nature of life. Keep your pain inside. Suck it up. If you give into the pain then it will only serve to make you feel it more. That cannot be good for anyone.

I know that religion is the answer for many. They turn to God and church. They find a community to support them, friends who lift them up and God to pray to for answers and guidance.

I have not had luck on that front in my life. I have found churches to be filled with judgement, fake smiles and hate. They speak the right words and dress the part, but it’s empty. Sunday morning faith. You put someone broken in front of them and you get judgement and pity.

They will “pray for you,” but at a distance. Please do not muddy up their “perfect” lives with your imperfections and questioning. Your lack of faith is ugly.

There are the exceptions. I have met a few people lately that have shown me what real faith and love look like. They show kindness and understanding. Positivity and light pours from them and you can feel hope just being around them. They do not minimize struggle or try to fix you. They recognize that faith and love are personal struggles and that all you want is someone to say, “I’m here. You are not alone.”

I’m here.

You are not alone.

This weekend I went to a nightclub to dance. I wanted to be surrounded by people. Strangers. We did not talk. We just danced. I could feel a connection to those around me. Something about the music, darkness and allowing myself to let go felt real. I felt alive.

Don’t freak dear friends and readers, I don’t plan on becoming a clubber who leaves her family for that feeling. It just struck me hard that what I crave is contact and real connection. Yet, something about dancing with strangers met my needs in ways other things have not.

There was something about being vulnerable, looking like a fool and then just accepting that. Not caring what these people thought about me. Seeing how free others were to just be.

I want some of that.

I spent a fair amount of time over the long weekend staring at the sky. The clouds have been just amazing, filled with shapes and movement. Then the sky opened up and poured yesterday. I filled my house with candles and tried to focus on the light.

I have no idea where I’m going with all this. There are no answers or wisdom to be found here. I’m just fumbling through another day and spilling myself out here.

But I’m spilling all this out in public because I want you to know I’m here. I’m here and YOU are not alone. WE are not alone.

So struggle on friends. We will make it.

I love you.

Summer’s coming

I discovered a love of camping last year. This isn’t something I did growing up, but I wanted to give it to my children.

There is something magical about building a little homestead away from home. Finding the right spot to put the tent. Smoothing out the tarp, unrolling and positioning the tent and driving in the stakes. Listening to the kids run wild and find treasures. Making our little beds all cozy and warm. Gathering wood.

We hike, swim, eat and play. There are chores, but they seem so less mundane in this other world. Watching my boy start the fire. Smelling the sweet smoke and feeling it sting my eyes, as it seems to follow me wherever I sit. Marshmallow goo stuck on both of their faces they run around screaming until the woods embrace them and they find their calm again.

The boy whittles wood. The girl makes fairy houses and crowns.

We are alive. Connected.

Cuddling together in the tent the giggles start. They reposition themselves over and over and we laugh until our sides hurt. Then I read our special goodnight book, “Step Into the Night” by Joanne Ryder. We listen for the sounds outside the tent. Crickets. Water. People talking. Laughter. Campfires. Life.

I’ve never “really camped,” I’ve been told. Never having backpacked into the middle of nowhere. Never having felt the isolation and wonder of being alone in the woods. Someday. Maybe.

We always camp with and near another people. We can usually see our car. It’s not perfect.

Dad stays home. He hates camping and no amount of being sad and longing will change that. So we go without him. It makes me heartbroken that he will miss out on this time with our kids. It often brings me to tears, but it’s not changing. So, I except what is and we go without.

I get VERY grouchy during the packing. Preparing the meals, gathering all the clothes, camping gear and packing the car. It turns me into a crazy person running around yelling at the kids that WE WILL NOT GO IF YOU DON’T HELP. I stress about all the details and feel like canceling about 1,200 times during this part.

Once the car is packed and we get in, I can breathe. Calmness washes over me. We take our “on the road again” picture. We are a team. We talk, laugh and sing. Looking forward. Moving forward.

As I start planning our summer camping trips I can’t help but be excited. Leaving the daily school commute behind. Saying goodbye to just seeing my kids before and after school. No more rushing to karate class and yelling at them to get up in the morning.

I will yell. Get stressed out. Cry that they are driving me crazy. But I would not change our summers together for anything. They are not perfect, but they are ours. Only 61 days until school is out. I can’t wait.

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