breaking up is hard to do….

there’s no easy way to end a 2 1/2 year relationship.

still, i woke about a week ago, the morning after a hard fight, and somehow i knew. that’s where we were heading.

the fight was nothing special, nothing more than had been fought about many times before. but, as i came soon realize, it was a symptom of bigger problems.

i met B a year before we started dating. he was a regular at the coffee shop where I served as a barista, and had just returned from a trip to Spain. he travelled alone, partying on the beaches and running with the bulls. i could tell he liked me immediately. i invited him for tea on my porch and he wooed me with coffee and conversation at the gallery where i worked. he was a friend to me, but nothing more.

it was nearly a year before my heart started to change. my dad was very ill and in the hospital, and B reached out to me, offered to take me to dinner. i knew if i went to him, i could let my guard down and be held. but still, i held out for another couple months. finally, i knew i was in all the way and told him i would like to start dating.

we did immediately.

i moved in about 5 months later and we began to explore new territory. we were entertained by playing fetch with the cat and enjoyed playing Yahtzee. we had tickle wars and told each other stories about our days. he tolerated me moving (and re-moving and re-moving) the furniture until it felt just right. and i tolerated his incessant sharing of random trivia and any other kind of special knowledge he had.

and every morning i would be greeted with a sweet “good morning beautiful.”

we went through many seasons together. seasons as a couple, and seasons of ourselves. we began to explore different facets of ourselves–he started a business and bought a duplex to renovate and eventually rent, and i made a couple different job changes, eventually daring to start exploring yoga and natural health. everynight we shared stories about our day, and everyday we grew and changed. and not always in the same ways.

still, our love grew and deepened and i found myself making concessions about my future. perhaps this was simply how relationships were; you had choices in life and every choice meant something else you willingly gave up. and i would. because i deeply loved him. and he deeply loved me. we were in foreign territory.

still, that fight a week ago began to shake things up. i spent the weekend with a sense of impending doom, that we were in the throws of breaking up. nothing was “wrong”, really, at least not overtly. we had just traveled to a friend’s wedding the weekend before and we was an incredibly helpful and giving person, encouraging me and preparing food for us and my friends, driving and lending his car. we hiked and laughed and snuggled at night. i felt truly blessed to have him by my side. but something had shifted and, while i couldn’t name any reason why, i knew we were nearing the end.

finally, i broached the subject Sunday night and the only thing i could come up with to describe what was happening was this:

“i think we’re at the end of our road together.”

i expected anger, defensiveness, arguments. instead, he nodded and all my reserves broke. the tears that had been coming for a couple days came flooding forward. he was agreeing with me. we were acknowledging that the differences were too great, that there were pieces of the puzzle that just didn’t fit. and never would. we loved each other dearly, but we were breaking up.

i saw tears well up in his eyes and he moved forward to hold me. we wept and told jokes and laughed, and wept some more. it is the strangest thing, being able to share everything with a partner, even the grief of the end.

as the week began, i made a game plan for moving out. i would get a storage unit, secure a place to stay for a bit until i could find a suitable apartment, then i would live by myself for awhile. try to rest, recouperate, begin again.

by Tuesday, my plan had me in fits and i began to wonder if we’d made the right decision, was it too late to change our minds, was i forcing something because i was scared of moving forward, and so on. i was staying at the house until i could finish moving, and when i got home he was there. he was gentle and soft, and i found myself being held by him, wondering outloud if we were doing the right thing. like the sensible partner he always was, he reminded me of the differences of our paths, the things he wanted and didn’t want, the things i desperately did.

i stayed with him that night, and the other 2 that followed. as we went to bed last night, my last in the house, he pulled me close and, to my surprise, began to cry. it was our last night together.

“how long did you spend wanting to date me,” i asked. “and how long did i spend wanting to marry you. and look at where we are.”

“i’m so sorry it didn’t work out,” was all he could reply.

these are the things i’ll miss. the little moments before we went to bed or when we woke up in the morning. the sweet, quiet moments that only the people in the relationship can know or understand. the moments that know one else is privy to, where you feel completely understood by another human being, where you feel connected beyond explanation.

i look at the pictures of our earlier todays together, the bright, fresh love in our eyes. idealistic love that hoped beyond hope that love could conquer all. and i look at the love he have now, so powerful and strong that it could set the other free.

this morning, he helped me pack up the last little bits of things and hugged me good-bye, just like we have done for the last 2 1/2 years. no, there’s no easy way to end a relationship of that length and width and depth, but there was something very special about this one. no anger, no hatred. just love, all the way up to the end.

and for that i am grateful.

