Monday, April 24, 2017
"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?"
- from the movie "You've Got Mail", spoken by the character Kathleen Kelly
I've been thinking about how books and stories - read or told or seen - can have such a lasting impact on each of our lives. There's a quote I heard recently which goes, "Live a storied life." I love this. I often think about the line from the movie "You've Got Mail", quoted above, where the protagonist is musing about her life. I feel similarly often, I must confess. I have this great, rising desire to be brave, and this fear that when faced with a situation in which I need to be, I won't. I have daydreams about various situations and what I'll say and do, how I'll stand strong yet I wonder if instead of fight I'll flee or freeze.
With life in general, I know - in the midst of daily concerns and distresses - my life is greatly blessed, and am I thankful. It is a good life, even if I'm not famous or published or creative on a grand scale. I have work which gives purpose, and I have a slew of loving friends and family members. If I die I would be missed, yet to be a parent or to have work or art which is out in the world is to have an immediate legacy. Maybe this is why I write more and more, both out of joy and urgency, because I know in my heart that even if I'm living a small life, it is a deeply storied one, and if not to show that to anyone else then it is simply to show myself.
I heard the "storied life" quote on The Moth Podcast. The Moth has live shows all over the world. They have Main Stage events with a lineup of storytellers - authors, actors, or people they've met over time and know to have good stories - who share prepared stories to a rapt audience. The other Moth event is their Story Slam, where audience members put their names in a drawing to be randomly selected; when chosen, the participant has ten minutes to tell a story on stage (and it must go along with the predetermined Theme Of The Night). I attended my first Moth event in Austin last year with three of my siblings. Mistakenly, I thought it was an audience participation Story Slam, so I prepared a story and planned to put my name in the drawing. Even though I was wrong, and initially felt disappointed, the work of writing the story and practicing telling it under ten minutes felt meaningful. It's inspired me to write out more tales in story/essay/chapter form. Part of an eventual book, perhaps. For now, my own personal storied-life series.
Another quote I love: "We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?" (from Doctor Who, the 11th Doctor). You know, everything which has ever happened to us lives only in our memories. One day that's all we will each be: lives still existing on this earth merely through the memories of others, no matter what we accomplish. Who we are will become who we were to other people.
In the comic and movie "V For Vendetta", the character Evey explains how many people will remember the man known as V for what he did, but she will remember the man. The man who freed her, personally, aside from the scores of people he freed by starting a revolution and giving them the courage to stand up and fight. The man she loved. Although many people would remember him for many years to come, she would know him, the heart of his story: not just what he did but why he did it and who he was behind the iconic mask.
Those are some of the stories which have stayed with me, influencing and effecting me, making me want to be brave and free and alive. We're all stories, whether small or grand. We were meant to live storied lives, and to share those stories with a passion. Tell them, write them, seek them out and embrace them. May we live them out, and may they live in memory ever after.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Fears and Follies
Sometimes I am too small
out of sight
hand not raised high enough
voice not quite loud enough
Dear heart from trying
Sure, keep on attempting
Pat on the head
no better than a slap on the wrist
I am so large
Crashing into furniture and walls
purple bruises saying
'you take up too much space'
My voice is too much, too frequent
My thoughts too wild
All of me -
my clothes, movements, words -
They say "different"
because it's the kinder form of "strange"
I want to be alright with just how I am
When I am quiet in a crowd
and giddy, silly, with a friend
Sometimes in the front
other times in the back
Mostly somewhere in the middle
and for that to be okay.
As a little girl
My mother read a book to me
in which one person described another
"She has hands in the back of her heart."
I've always thought this was so beautiful
Someone who gives and serves quietly
Without need for recognition
I hope to be that person
And to be with that person.
Monday, April 10, 2017
"Being alone isn't lonely
Sought after like a holiday
Being home is my vacation
Post-card dreams of a full-sized bed"
- Library Magic, by The Head And The Heart
I enjoy being with people, though I also rarely mind being alone. Perhaps it's the combination of growing up with eight siblings while being an avid reader who would spend hours perched in my top bunk or on the back porch with a book. On Meyers Briggs, I test just barely more in the extrovert side than introvert, like 52% and 48% or something.
