Life and Randomness

birth pangs

I have been waking in the middle of the night a lot lately. Unable to go back to sleep for quite a while, but eventually I do and then I am so sleepy when my alarm rings. It will pass, but my body has some humming energy with it these days that I haven’t felt in a such a long time.

Two nights ago, I had a succession of three vivid dreams right in a row. The first one found me in some unfamiliar house, and there was a sleeping person in the basement and others crowded around her telling everyone to sshhhhh stay quiet as not to wake her. I would tip toe around her and hear her stir and get scared I was going to be the one to wake her up. Then I walked upstairs and back down again, and the light in the kitchen woke this person up while I was standing in the middle of it. Everyone was a chaotic mess and looking straight at me as the culprit. I felt the guilt of it, and I was frantically trying to turn off the kitchen light with no switch to be found.

Dream 2. I am in a house again. But this time I am in a room of a house I lived in during college that has been torn down years ago. And my close friend and I (actually the same one I referenced in the last post) were saying, Isn’t this nice? To be in a dream where we can come back to this place that doesn’t exist anymore?

Dream 3. I am in a house I have never seen before, but in the dream it is mine. There is water coming in through the roof, pouring through the ceiling and dripping down the walls. I am trying to stop it at first, but then I just watch it happen with total surrender, understanding I can’t do anything about it anyway.

I know it is not as simple as looking up some magic symbol in a dream dictionary. But I also know what it feels like when some other subconscious piece of me is trying desperately to tell the rest of me something. Sometimes dreams, if we are patient with them and sit with them a minute, are trying to tell us something that we aren’t seeing otherwise. These three for me were so vivid and so strange that I have not been able to shake them.

Jung believed that dreams of houses represent the self and your various levels of consciousness. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I somehow feel like I have awakened some sleeping giant in the basement in this past two weeks, one I was trying to ignore and hope she’d sleep forever. And I was frantically trying to find a way to turn off that light switch and put her back to sleep, but she is awake now. I am for certain back in a space that I thought was torn down, long gone. And at first I tried to fight the water pouring in on all sides, but now I just let it flow.

Grief is cyclical. Things like intuition and spirit and emotion never move in a linear way, but they are always leading me where I am meant to be. And I am not even certain I can say I am grieving. That is not the right word. It’s more like an ache that echos and I don’t know what it means or where it came from — only that it needed to be here in this space and time in order to birth me onward to something new. I turn on the news, and I see the same thing collectively in our entire culture. Like it’s all boiling over for a lot of us.

This just happens sometimes, and I have lived long enough to know that I need to wait it out. Sit down and let it wash over and handle me however it needs to. Tears are like baptism, and I did nothing but write all weekend. Creation always has some scary, stirring energy that comes along with it.

I was thinking about this concept today when I was standing in line at the grocery store, and I remembered when Norah was born. I can remember when it was really intense, just beyond the scope of what I thought I could handle, when I’d swear aloud that I cannot handle another contraction, and then it would come and I would breathe through the pain, and then it would pass. Then the next one would come, and I would somehow forget everything I’d known, everything — forget that I’d already been doing this for hours, that I was doing this now, forget that I was born to do this. I’d feel sure of nearly nothing anymore. Repeat, breathe. Repeat, breathe. And just when I thought – for the millionth time – that I couldn’t do it anymore, that is when she came. Crying and bloody and messy and staring at me with the quietest eyes like she always knew we would meet and always knew it would be that second and in that exact place.

What if the whole world works like this? Every new and amazing thing that is born in my life. Every new and amazing piece of myself that I bring forth. What if the act of creation always puts you through a dark spot first? Breathe, repeat, breathe, repeat. Again and again until the new thing comes forward and looks at you with eyes that seem to say it was always supposed to be that way.

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Life and Randomness

trigger

It’s been a hard couple of weeks in the news. I know so many women who are having to turn away, and sometimes I do as well. It feels like the same message is taking different forms and swirling, swirling in the universe for me to grab hold and bring it to the light for a better look.

