Finding Rest

For years I’ve gotten to know myself as the leather belt that holds together the belt loops of other people’s emotions.

I carry bandaids with me.
A sewing kit.
Deodorant.
Floss.

It seems that in years past, I’ve found my identity in helping others. In being there for them. In having something to give them.

I’ve gotten up early and stood with people on days that scared them, watching for the tell-tale signs in their faces that I was needed – insecurity, doubt, panic. I momentarily carried situations, minimized details, and laughed to ease tension.

I got good at it, and pretty soon it became unconscious. Perhaps it was always unconscious.

One day I grew tired of the song and dance that I’d happily signed up for. It wasn’t such a happy thing for me anymore. I found that I had little identity outside of helping others, and didn’t feel valuable otherwise.

Time has passed, and I’ve been able to ruminate on my needs and desires. I’ve discovered that giving of yourself is a great thing, so long as you have enough to give.

There’s so much more to who I am than what I can give to people.

And it’s okay for me to be a bit selfish from time to time. It’s really the only way that I find rest.

Shame Cloaks and Jam Jars

Teenage years are like exclusive clubs.
Most of the time you’re not let in.

You watch from the sidelines as someone else – someone prettier or sportier or smarter than you – walks through the invisible doors to the join the rest of the people that you wish you were like.

Pain, you push it back.
Loneliness, you ignore.
But shame, shame you wear like a cloak.

Shame comforts you. You know it well. It’s what keeps you from entering into the exclusive clubs, or starting your own.

Shame holds together all of the lies that you’ve believed. Shame binds your insecurities with un-truths, and shame slowly suffocates you. Till you’re breathing half-breaths. Living a half-life.

What if you stopped believing the lies? What if you gave up your shame cloak and embraced your insecurities? What if you could understand that life itself is often an exclusive club?

I imagine then, if you could do that, that you’d be happy on the “outside.” That you’d experience the joy that comes from knowing yourself. That you’d understand that shame is like a mold growing inside the jam jar in your fridge – once you find it, all you need to do is let it go.

Good-bye moldy jam jar.
I’m better now without you.
I’m happy now.

Moccasins and an Old Farm House

Cornfields and fog stretched before me like a never ending elastic waistband.

It was March, and I had been driving for ten days. Granola bar wrappers, crossword scratch and wins, and empty coffee cups covered the backseat. I wore moccasin slippers, jeans, and a grey sweater.

I passed a dusty white trailer in an abandoned lot, with a flashing neon sign that said “Fireworks!!!”

Images flashed through my mind. A dark cloudless night, a stranded lone traveller, a strange leather-vest wearing man with a hint of a smile on his leathery face. GAH! “Stop it.” I told myself. I AM a lone traveller right now! “Cut it out.”

My radio was broken, but I tried to coax it to life nonetheless. Blamo! It worked! I was overjoyed, despite the fact that it was stuck on a Bollywood music station. Oh well. I was sure I’d begin to understand what they were saying soon enough. Whoever this “mamjami” was, I was sure he was romantic, and I knew he HAD to have a good story.

The green road sign said that I was nine minutes away. I looked in my rear view mirror, checking my teeth, running my fingers through my hair. I looked ok.

Gravel crunched under my car tires as I approached the farm house at the end of the long, dusty driveway. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of yellow paint-both interior and exterior-and yet, this pale yellow farm house had character. Old fruit crates, filled with dirt and dry looking herbs, lined the steps up to the porch. The cliché spot where a porch swing would have been, was taken up by three wooden stools instead. An old wine barrel sat in the corner, offering up a variety of patterned wool blankets.

I took a step towards the wine barrel of blankets.

The wood groaned beneath my left moccasin, and within seconds, the front door flung itself wide open.

Startled, I froze, my body tense. “Hello?” I said, trying to force confidence into my voice.

Why was there no one standing in the doorway? I thought. Who does that?! “Oh great, welcome to my house,” I mimicked aloud. “Let me scare the crap out of you by opening my door and disappearing.” Ridiculous.

I moved towards the door, adrenaline pumping through me. Knocking lightly on the door frame, I poked my head inside the sparsly decorated entrance way. Tony Bennett’s “Tender is the Night” echoed from somewhere inside the house. Just as I was about to re-consider the necessity of this first time meeting, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

Turning my head, I saw a tall man sitting in a high-backed beige armchair. White flecked his hair, but his eyes were alarmingly bright. He said nothing. Just looked at me.

My expression quickly changed from surprise, to my “it’s nice to meet you face,” and finally settled upon my unimpressed “are you kidding me” face. Straightening up, I clasped my hands behind my back. “Hi.” I said. “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes.” He replied, his voice husky and sweet.

“Well that’s a start.” I shut the door.

It would be okay, I thought as I made my way into his sitting room. I sat down in an armchair across from him, swinging my legs up and folding them beneath me on the seat.

Before I could think better of it, two words tumbled out of my mouth in slow motion.

“Hi Grandpa.”

Silhouettes That Fade

You filled the doorway with that fire-hazard of a coat
and I thought to myself,
damn I’m lucky.

Not cause of the cupboard maintenance
or the many times that I’ve taken up space in your Volvo.

Crack open the moss covered hood that you cling to
and you’re as real as a ripe Granny Smith.
Untamed and surprisingly soft.

You give of yourself,
breaking my countenance,
reminding me why I’m here.

Rain drops caress the stubble on your face
and make your eyes smile.
There’s mischief there.

Yes. Let’s do it. Let’s go.
Live life, spark fires,
howl at the moon.

Let’s live dangerously, you and I,
Never looking back.