like,

IMG_8346.JPG

what does it even mean to be in love,

what does it even mean to “choose,”

and what does it even mean to decide that you will love one person for the rest of your life, and to be married to them, and to be committed to a kind of forever that no other decision in life thus far has carried with it.

like,

how is it that so many people are married and engaged and not having identity crises in numbers proportionate to those relationships,

how it is that people “choose” each other and “fall” in love at the same time cause, technically, those two things are opposite,

and how is it that love is the most ubiquitous topic of choice, of songs, of movies, of our favorite collective stories, yet nobody can answer with confidence my question of the moment: “what is your definition of love.”

like,

do people stay the same or do they grow and mature or do they do both, somehow,

do birds of a feather flock together or do the opposites do the attracting, rather,

and do we fall in lust first in order to choose to love and do people ever happen to do it the other way around.

so many pairs I notice around me now are couples of stark differences. count them on your fingers, one by one, and each is a union of two very different characteristics, personalities, interests, and desires. from parents to the couple you see once a week at church, people known deeply and shallowly. one is an extrovert while the other would rather stay home from the party. another is drinks tea and the other, coffee. one dreams of beach vacations with toes in the sand and the other is grabbing a backpack for a trek through Europe. it’s hard to truly tell, of course, because who knows what people are like within the intimacy of their living room slow dances and speaking the language of their private gazes, beneath the surface that they let other people see — not even in their identity as a couple but even in their portrayals of their public selves, as individuals.

when I imagine a couple truly “gelling” together — couples who are so comfortable in the skin of their couplehood, couples that make you comfortable in the observation of their coupleness because they’re so “meant to be” whatever that means, couples who are so together it’s electrifying, wait, not to be so dramatic but I mean like a synapse, like a brain-firing between two, distinct ends connecting as one in one bright blaze of the brain, forming a new idea or remembering an old memory, electrifying — what comes to mind is an artist couple so in sync with one another’s artist-ness it’s unbearable. he’s scribbling out a masterpiece onto bits of toilet paper and coffee-stained napkins while she edits, direct and red pen ink dribbling cause apparently they’re using a fountain pen in my imagination. she comes home from a long day at the office where she’s been interviewing obscure-famous people in the arts world because oh, her office is NPR and he starts a conversation over dinner that makes her wonder how could I have forgotten to ask that question to that person today during our interview. he paints a picture of a bird and she is the only one who calls his bs — that’s really a reimagining of his childhood longing for freedom in the wilderness of his backyard, not really a bird, silly.

but “unbearable” is a key word in that description up there. cannot be beared. borne. bore-ed. my conception of those meant-to-be, gel-hood couples is only complete with: explosive, emotional fights; crying and tearing of hairs over seemingly stupid and mundane details of life but actually full of meaning and secret feelings; multiple ruptures in the plot line of their romances, but always, magnet-like, pulled irresistibly back together until one drinks himself to death or the other walks out of a 14th-floor window, chasing butterflies from her absinthe hallucination.

my very scientific and exact system of logic commonly known as [Gut Feelings] tells me that, (un)fortunately, probably something like 90% of real-life couples do not do this kind of gelling I’m thinking of. that these extreme scenarios simply jump to the front of my mind-brain when wondering about such lofty ideas as Love aaaaaand Marriage, too, because extremes and strong impressions from the media are what the imagination deals in. honestly, it’s all kinda mixed up in there with movie scenes of people running down unrealistic airport places as well as secondhand stories of daily-moment, small-time romance — the kind made of poopy diapers and devoted husbands who clean up after them — really only small in scale, not depth.

so, for those 90% of the population, the 90% of us, what is love?

like,

why is it so complicated for me,

why was I under such an impression that it wouldn’t be,

and why am I so full of questions and qwaveries, still.

I keep coming back to the fact that there are non-negotiables and then there are the negotiables. the non-negotiables you can try to negotiate, but ultimately, your girlfriends will set you straight about them, if you’ve cultivated good girlfriend relationships in your life. and the negotiables, you must…well, negotiate. and isn’t it perfect that the ultimate answer is so plain and tall, so deep and shallow at the same time that you’d see right through it to the bottom of the well, clear and crystal. this is madison in yonderland — where time flexes itself and clarities zoom in and out of focus every other day. certainty seizes you by the moment, and the next week, leaves you choking and breathless for its betrayal. crying tears and stuff.

yep, this is the land of pro:con lists and incessant justifications that aren’t only full of excuses, but actual and VALID reasonings of possibilities previously unimagined. cause what you need may not be what you want. or what you even knew you wanted, or needed, or unimagined. questioning things, deeper things,

like,

is he challenging you to become a better person, and are you, him?

does the combination of her and you make the world a better place?

will there be fulfillment, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc?

and then, even deeper deeper things,

such as,

how do you feel about winter sports and frisbee?

when you text, does it make you cheese-smile at your phone, you-know-what-I-mean? and does the answer to that question make you want to cry a little??

can you let go of everything you feel like you’ve achieved and desired for your future til now, and lay a symbolic hand upon your literal left breast, and say: God, I trust you with the rest.