I unloaded to my friend last weekend about some personal battles I’m having in my own head and heart and some hardships she is facing, and she mentioned that Pema Chodron quote, Nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn. And look at us, here in 2018, still having public conversations about who is to blame for someone taking advantage of a woman’s body, her trust, the essence of who she is.

Look at me in 2018, at nearly 38 years old, still wondering if I am to blame for my own heartaches. It is all the same thing.

Do you know how many times a day I say either aloud or in my own head that I am sorry about something? Or that I should have done better? Or that I should have some kind of future-vision where I could see something coming before it gets here and read through someone’s false exterior like an x-ray? Or any other number of questions I use to dig through emotional labor like a shovel through gravel in the wreckage left behind by a man in one form or another. Always in a soft space where I am looking for the kindest way to respond, looking for the silver lining, trying to put pieces together in a way that fits. But sometimes none of it fits. None of it. You just have to leave it there untouched and unanswered.  I guess I’m saying tonight that it feels heavy and I’m tired of my own softness.

I am trying so hard, so so hard, to believe that there are men in this world who are kind and real and honest and mature and can do hard things. But I have been proven wrong so many times that I am losing faith, friend. Losing it fast.

And even as I type this, I think don’t post this because clearly someone who has repeated heartbreak with the same scenario playing on repeat like a broken record is at the root of her own pain somehow.  But can you see what that is? Again looking for a way that I am to blame for someone else’s dishonesty.

I had a night this weekend where I was alone in the darkness trying to sleep, and it felt like such deja vu that was so long ago buried in my body that I forgot what it even felt like until it bubbled to the surface again. I was right back to a place I’d rather forget and it felt unwarranted but real, so incredibly real – that voice in my head and my gut, that heaviness and quiver. I talked myself out of it for days and days, telling myself it was trauma buried somewhere and resurfacing unnecessarily and I shouldn’t listen to it – to my own blood and bones and frame and gut that knew what it knew without reason. I was telling myself it was wrong.

But the body never lies does it? My wiser self is always in there somewhere saying can you hear me? knock knock. Until louder and louder it goes. And even then sometimes I blame my own self and call it a misdirection. But she is right every time, my body. Every time she speaks to me, I need to listen. Nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn.

I asked that same friend tonight on the phone – through a few tears and a lot of her refrains of I know, I know – how many times a heart can take a beating before it just closes for business. Tonight I feel as though I am at my limit. In my own life, when I watch the news, when I look at a string of days behind me that I would rather forget or at least be able to write over again.  When I think about doing this again and again, I want to give up and just harden it and close the doors for a while.

But I know that my heart is a muscle the size of my fist and it somehow keeps beating again and again. Yours does too.  Nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to learnNothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn. I’m letting these words flow over me tonight like water, letting them slide and sink in the dark as I fall asleep. I don’t feel the deja vu anymore at all – no shakes and no quivers and no tightness in my center. All I can feel now is the quiet rush of my own self here again, the same as she ever was. Sore but not broken.

Today I drove home from work in the late afternoon light. My drive is long but mostly rural and beautiful and winding. I was exhausted from work and the questions tumbling in my head the last few days. And I remembered the day I moved from my old house – my married home – when I was coming out of a season of my body screaming at me for months and months before I listened. My friend, a fellow single mom halfway across the world raising her girls alone, sent me a song as a moving soundtrack. This played on repeat for me for nearly half of that day as I packed the last few boxes and swept the dust from the corners of the empty rooms in that house that felt like a haunted museum.

I flippantly put that same song on today as I rounded a curve, and I turned it loud as I drove toward the sunset to a quiet and empty house of my own waiting for me.

I didn’t expect it, but my chin quivered when she began the second verse – And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind. I can never leave the past behind. I can see no way, I can see no way .I’m always dragging that horse around. Then the tears came with my favorite line – I am done with my graceless heart. So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart. A long and winding road with the music loud and the tears flowing will get you where you need to be. Every time.

Here’s to cutting it out. Every last graceless piece of me that blames myself for someone else’s actions. It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, sure. But the heaviest horse I carry, the one that hangs on my back like some never ending shadow is that command I have absorbed that tells me that it is my job to clean up any mess left and make neat, beautiful piles from the wreckage.

