When I saw the prompt “family traits” several things came to mind. Family traits: the pride that makes me so insecure and judgemental - the same I’ve seen in my Father. Family traits: my round cheeks and nose - inherited from my bohemian Grandmother. Family traits: the consideration that drives me to rethink the things I say 15 million times before I say them, trying to guess which version would make my target feel the most special or the least hurt - demonstrated to me by my Mother. Family traits: the things that a dear friend and psychology student argues are fixed in our lives; the things that come to mind whenever I read Exodus 20:5-6 “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me,but showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” I don’t know exactly where I’m going here, and I’m not a student of the human psyche. I barely even know myself. But what I do know comes from the blood, sweat, and tears of honesty and bravery in relationships. I know that, if I can change the nose my grandma gave me, I can change the pride from my dad. I know that the hardest part is to find it, but once I do, I can move it. I know that what I move out of my house isn’t going to end up as a hand-me-down. Sometimes I feel like I did as a child when my parents asked me to clean up the attic - standing up there with the boxes of 15 years scattered and overflowing - totally overwhelmed, a little teary, and totally willing to be distracted. But I’m going to sort and organize. I’m going to move out the pride and fear and fill those places up with love and courage. I’m going to sweat and strain and not get distracted because that’s what I’m giving my son and daughter - I’m giving them a clean soul-attic full of treasure and strength.
After a super long break the writing club is back. I feel SO out of practice. A forum of friend vs. feind is happening in my head right now, fighting it out if this is garbage or not. But I'll go ahead and post while I wait for the verdict. The prompt was to create a character then tell his/her story in 300 words or less. If you're interested, mine is 279. Enjoy.
-Foundations- Right now I’m breathing and listening. Soon, it will be my turn to share an opinion. We’re currently discussing the ideals and limitations of a utopian society. I don’t know who thinks of these subjects, but I’m glad we walk while we talk. Flora and fauna seem to take the edge off. I don’t actually know how I (an irrational euphony aficionado) ended up in this (rather cerebral) research group, but the Lord must have known what he was doing. We’ve been together so long I can’t remember exactly when I joined but I love the little community we’ve formed. We’re all very different, but in a family kind of way. They say it takes a village to raise a child; I guess we’re all raising each other.
Now on the train, I’m missing the banter but glad to be off. I’m starting my “pilgrimage” today - they say everyone should take one at some point, and I felt a “coming of age” coming on. I’m surprised by how warm and comfortable my cabin is. The thud-THUD of the train is so soothing...
Thud-THUD thud-THUD... how long did I sleep? It’s pitch black in here... thud-THUD thud-THUD... oh there’s a light up ahead, must be a tunnel... thud-THUD thud-THUD... I hope it ends soon. This darkness is stifling!... thud-THUD thud-THUD... whoa. I just got crazy deja vu from the talk earlier, or did I dream that?... thud-THUD thud-THUD... I must have been sleeping really hard, my brain is feeling really fuzzy... thud-THUD thud-THUD... Where am I again?...
The thud-THUDing stopped. It just got really bright and really cold! My eyes aren’t focusing right. What the heck...
The newspaper shuffled gently against itself as Michael folded it in half, then in half again. His kitchen smelled like hazelnut and muffins. Saturday was his “finer things” day and he never wasted a second of it. He would always get up at that perfect moment - when you don’t feel oppressed by the earliness but the air outside is still crisp. He would take extra time on his morning routine, as he imagined modern royalty or movie stars might, combing his hair and choosing his shoes. He looked himself over in the mirror while his coffee brewed and his muffin toasted. Then he’d eat slowly, reading a real newspaper, instead of the usual e-articles on his iPad. After all, it was finer things day.
After breakfast he’d walk. He’d choose a new section of the neighborhood each time; the new scenery and current world events trolling casually around his mind. He’d imagine that the stocks he’d read about going up or down were his. He’d imagine he owned the old stone house on the right; He thought about raising a hypothetical two year old, and wondered what the air smelled like during a riot in Egypt all full of dust and smoke and passion.
For lunch he’d stop to talk to Tom at the deli and get a cold sandwich and Elderflower presse’, then practice the “finer thing” that he’d chosen to improve in himself that week: art, music, etc.