“‘all you need is love” is a lie ’cause
we had enough and we still said good-bye
now we’re tired, battered fighters

and it stings when it’s nobody’s fault
’cause there’s nothing to blame at the drop of your name
it’s only the air you took, and the breath you left….
    {split screen sadness by john mayer}

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what’s in a name…

there are plenty of labels to go around in my hood.

white trash. ghetto. hipster. hipster-wannabe. dirty hippies. damn kids. lazy couch surfer. drunk. deadbeat dad. smoker. bum. homeless guy. beggar. anarchist college kids. lesbians. preppies. crazy religious. not to mention the racist ones i refuse to repeat.

and the list goes on and on.

i mean, i get it. i’m guilty of it. just before writing this, as i pulled out of the taco shop parking lot, i saw a haggard looking family, children running about, an older looking grandpa like figure smoking a cigarette as he rode his bike around and in front of my car as i attempted to leave.

several labels immediately came to mind.

then, another thought:
what if i looked at them with compassion?

and my perspective started to shift.

in light of today’s ruling striking down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, i’m reminded of a lot of labels that have been pretty prominent in my life for this past year.

gay. homo. fag. abomination. god-damned.

when the only labels i ever recognized were friend. family. people i love.

as i sat listening to hours of testimony in January, through two different hearings and hours of hurtful, hateful labels, my heart ached for these critics to see more. to see the human behind the label. to see their tears, hear their cries, understand their fearful hearts.

see, that’s the thing about labels. they distance us from the human beneath the label. they protect us and insulate us from wrestling with the paradigm shift that people who are different from us create. they keep us from responding with compassion. in fact, they justify us not responding at all. after all, if i can find a label that proves that person deserves what they’re getting, then i have no responsibility to them.

and if they keep us from all those things, they perpetuate hate, and anger, and war. essentially, every evil in this world starts with our simple judgment on one another.

it won’t happen overnight. it may not even happen in our lifetime. but everyday should begin to serve as an opportunity to practice dropping the label.

or better yet, converting it.

how about:
neighbor
precious
beautiful
human
brother
sister

friend.

 

 

choices, choices….

when i was job searching, i had submitted nearly a dozen resumes to companies around Indy, start-ups and non-profits that i had a passion for working alongside.  i hesitantly put my name forward for the company i work for as well, and was shocked that the only call-back i received was from them.  in fact, i cried.

i could only see this move as a step back.  after i had made so much headway into what i would have considered my calling, i was going back to corporate America.  selling my soul to the man.  i went through the interview process, grieving all that i had thought would work, all that i had hoped would be what i wanted.  it was an emotional process of letting go, and embracing a new experience.  i am so thankful, now, that this job presented itself as a possibility.

eventually, i got a couple more interview requests but knew, deep down, this was the choice for me, and i turned them down.

a friend and i were celebrating a recent experience where she was able to say no, firmly, to something that was not good for her and act on it.  we discussed how important it is to acknowledge such an accomplishment, especially when, if you’re like me, you tend to find identity and comfort in the bad choices.  no matter how much they usually hurt in the end.  learning to not choose what is bad is the first step in healing.  in walking forward in beauty and truth and light.

it doesn’t stop there, tho.  the next step in that journey must be learning to choose what is good.  it is this step that seems entirely hard to grasp, and i grow more and more thankful that good things tend to be the only option so that i am often forced to walk toward them.

similar to the job situation, i sit in a very unique place relationship wise.  a good guy, with incredible qualities, who treats me with dignity and respect, sits before me as a possibility.  a very real and excellent possibility.  still, i sit, almost unable to reach out my hands, fearful for some strange reason.  then i think about something that was shared at yoga, that deep down i don’t feel myself worthy of anything good.  i don’t find myself worthy of good attention, or respect, or even love.

i can reject what is bad, but i must really work to choose what is good….and so i grieve all that i ever hoped would work out and hasn’t, all that i’ve tried, the bad decisions and the mistakes that have taught me so much.  i try to remind myself of my beauty, my light.  i try not to be so defensive when a compliment comes my way.  i try to see myself through the eyes of someone who adores me.  i try to remind myself that i deserve good things, that i deserve to be loved.  that i am loved, and worth loving.