?

well, can you? stop snickering at the “literal left breast” up there just a moment and think about it.

the complicated yet utterly simple thing is that the answer to all these questions is like yes, and like, no, and maybe, all at the same time. yes, love is a choice, but no, you can’t discount the falling into it part cause that’s how you get started, or middled, or end up — seriously. yes, you will GROW and GROW but no! you cannot set that as an expectation of the other.  yes, no, maybe St. Patrick’s Day was a good, terrible, results-yet-unknown idea. yeah.

your story will be a beautiful one of lots of growth and lessons learned — you’re just not in the hindsight portion of it yet where you see it, yet. but already, so many have touched your life, carrying you from one significant realization to the next: “you two are really different; it’s cause of the s and the n” to “manage yo expectations” to “I think you can have both.”

all to the refrain of “no matter what happens, this has been a worthy pursuit.”

let it be honest. let it not become a platitude.

 

1pm despair

As the vast wasteland of The Afternoon

unfolds before me at The Office, I think of

Jell-O

the crowning ingenuity of Jim Halpert

Absurdity that finally makes sense now:

Jell-O fills desks as well as brainspace as well as time

here in the desolation of minutes

Marked only by snack breaks

of apples

of yogurts

of cheeps and stolen peeps at neighbor-pod cakes.

But hope glimmers in shared ghifs and giggles.

Ggggggggah.

take me awayyyyyyyyyy  take me awayyyyyyyyyyy (i gottapa paketfuluhfsunshyn fe;oa)
take me awayyyyyyyyyy
take me awayyyyyyyyyyy
(i gottapa paketfuluhfsunshyn fe;oa)

Directions

                                                        How weary, stale, fiat, and unproiftable
                                                        Seem to me all the uses of this world 

                                                           — Hamlet

Take a plane to London.
From King’s Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you’ll be on the moors. There’s a pub,
The Drovers, where it’s warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You’re back
at a beginning. Soon you’ll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You’ll walk for hours. You’ll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

diving board metaphors, etc.

[more] daily dose of poetry this morning, from Psalm 139:

1-6

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

 

14-18

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 

How vast is the sum of them! 

If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

I awake, and I am still with you.

 

23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart! 

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!”

 

If there’s been one prevailing lesson of the summer, it’s that there’s always a period of resistance and mulishness before a breakthrough. Or any majorly beautiful thing. I don’t know what it is about this human nature of mine, but apparently there lives a shrivelly little masochist in me that pushes Potentially/Apparently Good Things away for fear of…its newness. When did I get so afraid of life? New opportunities present themselves [okay let’s be real: God placed them in their ordained time-space-places since the beginning of the galaxies], and my knee-jerk reaction self says “Yes!!” because, thank God, that part is still a little bit alive. Double exclamation points and all.

YES I will lead…!

YES I want to help you…!

YES I want to learn…!

YES I will take this opportunity…!

YES oops wait. Can you wait for me?

But then, reliably and frighteningly, comes the BUT WAIT.

But wait… I don’t know if I’m qualified for this.

…Will I be any good at it?

…What if they don’t like me? Maybe I’ll end up wasting my time!!

…ACK what if I get rejected, heartbroken, homeless?!?! (huh? stop spiraling out of control)

…sorry, I think I need some more time to think about it.

 

But if this summer has thus far been any indication of how these things actually work out, the lesson is that things “present themselves” in their own timing, in their places, for very good reasons. And though those reasons are harder to figure out in all their detailed nitty-gritty glory, the overarching point is that you can trust in their right-ness. Because even when He gives us more than what we can handle, the promise is that God is faithful to meet us in the mess and the pain, though of course we are trying to avoid that as much as wisely possible [or are we?! since growth is in the pain and all. {an endless and mesmerizing loop of confusion}]. So stop being such a mule and say yes to more Apparently Good Things. This means: Yes! I will lead that ESL class even though I’ve NEVER done anything like this before so it’s scary and teaching adults is probably a totally different game blah blah blah more excuses blah. Yes! I will do this arts trade with you and take a chance that I might “waste my time” helping with your kid art camps this summer blah more qualifiers blah blah. YES please let me interview for this position with its confusing job description at this place whose name is an acronym I KEEP FORGETTING AH. Yes.