But the absolutely finest part of the day was the evening. He and his closest friends would gather at one of their flats (tonight it was his). Charles and Rachel he’d met at school, Tim from charity work, and Anderson was a neighbor. They’d try new wines, listen to new music, and talk. The rule was that the meeting couldn’t go beyond midnight, but tonight they all forgot the clock. Tonight was bittersweet because on Monday Michael was leaving. The term was up along with his visa and while the times he’d gone abroad had enriched his education, they had also scattered his dearest friends across the globe. But for tonight, they had their custom; tonight he sipped his wine.
Behind the mountains to the East there are more mountains, and behind those, when the 15 bends around the air force base, for a moment you can see them. Rocky, dusty white peaks, brushing the clouds. They look lonely and far away, and they make me want to touch them.
Pictures and peeks into places I've never been make me ache to explore. Photographs frustrate because I can't feel the sunlight and smell the air. Those mountains make me want to dive into the barren southern Californian wilderness, and drink in the wild beauty. The otherworldness. The emptiness.
But I'm here, the artificial noise of the freeway pushing into my ears, the music turned up (pushing back), and buildings crowding against each other in the spaces between the fields of asphalt and concrete. I'm restless. How was it possible, just a few weeks ago, for me to be tired of change?
A sea to ride off on, a wilderness to get lost in, a mountain to climb up on. Anything! The songs and the stories press out against my ribs, nearly breaking my heart, but I can't hear their voices. I feel so full, and I feel like I could never have enough. I cherish this restlessness; the storms in my soul. I cherish the days I can feel fire and beauty and truth pouring out of my eyes; and I cherish the Maker that filled me with this spirit that feels too big for my skin, and who seeds my thoughts with greatness.
The prompt was "tell the story of a moment that you felt supremely loved." I wrote two. One from my childhood and a poem about the Christmas gift Jon made for me (a hand bound book, titled: Things I Love to Know About You.)
My parent’s bedroom was the door just to the left of mine in our tiny rectangular hallway. The bathroom was to the right, and my brother’s room straight ahead. Between my brother’s door and my parents’ was the living room - with it’s blue carpet, blue couch, and blue curtains. It’s probably around eleven o’clock, but it feels like that space in the night that seems absolutely timeless to a child. I never made it a habit to visit my parents at night. Just when I had really bad nightmares that I couldn’t shake off and when I was sick. Tonight falls under the second category... kind of. I’m somewhere around 8 years old, and I’m growing. Consequently, my legs feel like they are rotting from the inside and will fall off at any moment. Calcium supplements helped, but not immediately. I gently nudged Mom’s arm. She rolled toward me and mumbled. It was never difficult to wake her up. It was like she was always waiting on the edge of sleep, just in case we needed something. “Mom, my legs hurt really bad.” “Did you try to go back to sleep?” “Yeah.” “Okay. Let me get you your calcium.” I sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the shadows the hall light cast on the wood floor. She came back with a big pill and handed it to me, with her water. I didn’t have a problem swallowing it, but I hated the bitter taste it left in my mouth. “Can you please rub my legs for me?” She sighed and made room for me beside her on the bed. “Can you tell me a story from when you were a kid?” Lightly rubbing the worst spot, just above my knees, she began: “When I was your age I had a little grey pony named Dapples because of the light grey spots on her belly. I loved her, but she was so stubborn - pretty much every Shetland pony is. She would do this thing when the neighbor kids rode her: She’d put her head down when they were running or trotting and stop really fast and send them flying. I knew she did it so I could keep her head up, but one time I was riding her in the field behind our house, and she got her head away from me and took off. She went right under this tree branch and knocked me out cold. Grandma came out because she heard my dog barking. She found me waking up under the tree from the dog licking my face. It chipped one of my teeth and broke my glasses. We found Dapples, back in her pen, eating. I also used to watch cowboy shows a lot and they would always slap their horse’s rear when they put them away, so I tried it. Dapples kicked me right in the gut. I didn’t know it, but Grandpa was behind the shed watching the whole thing and laughing. As soon as I got my breath back I looked at her and said ‘damn pony.’ When I found out my Dad was there I thought I was going to get into so much trouble for cussing, but he never said anything about it or told anyone, except maybe Grandma. For weeks I had little hoof marks on my stomach. But Dapples wasn’t anything compared to King. He was a chestnut pony with a blonde mane and tail. He was the meanest and most beautiful pony I’d ever seen. He was so wild Linda, Judy, and I couldn’t ride him, but Grandpa hooked him up to the pony cart once and tried to drive him around. King took off running, just like Dapples would, but he took the cart under the upstairs deck on the back of the house and ripped the harness right off, smashed the cart, and about broke your Grandpa’s leg. We sold him after that. After a while your Grandparents bought me a Pony of America because they were more mellow than the Shetlands and I got hurt too often. I named her Miss Little Spots. She was a black appaloosa with a white spots on her rump. She was such a great little horse. I taught her to rear up like the Lone Ranger’s horse. Whenever I’d take my sisters for a ride, I’d make her rear and they’d fall off the back. Linda wouldn’t trust me after I’d done it once or twice, but Judy would always believe my apology, and I’d always knock her off again. Eventually Grandma made me break the horse of rearing because she was afraid it would fall back on me. To do that, I carried a little piece of garden hose with me when I was riding and when she’d jump up, I’d smack her between the ears until she stopped doing it....” My last thought before morning was how warm and soft everything felt laying next to her. Her skilled hands had lulled my aching bones to sleep. I don’t remember how many times I’d heard those stories and the dozens more from her childhood. I practically grew up in that little town in northern Kansas. I knew it’s geography like the back of my hand even though I only visited once. With these hours and hours of late night story telling, my Mom made it possible for me to live her childhood all over again with her as my best friend.