Tonight, I’m not sweeping anything. I am letting it be. Shaking it out and out and out again until all that is left is who I am underneath the heartache – solid and true. Grace upon grace upon grace. I believe every story my body tells me, every true and right thing she whispers. And I believe yours, too.

 

 

gratitude, Life and Randomness, single parenthood

sacred

We are almost to the end of August, my least favorite month. Routines are not quite established yet, and it all feels new. Once we are in the swing of things, it makes me feel a little more firmly held. But not yet.

Yesterday’s schedule had us leaving the house at 7:30 in the morning and walking back in the door at 7:20pm, a routine that will feel normal in a few more weeks, but last night I went to bed depleted and frazzled. These years and their packed lunch boxes and homework checks and ballet tights and sports practices. It’s no wonder older parents swear to me that it flies so quickly.  The rhythm of my academic life mirrors my kids’ seasons as my work schedule gains speed right when theirs does. Most weeks race like a mad dash to the finish line.

School year routines can feel good and firm and safe though – once I get used to them again. But they can also feel overwhelming. I was drowning in work tasks this last few days, unsure if I could finish things in time, and the frantic brain wasn’t helping. All of my mental browsers open at the same time, like a desk full of scribbled post-its. Yesterday morning I vowed to take a long look at my list, choose what was most important (not necessarily most urgent), and do only one thing at a time. Suddenly instead of spinning my wheels, I was checking things off my list. Multi-tasking never works as well as we think it does.

Urgency and priority are not the same thing.

The hard part about this time of year – and perhaps about parenting or even existing as a human in the modern world at all – is that it is actually up to me and only me to name the priorities in my life and to hold them sacred. No one is going to help me with that. And even worse, what the world demands of me, what is screaming loudest for my attention, is hardly ever what I truly value most. It is not easy holding those things firmly in their place at the front of my life.

I heard an interview with Wintley Phipps on the way to work this morning, and he talked about partnership and character. He said something like if you ask someone what they hold sacred and they cannot name a single thing, that person is not someone you want to be with. It’s a concept that made me stop and think and replay it in my head and then toss the word sacred in my brain and heart all day long. Sacred, holy, set apart, inviolable, unassailable, cherished, revered. (the synonym game)

He was speaking specifically about marriage and partnership, and it spoke right to me and gave voice to something I’ve thought a lot about in the last year or so and didn’t quite have words for yet. But apart from relationships, it also made me think about my own self and what I hold sacred.  What is revered most and what feels holy in my own life.

Sacred to me is never what screams the loudest for attention. It is early quiet mornings when it is still dark outside and my kids are sleeping, and I am stumbling through the kitchen to feed the dog and brew coffee. It is time with only the three of us. It is the ways they share the tiniest pieces of their days just before their eyes get heavy, just after I have turned off the lamp beside them. Sometimes sacred is something simple like a lunch at my desk with my office door closed to students, or early evening light through the kitchen window while I stir something on the stove. Sacred is laughing at something one of the kids said that I wasn’t expecting to hear. It is a handwritten card or a quick note from someone. The sound of a voice on the telephone line in the age of too many text messages. It is typing words on a screen and printing them on a page to edit with a favorite pen. It’s reading a book in the late lamplight before I go to sleep.

I am not always a pessimist about the modern world – usually quite the opposite actually. But this is one area where we are not winning at all. The very things that hold most of us together don’t happen unless we claim them and notice them. And somehow that gets harder to do with every passing year and the hurried pace we all measure ourselves against.

Perhaps my resolution for the academic year ahead is just to see things through this lens. To ask myself the right question everyday – Is this important or it this just urgent? To seek the sacred and recognize it for what it is and demand space for it everyday. I once heard boundaries described like the careful hand we place around the tiny flame on a birthday candle as the voices sing and we prepare the cake for its moment on the table. That tiny burning flame that needs a shield from the space around it in order to survive. It’s up to me to name what’s holy and to shield it from all the rest.

Life and Randomness

still the same thing

My kids started school yesterday. (We do it early here in Georgia, but they get a few scattered breaks throughout the year.) They woke up excited, hopped on the bus with friends, and came home with details and excitement to spare. But when we sat around the dinner table last night, it somehow felt like there was no break at all. Like I was just doing this with a kindergartener and a second grader, and I blinked, and now I guess we are here with a first grader and a third grader. The days are swirling so fast.