it’s funny…i’ll dive head first into a situation with an unknown outcome, but i hesitate so timidly at the edge of a situation that would bring such life.  and so the journey continues…perhaps it will lead me to a place where choosing good things for myself will not seem so foreign or so impossible.

the seed sprouts in the scar: Tijuana

one of my fondest memories at my grandmother’s house as a child was during a snow storm.  i grew up outside the city limits and we were often without power if a big snow hit.  my grandma’s house was tucked away inside the grand city of Lebanon, where somehow she was not as prone to outages–probably due to the protection of closer buildings, less wind and drifting of snow, presence of snow plows–and we went there to stay warm while we waited.

i remember late nights there, sitting on the couch in front of her big, wide-open front window.  i was amazed at how orange the sky looked as the night lights reflected off the snow.  if i let my imagination run free, i could imagine that it was actually light enough to be day.  i think deep down, i was mostly amazed that such life seemed to be happening in the middle of the night, in the midst of a snow storm.  life was happening amidst the chaos.

before we left for this trip, my roommate said:

“the seed sprouts in the scar.”

on further prompting, she explained a Wendell Berry poem, where he describes how the earth must be scarred, must be turned over and over, and the land looking nothing as it did before the plowing.  but how that also must happen for a seed to be planted and grow.  she thought this was fitting for the current state of our group, that we may be scarred, but there is always great promise for new growth.

A beautiful tree blossoms in the dump.

that is my summation of my time in Tijuana, as well.  to say God was present seems not-enough; so much was birthed there that it is hard to yet see all the fruits.  we walked the red light district and looked into the eyes of teenage prostitutes.  we sat on tree stumps in the bottom of the dump, the city dump turned neighborhood and talked about life.  we played with the most beautiful kids in the world.  we were Jesus and we met Jesus in them.  it is almost too much to explain, so i will share just one story.

as we walked through the dump (literally, it was once a working dump, has been covered with dirt, and now many who have found no other place to call home, have built a house in the dump and try their best to make a life), a man and his wife came up beside us.  the had just come from deep in the dump.  he explained that she was feeling down, so he took her there to see if they could find a plant to bring back to their home.  sure enough, in the center of her palm, she cradled a beautiful, freshly sprouted plant.

they showed us their home, and shared how the recent storms had washed rocks through the wall and over the beds of their sons.  they had only just the day before been able to clear the house of rocks and reestablish the back wall.  they warmly invited us in to see.

The outside of the home.

The outside of the home.

...and the inside.

we shared this story with the woman in charge of the orphanage later.  she told us she had a church group coming in soon to build a house, and she needed a family to allocate it to.  the next morning, we delivered the good news.  by Feb. 5th, this family will have a new home.  a beautiful plant sprouts in the dump, and the seed sprouts in the scar, and a redeeming Creator blesses his broken people with good gifts.

A house hangs laundry in the dump. Just beneath those rolling green hills are years of trash.

Valeria, Evelyn and Alicia...some of my playmates at the orphanage in Rosarito.

Enjoying the beauty of the beach.

risky business

i recently signed up for a babysitting site called care.com.  you create a profile, advertise your services and seek out jobs.  i responded to one from a family coming in to town for the Jets/Colts game, needing care for their 5-year-old daughter.  after some emails and a phone conversation, they asked me to take the job and i agreed.

i’ll admit, this felt a bit like online dating and even as i biked there, i wondered if i was insane for accepting this job from complete strangers.  would i be lured to a hotel room, only to be bound and gagged and robbed?  a million and one sick scenes played through my mind. 

of course, none of that happened.  i got to hang out with a super cool, highly energetic 5-year-old, and we spend the night playing and dancing and learning about Canada.  we settled into the bed and i turned on some soothing Ray LaMontaigne and she was out like a light. 

as i sat there, in a beautiful room in the historic Canterbury Hotel downtown, with this lovely sleeping child laying next to me and Ray playing quietly, i thought again about risk.  how rewarding it can be.

i recently risked big time in a relationship.  layed all my cards on the table, let myself be transparent and exposed.  but it wasn’t reciprocated.  some actions were taken and i was left feeling deeply hurt. 