The Bandit He stole a shadow’d glance Of a shrouded, vast expanse. The warp and weft of an inner scene Observe and reflect: his chosen means.
He kept a journal, he made a book Of every corner, cranny, nook. A map, the anatomy of my soul; He kept every habit and emotion’s roll.
My Bandit you must have no fear, Your stealing glance has drawn you near. Your story’s true, like the clearest bell You’ve won the country that you know so well.
I haven't talked to anyone but Jon about this stuff, but it's time to come out of the closet. For the last three months I've liked how I look. Not just a "these clothes look great on me" or "my eyes look nice today" but a no secrets, standing-in-front-of-a-full-length-mirror-naked, kind of like how I look. This is a new development.
When I was around ten years old I had this really 90's, floral print shirt with a metallic sheen that I LOVED. I thought it was the coolest shirt ever. Then, one day, I was walking by the mirror in my brothers' room and I saw it. The shirt was tight, and just over the top of my jeans there was a bulge. It stopped me in my tracks. I stood there, a little nervous, inspecting my pre-adolesent pudge. I have no memory of noticing something negative about my body before this day. I may have been home schooled, but I still knew that bulge wasn't "supposed" to be there. I was embarrassed. I wondered if anyone else had noticed. I changed shirts and never wore the floral one again. It was about this time that I started dressing in boy's clothes - the baggier the better. The feeling of hunger became a negative one, and I learned to suppress it. A few years later when I was thirteen my Mom casually asked me how much I weighed and I wouldn't say it out loud. I couldn't let others hear that I was up to a disgusting 120.
Once I hit my 20's I started working through some spiritual issues and as I became more confident inside, I stopped hating my outside as much. The big turning point though, was (surprisingly) right after I had Nathaniel. There was a tiny little shift in my perception of bodies. It had gone from "fat" and "skinny" to "pregnant" and "skinny". Since I wasn't pregnant anymore, I was skinny. It wasn't long before I started noticing things I didn't like again. I still thought my arms looked thick, and hated looking at my thighs and butt in the mirror. I wondered if Jon wished that I was different. I talked to him about it, and he said that I was beautiful but that I would never be able to believe him if shame was my standard.
It's been almost two years since I had my boy and took a step to get shame out of my life. Now, for the first time since that day when I changed my floral shirt, I don't want to lose weight. I have been working out a lot for no other reason than that I like how being active makes me feel. I've never, ever done that. For the first time, when I see a really thin woman, I can see that she doesn't look healthy instead of feeling like an ogre and skipping lunch. For the first time I don't avoid the mirror, or wince at a glimpse of my butt. I honestly like the way my hips curve out, and I don't mind the specs of cellulite on my thighs. I like that women's bodies look SO different, and I'm starting to get upset that we're shown that that's wrong - and tell each other (and ourselves) that it's ugly.
I am a small woman. I'm not overweight. A lot of people say I'm thin. My top (non pregnant) weight was 150. If you're thinking that I don't have any room to talk about being "fat", that I don't really understand, you're right. What I do understand though is what it's like to hate yourself; To get a sick feeling when you see the reflection of your body. My point is that shame and comparison KILL! They kill your spirit and your confidence and your beauty. It doesn't matter how much you weigh (or how much weight you lose), if you don't value yourself you will never feel valuable or beautiful to others. If shame is your motivator, it won't go away when you reach your "goal." Shame sticks around, and it's even tougher to get off than those last few pounds.