Lying in bed last night, I was thinking of what this feels like lately. I thought about when someone has a stack of papers or a handful or receipts or something, and then the wind blows and it takes the pieces flying in all directions across a parking lot or a busy sidewalk. The person flails around unsuccessfully trying to get them back as they blow away. That is my life lately. The second I think it is in my hands, it has flown away and we are on to a new stage.

They got back from their Europe trip just over a week ago. All they wanted to do was lie down in a pile of blankets and watch a movie, and I was happy to play along. There is a lot of push and pull happening for all three of us lately. Independence and time apart this summer, and then remembering what home feels like.

Untitled

Yesterday I waved kids off from our crowded bus stop for the fourth year. Four. I can hardly believe that somehow. We have been here in this shape with these four walls for almost half of Jude’s life and most of Norah’s. This is not a transition year at all for us. No fresh start at a new school for anyone. Norah has the same teacher Jude had two years ago. We are familiar to one another, and she hugged me as I walked into the meet and greet a few days ago. I lingered at the bus stop today with a hot coffee mug and other moms who know me well and see my kids everyday. We’ve made a cocoon here, and I’m feeling more than ever that it is what I once prayed for — peace and home and roots that have grown deep in this place. When I have eyes to see that, I understand that I lack for nothing.

I listened to the latest episode of Spiritualish yesterday afternoon as I cleaned in my quiet house while the kids were gone. One of the hosts is in her mid-forties and a mother to a teenager, and the frame of the entire episode was how midlife and adolescence are essentially the same thing. Or that maybe we at least have something to learn from reflecting on what our issues were in adolescence and perhaps they just reappear in another form in midlife. This thought blew my mind and struck a chord that I keep thinking about and turning over again and again in my head.

I think what we all wanted in adolescence was the same thing – freedom and autonomy and faces that looked back at us with a recognition of who we really are. And I’d venture to say that is what people want in midlife as well.

When I taught high school, I could see so clearly that is what my students wanted, but I could also see that some students really got it and went about chasing those things in a way that worked — exploring and coming to know themselves better, making choices that were true to themselves, and sometimes challenging authority but in a thoughtful and authentic way that helped to shape the path they were carving for themselves. And of course some students chased those things in all the wrong ways — pretending to be something they were not, self-destructive behaviors and distractions, trying on relationships that anyone could see were not working for them, and pushing against authority and traditional wisdom just to prove something.

And here I am in midlife (or close to it. Is late 30’s midlife yet?) and I watch my peers doing the same thing. It is exactly the same. When we were teenagers, we realized that the structure and life we’d known was not working for us anymore. It’s still the same thing at midlife. The status quo is not working for anyone anymore, and you have two options: chasing all the wrong things and continuing to play the game or doing that hard work of self-exploration and having the courage to truly hit the reset button on aspects of our lives that are simply not working anymore. I suppose that is the difference between a midlife crisis (doing it all wrong) and a midlife awakening (doing it right). But at the root, we all want the same things.

I’m not certain where I am going with this except to say that this cocoon has felt so nice, and it is warm and familiar here, and I have all the things I have prayed for. But also I feel like I’m just getting started, and as I grow closer and closer to my 40th year, I can see that adolescence brewing again. Maybe I’ve been lucky that the storm that happened in my mid-thirties blew away anything that wasn’t working for me so that I could make new roots and start again and build my life intentionally from the ground up. In Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed writes a letter to a class of college graduates and tells them, “About eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself will over time prove to be false. The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl.” I am almost to that 20 year mark, and sometimes I do feel like howling when I see what remains that I always knew deep down was true. That weird sense of deja vu when you don’t know where the years have gone or how you got here, but you always knew you’d feel like this.

Everyday brings new challenges with my kids and within my own self. Every morning brings a million tasks to be accomplished before we go to bed to wake up tomorrow and do it all again. The challenge is to carve a meaningful life that feels true in the midst of tackling so many small things.