For over three years I've shared an apartment with roommates, and it's been great. First Rachel and now Tascha, with a few interns or visitors in the guest bedroom at times. I love them both dearly. We're not just housemates but close friends, sharing the ups and downs of missions life overseas. The funny thing is, when I first moved to Ecuador I was determined to live alone. I had lived with roommates before and had a great experience, but then spent six months in Costa Rica learning Spanish. During that time I lived with a Costa Rican family as part of the full immersion process, and honestly, it was a pretty bad experience. There were screaming matches between the mother and teenage daughter, I was never allowed to do my own laundry for fear I - as a presumably careless gringa - would waste water, there was a dog who peed in my room, and so on. Yet despite my resolve to live alone, God had something better in mind. Of course. Living with Rachel and now Tascha has provided immediate community, especially when confronted by a foreign culture day in and day out. I'm incredibly thankful for them and always look forward to recaping our days over dinner. However as much as I love the company and friendship, the 48% introvert part of me still appreciates time in solitude.
Sunday mornings I get up and listen to a sermon by my pastor back home while getting dressed and eating breakfast. I listen to music while doing the dishes: lately, it's been a good deal of Ray LaMontagne, particularly the song "Airwaves", in which the singer repeats "Help me, help me," in a husky stage whisper during the chorus. There's something strong in the rough vulnerability and I love it. I walk to church a little before 10:00 am, heading down the hill, across a busy intersection, and to the large church directly across the street from Casa Gabriel. From then on I've with people all day, but until 10:00 am, that little slice of morning is all mine, and I treasure it.
The only time I have lived alone was when I rented a tiny budget apartment. It had no dining room, just a counter dividing the kitchen from the living room, and a couple of bar stools I bought from Ikea. It was hard to have more than one or two people over in such a small space, but at least once I managed to have a group over, seven of us sitting in the living room eating quesadillas and playing board games.
I remember my first and only Christmas in that apartment. I bought a fake tree and spent the afternoon putting it together and decorating it. Close to Christmas I wrapped all the gifts to my family and placed them under the tree. On Christmas eve, back for the night from watching "It's A Wonderful Life" at my parent's house, I turned off all the lights except for the tree. The steady white lights, like indoor stars, were so peaceful, so beautiful and comforting, I lay down on the carpeted floor and stared up through the branches. I was so content. Alone but not lonely. I had Christmas with my family and Christmas in my own little home, and it was just right.
There are seasons in life, such as parenthood, when it's difficult to nearly impossible to organize time according to individual desires. Yet I hope that even if I only have fifteen minutes here and there to read a good book and scribble down a few thoughts that it will be enough. Time has always been important to me, a flighty thing always running forward and only ever standing still in memory. I hope that in company or alone, with whatever and whoever God lets time bring, I will be able to find the good, the balance of grace, and let it be enough.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
"Comedy is easy once you know the basics
Starting with the concept of surprise!"
- Comedy Gold, from the show Galavant
I love laughter. Not just a chuckle but full-bodied can't-help-it laughter which fills every part of oneself and bursts outward. It's the kind of laughter let loose only in situations such as watching something really funny or sharing longevous jokes between friends or family.
I was Skyping with my brother Huck once, when he made a silly joke I'll long remember. I was in my first year of living in Ecuador. I was trying to figure out what to do with the car I still owned in the States. It had broken down and the mechanic I hired to make the expensive repairs turned out to be a fraud. I went so far as to file a lawsuit against him after he installed the wrong type of engine in my car, an engine which had the VPN scratched off of it, making it's origin highly suspicious. The mechanic closed shop and disappeared, leaving me with a broken down car stranded on my parents property. Unable to afford to have more work done to it, I told Huck that my once dream car would likely have to be sold for parts.
"I'm sorry", he commiserated, gently. After a beat he added, "Yeah, I think Mom's chickens are using it as their new roost."
I burst out laughing. I saw Huck's eyes light up: apparently he wasn't sure how I'd take his attempt to lighten the mood.
"I think they really like it!" he continued. "It's their new favorite spot."
"A very expensive coop!" I laughed. "But at least someone's getting some use out of it!"
I know: the joke may not sound that humorous to anyone else. But after the months of frustration and heartache I'd been though because of the whole situation, it was good to be able to laugh about part of it. (In actuality, the chickens only explored the exterior of the car: it was kept locked up so they couldn't have actually roosted inside, yet the visual of my poor car finding new purpose as a chicken coop was just right.).
It was the look in Huck's eyes, as well, which I won't forget. I think he half expected me to sigh, sadly, or even be annoyed. My burst of laughter surprised and delighted him. His joke landed perfectly.
I did eventually sell the car for parts. When I'm at my parent's house, I still glance at the spot it sat for over a year, waiting to be sold off. As sad as the situation was, I still smile and laugh at my brother's joke, imagining my Mom's chickens happily clucking around my car. Their new favorite coop.