one of the writing exercises did this week was focused on mood.  i was to enter whatever mood i was in, sit with it, write for 10 minutes without ceasing.  so i sat with my mellow mood which, as i wrote, became more of a mood of lamenting.  i realized how much i was grieving this friendship and the possibility of hope.  risk equated itself fully with pain.

the tendency at this point would be retreat, avoid any further situations  but risk, it seems, adds the color to my life.  darks and reds and bright and brilliant oranges and blues.  but color nonetheless.  on this canvas of my life, it’s what really keeps the picture from stagnating.  it pulls me off the page and into reality, keeps me alive.  really alive, not just living. 

and the truth is, if i desire to have faith, hope, love, and grace in my life, i must risk.  for none of those are safe places to walk.  they are unknown, unsure, unsteady ground.  my feet don’t always know the way, but the willingness to risk must be the shoes i wear.

the master was furious!  “that’s a terrible way to live!  it’s criminal to live cautiously like that!. . . .take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most.”
           -matthew 25, parable of the talents

Emmanuel: God with Us

as i was talking to my dad about tree-decorating, etc, he mentioned that the spirit of the holiday just wasn’t in their house.  i resonated with this.  each year since my parents’ divorce has been different.  sometimes i feel the wonderful peacefulness of the holiday, and others i feel disappointment and loneliness as Christmas serves as a reminder for all that has been lost.

last year, about this time, i was feeling especially low.  i was in the midst of cleaning up a messy break-up and dealing with the holidays and just felt sad, a lot.  i met with one of the pastor’s at church, and his encouragement was this:  just before Jesus came, the days were grower shorter, darker, and the people of God were losing hope that there was an answer.  and just like that, in the dead of the night, in a dirty barn, a little baby was born.  Jesus.  Emmanuel.  God-with-Us.  a reminder that God sees us, and longs to be with us.  basically, you’re not alone in feeling that all is not as it should be, because it really isn’t.  but there is hope coming.

i think we get all wrapped up in this idea of the “spirit” of the season, of the gushy movies we watch that show the Holiday as something so perfect, and warm, and cheery.  there are bits and pieces of that for sure, but perhaps the more honest thing is to admit that it’s hard.  that life is growing darker, and seems hopeless, and we are in desperate need of a God who desires to be near us.  we are in desperate need of a reminder that He is bigger than all this, for lack of a better word, crap around us.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has become one of my favorite songs in recent years, as it presents the deep cry of humanity:  come, God.  come and pay our ransom.  we are being held captive and drowning in despair.  come, oh God-with-us.

so, in this “season,” however it may be looking for you, hear the Father’s words to His children:

broken, battered people.  i see you in the midst of your despair, and am about to do something.  you will find me when you look for me in the dark, deserted places.  i will come humbly to live among you, to restore you and make things right.  do not lose hope, for i love you more than words can ever express.

words like soothing balm….

i felt happier tonight than i’ve felt in a very long time.  whole.  healed.  a deep, deep sense of coming to appreciate myself, just as i am.  an indescribable something i could only call joy.    in the midst of this discovery, i recalled a conversation just a short couple months ago with a dear friend.  the power had gone out and we sat in his kitchen in candlelight.  he asked if i thought i would always consider myself broken.  i said yes, to some degree.  he then shared that his hope would be that i would realize that i was called to live out of a place of wholeness.

this most recent stretch of this journey i call my life has been a wierd one.  even as i walked through the hurt and confusion of a break-up, God spoke to me.  softly, tenderly, gently.  sweet words like soothing balm:

i am healing you, daughter.

tonight, i fully began to realize just how deeply.  it is as if, a long time ago, a little plant began to emerge through a crack in the sidewalk.  it’s roots spread deep and wide, cracking the concrete.  the stem grew taller and taller, stronger bit by bit.  when i finally had the courage to look again, it was a great tree, with branches spreading across the sky, both stretching toward the heavens and giving shelter to those below.  the concrete was no more as the pieces were crumbled into smaller and smaller bits, and were then absorbed into the soil.  the tightly wound buds on the ends of the branches had burst into bloom, just like that, revealing an incredible flower.  bold.  vibrant.  so fully alive that it took my breath away.

the night is hot and heavy tonight as i sit on my porch.  it is no longer thick with sadness, however, but with something else…

hope.  possibility.  life.