Last night Norah leaned a little too hard on a small table in the corner of my living room. It toppled over and sent a glass candle crashing in a hundred pieces on the floor. It was nothing sentimental or valuable, but the commotion and drama made us all jump. I scooped it up and vacuumed the tiny pieces while she cried. I told her it was fine, but the tears were flowing anyway.

A few minutes later, she went upstairs for a bath, and she said, “You know what, Mama? Practice does not make perfect.” I asked her what she meant, and she said that today at school her teacher told them there is no such thing as perfect. “Practice makes better,” she explained.

I think maybe we never completely figure it out, do we? I don’t trust anyone who says they have. We practice and we practice and we get better, and eventually our lives start to look more like our own and our freedom starts to feel more vast everyday. We pretend to outgrow our old desires, but really we want the same things at 16 and at 36 and at 46. And if we do it the right way, with a little courage and intention, we move closer and closer with every year.

 

gratitude, Life and Randomness

we never know until we look back

How has half of June passed me by already? Summer days usually trail along a little slower than the rest of the year, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. I want to bottle it up and slow it down.

Last week was full of swimming lessons and sweaty outside play and sleepovers and late night movies and the first few red tomatoes from our patio. Then the kids left for Father’s Day weekend and the week ahead, and I am home with a long to-do list and suitcases to pack for our upcoming beach week. I’ve been reading Ron Rash’s Burning Bright which is painful and beautiful. He has an amazing talent for writing stories of struggle in ways that are honest and true.

I also ran across this photo piece and accompanying essay published in the NY Times for Father’s Day. The writer lost his father at 4, and I lost mine at 5, and so much of the details in this piece may differ from my experience, but the core of it runs parallel for me. He explains that “My friends’ fathers were present but seemed ordinary in comparison. Mine was absent but felt mythic.” That word, mythic, is one I haven’t placed on my own experience, but it is well chosen. I can remember once, years ago, a man I worked with was asking me about losing my father, and when he learned I was so young, he said something like “Oh, so it’s more like a void for you then?” I remember I responded with a pause and then “yeah, I guess, but I don’t know. Void doesn’t seem like the right way to say it.” But now that I have found mythic, that is it.

All those tiny, ordinary details become larger than life somehow. That he grew up on the beach and would happily swim much farther from shore than most sane people would. That he was a musician. That he had more culinary drive and talent than anyone else. That I ended up with a tattered copy of Srimad-Bhagavatam that belonged to him. That he gave me my middle name minutes after birth because I just look like a Katie Mae, he claimed. These little details would likely be inconsequential if he were still here next to me as I write this. But now they stand like mythic guideposts that sketch a frame of who he was.

We all do this with people when they die. They grow somehow to stand at more mythic heights. But I think we do this with certain periods of our lives as well. Hindsight filters our view. Memory is a curious thing.

I heard a RobCast episode recently where he was elaborating on that Old Testament moment in Exodus where God tells Moses you will never see my face; you will only see me as I go. The harsh reading of that almost sounds like God is taunting Moses, but Rob Bell’s discussion gave me a different perspective. It is only ever in the rear view mirror that we see the full beauty of everything.  We can try to feel it as it comes, and there is something to be said for presence and being conscious in the moment. But there really are just some things that cannot be fully revealed until later — as Cheryl Strayed says in that beautiful essay I love so much, “It’s almost never until later that we can draw a line between this and that.” It’s one of the most frustrating and the most incredible things about life, I think.

Bell says, “If it all came to you at once, it would fry your circuits. You’d be a wreck, a puddle on the floor. So the nature of a spiritual experience is that you want all the answers and you want it to be clear … the sense of where this is going or what to do next, you don’t want that. But what is the other option? That suddenly you have arrived? That would sear you to the bone. The way it works is that you are given the next thing that you can bear. You are shown enough to open you up … It’s a profound truth about the nature of spiritual experience. The way that it works is not big dramatic moments on top of a mountain… even that is just a glimpse … the day by day revealing.”