Experts discover that mules are more intelligent than horses and donkeys
Experts discover that mules are more intelligent than horses and donkeys

All of this…in Trust, rather than Teeth-Clenchiness. With listening ear and God-sensitive heart, rather than overpowering self-absorbed emotions and thought loops and approval from others. In recognition of the fact that the emotions and the thoughts and the counsels of people around you have also been purposefully placed in their ordained time-space-places since the beginning of the galaxies to help with the saying of yes’s and no’s. It’s confusing, but also not. Life is full of paradoxes. But also not.

And speaking of prevailing lessons, here’s one, in record-keeping, thanks to my listhings account I happen upon time and time again when I remember to remember it:

lessons on listhings
fall 2014, here’s to continued life chunks lived in semesters though that…no longer applies to me AH.

Just to close the moebius loop of a post that this has become:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

And thank God, indeed, for all of this.

Kindness to Animals

by Anonymous

Little children, never give
Pain to things that feel and live:
Let the gentle robin come
For the crumbs you save at home,—
As his meat you throw along
He’ll repay you with a song;
Never hurt the timid hare
Peeping from her green grass lair,
Let her come and sport and play
On the lawn at close of day;
The little lark goes soaring high.
To the bright windows of the sky,
Singing as if ’twere always spring,
And fluttering on an untired wing,—
Oh! let him sing his happy song,
Nor do these gentle creatures wrong.

creature

Evening Walk

You give the appearance of listening
To my thoughts, O trees,
Bent over the road I am walking
On a late summer evening
When every one of you is a steep staircase
The night is slowly descending.

The high leaves like my mother’s lips
Forever trembling, unable to decide,
For there’s a bit of wind,
And it’s like hearing voices,
Or a mouth full of muffled laughter,
A huge dark mouth we can all fit in
Suddenly covered by a hand.

Everything quiet. Light
Of some other evening strolling ahead,
Long-ago evening of silk dresses,
Bare feet, hair unpinned and falling.
Happy heart, what heavy steps you take
As you follow after them in the shadows.

The sky at the road’s end cloudless and blue.
The night birds like children
Who won’t come to dinner.
Lost children in the darkening woods.

evening walk

daily dose of inbox poetry

Summer

by John Clare

Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover’s breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover’s breast;
I’ll lean upon her breast and I’ll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o’sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.

It’s the birthday of the poet John Clare (books by this author), born in Nottinghamshire, England (1793). He grew up on a farm, writing poems on his mother’s sugar bags, but he was only able to attend school for three months a year. He spent the rest of his time tending his father’s sheep. When he was twelve, he left school altogether to work as a laborer. In his spare time he continued to write poetry, and in 1820 he published his first book, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820), with the byline “John Clare, a Nottinghamshire peasant.” He became suddenly famous. That year sightseers visited his cottage, wealthy patrons gave him money, and he went to London to meet other poets such as Coleridge and Charles Lamb. After his initial success, things went downhill for Clare. He continued to publish books of poems, including The Shepherd’s Calendar (1827) and The Rural Muse (1835), but they did not sell as well as his first book and he fell out of fashion. He became a tenant farmer to support his seven children. He drank too much, started to lose his mind, and was sent to an insane asylum. In 1841 he escaped and walked 80 miles back to his home, eating grass by the roadside along the way because he was so hungry. Eventually he was sent back to another asylum, where he spent the last 23 years of his life, believing he was Lord Byron or Robert Burns, and writing some of his best work.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

Poem on the Fridge

by Paul Hostovsky

The refrigerator is the highest honor
a poem can aspire to. The ultimate
publication. As close to food as words
can come. And this refrigerator poem
is honored to be here beneath its own
refrigerator magnet, which feels like a medal
pinned to its lapel. Stop here a moment
and listen to the poem humming to itself,
like a refrigerator itself, the song in its head
full of crisp, perishable notes that wither in air,
the words to the song lined up here like
a dispensary full of indispensable details:
a jar of corrugated green pickles, an array
of headless shrimp, fiery maraschino cherries,
a fruit salad, veggie platter, assortments of
cheeses and chilled French wines, a pink
bottle of amoxicillin: the poem is infectious.
It’s having a party. The music, the revelry,
is seeping through this white door.

Genius

was what they called you in high school
if you tripped on a shoelace in the hall
and all your books went flying.

Or if you walked into an open locker door,
you would be known as Einstein,
who imagined riding a streetcar into infinity.

Later, genius became someone
who could take a sliver of chalk and squire pi
a hundred places out beyond the decimal point,

or a man painting on his back on a scaffold,
or drawing a waterwheel in a margin,
or spinning out a little night music.

But earlier this week on a wooded path,
I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses,
the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Twenty-four geniuses in all,
for I numbered them as Yeats had done,
deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface—

forty-eight if we count their white reflections,
or an even fifty if you want to throw in me
and the dog running up ahead,

who were at least smart enough to be out
that morning—she sniffing the ground,
me with my head up in the bright morning air.