These might seem like two entirely separate things – the mythic portrait I carry of my father and the slow frame-by-frame revealing of the life I firmly stand in now, but in ways, I think they are the same thing. In both cases, it is only ever in the end that we see the whole mural, all of the colors and all of the lines and how each piece connected to another to build something beautiful. Parents do this when they look back at days when their grown children were younger. Long-term couples do this when they look back at their early days together and the little moments and stories that led to love. Eventually we see it in all of its beauty, but maybe right now one little glimpse at a time is enough.

I don’t know what this summer will be for me when I have the distance to see it for what it really is. Maybe it is when I am weaving my story on the page one line at a time or maybe it is when I am creating something else that it’s finally time for. Or maybe it is simply rest and sinking my heels in a little deeper and making slow progress on all of the tiny pieces of a life well lived that is uniquely mine. We never know until we get there, and for once in my life, I’m okay right here as I rest in the unknowing.

Life and Randomness, summer

being before doing

It’s the day after Memorial Day, and summer break is officially here for the kids. It somehow doesn’t feel like I’m on break yet, but they are away next week, and I’m sure my 7-day stream of solitude will let summer’s real feeling come soon enough.

For now, it has been end-of-the-year awards and Boy Scout ceremonies and pool parties and a revolving door of neighborhood friends coming in and out. Popsicles and bare feet. It rained most of the day yesterday, and it is still falling as I type this. The house is a mess of legos and crayons, and I am trying to remember how numbered these days are to prevent my going crazy about the tiny doses of chaos.  I have such high hopes for this summer. Books to read and lines to write and spaces in my life and my house that need a reset. And yet I haven’t done a single piece of that yet because I’m chasing kids and making lunch to clean it up and then making a snack to clean it up and then making dinner to clean it up. And rinse and repeat.

My Richard Rohr emails come every night while I’m sleeping, and I use them to center myself before the chaos of the day. Every week, he takes a different focus, and for a good three years now, I have watched my life unfold in ways that always seem to parallel what he is writing about that particular week.  This week’s focus is on purpose and vocation, and he’s been providing passages from Parker Palmer’s work.

Palmer says, “[My newborn granddaughter] did not show up as raw material to be shaped into whatever image the world might want her to take. She arrived with her own gifted form, with the shape of her own sacred soul. . . . Thomas Merton calls it true self. Quakers call it the inner light, or ‘that of God’ in every person. The humanist tradition calls it identity and integrity. No matter what you call it, it is a pearl of great price. . . .The deepest vocational question is not ‘What ought I to do with my life?’ It is the more elemental and demanding ‘Who am I? What is my nature?'”

I know all of this and have heard it in so many forms and ways, and yet I still forget sometimes. It’s so easy to get caught up in the lists and the goals and the specific hopes and forget the essence of all of it, forget what runs underneath all of that. That who you are is the platform under what you do. That being comes before doing.

Palmer also references Frederick Buchner who insists that vocation is “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” It’s a line that keeps running through my head as guidance for big picture questions – like what is my path – and little moment dilemmas – like how to find a happy balance in these four walls. Where my gladness meets what is needed is where the sweet spot exists. (I re-listened to Rob Bell’s “You Listening to You” last week, and he comments on this as well. My purpose cannot be different than what brings me gladness. God doesn’t design us that way.)

I’m not sure if it is a woman thing or a parent thing or just an aspect of my personality that I can sometimes be a little scared of following gladness for the sake of joy and nothing else. I have viewed it as an extra, a bonus, instead of a guidepost to determine if I am on the right track. I lean in and I exhale and I have fun in the moment, but then it’s easy to roll that soundtrack in the back of your head that tells you that it’s not that simple. But what if it is? I’m not talking about the low level happy pursuits that bounce in and out and don’t linger. But that hum where the real stuff is, that rushing current underneath, the one that’s quiet but real.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this today except to say that this season always brings out the urge to slow it down. Hot afternoons and late daylight and no pressing schedules or school night routines. I’m vowing now to remember the who before the what, the being before the doing. And I guess most of all, just allow myself to follow the gladness and let that guide me. As Rilke says, “Let life happen to you. Believe me; life is in the right, always.”

Life and Randomness

truth

It is early morning as I type this. I have a full day of grading essays ahead of me, but I give final exams in the next week, and my academic year is winding down. This is the storm before the calm. I am almost there.

The rose bush in my backyard has been covered in buds for weeks it seems, but yesterday I finally saw three blooms bust wide open, and this morning it is covered in bright pink flowers. It’s strange how something as predictable and certain as the change of seasons can be so exciting.

There are certain truths in life – like that winter will become spring every single year without fail – that we tend to forget or ignore or somehow doubt. I feel like this message is chasing me lately. Does that happen to you, too? It’s like everything that I am reading or hearing or thinking is revolving around some center point whispering to be heard and then shouting a little louder until I pay attention to it.

Today’s culture values individual perspectives and stories, and I’m grateful for that. It’s important, and it’s the first step to empathy. But maybe what we lose in the process is the notion of absolute truth. There is the truth and there is my truth and there is your truth. None of those are exactly the same thing, but the absolute truth is the bedrock where you have to begin. We even have a term for this now when someone says truth-bomb. As though that real truth, that uncomfortable thing we try to ignore, is explosive.

I was listening to a podcast recently where someone was talking about this, and she said truth is like a reporter – just the facts, ma’am. The rest of it is stories that we pile on which can have some value but can also be full of false notions sometimes. I love gray area. I love the questions it brings and the changes it can inspire in me. But I lived in that space for so long that I am ready for solid ground, and maybe this truth concept is at the center of that.

I haven’t read any of Augusten Burroughs’ work. (Tell me where to begin if you have!) But I ran across a passage of his on Instagram, and it blew me away. He says, “Nothing you build on inaccuracy or mere hope or longing or lies or laws that oppose the nature of things can endure.” That is a statement of fact. How many times in our lives do we do this? We can build something on inaccuracy, and it can chug along for awhile, but it cannot endure. This is why people can drive expensive cars and file for bankruptcy soon after. Why you get shocking news of someone’s divorce when they appeared to be happy only a few months ago. Why friendships don’t stand the test of time when you don’t have all that much in common to begin with. It is why someone with a beautiful social media feed is often pretty unhappy in reality. The gig is always up eventually. That is not a truth we can change. It’s a universal law.

He also explains, “Whenever I have encountered a block or an issue in my own life it’s because somewhere, hidden in my life, is an inaccuracy and I have to find it. There’s an inaccuracy of the marriage, of the life I’ve built…being a little bit dishonest here and there created a disaster. When I think about all the times I’ve screwed up it was because there was a lie somewhere in my life.” That’s a pretty sobering thought. These lies are not always things that we tell others; in fact, I’d say it’s more likely that they are things we tell ourselves.

I tell my students that writing is like an excavation. You have to chip away at all the layers sometimes until you get to what you really think, what you really want to say. That’s where you strike gold.

Truth is the same way. It is not as subjective as our culture likes to think it is. If someone shows you who they are, you can add a thousand stories to it to explain it away, but what is the truth? Just the facts ma’am. What do their actions show you about who they are? That is the simple truth. If you have patterns in your life that keep reintroducing themselves again and again. What are you doing to create it? One long look in the mirror and all the hard questions. That’s where the excavation starts.

This is hard stuff, but the other side of that coin is that there are some beautiful truths that we can’t deny either.

What I know is true ……

That good things come to those who work hard.

That the life you create is made of a million tiny moments, the things you do every single day.

That patience is a virtue and you will always get better results when you respect the hands of time and withstand the urge to chase something shiny and temporary

That gratitude multiplies on itself and brings you abundance

That lasting happiness is built of your own hands inside of your own self

 

I think what I know to be true above everything else is that life always gives you what you want. Always. Not like some genie in a bottle delivering us our wishes on command. But what you pay attention to grows and grows. Maybe where we go wrong is that, with all of the other layers we throw on top of it, we lose that pulse of what we really desire, and we want something else instead. Then that thing comes true and we are left with unhappiness anyhow because we chased the wrong thing.

These are hard questions. But where you find the inaccuracies is also where you can follow that path to the truth. You find it, you ask for it, you work for it, and it will come to be. This I know is true. As sure as the earth travels around the sun, as sure as the seasons pass, what you desire will come to you. The challenge is to want the right things.