This exercise is part of a continued process I began through being a part of The Story Workshop at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in the summer of 2009. I continued to Write My Hard Thing(s) when I returned with writing partners and then last summer as a part of Story 101 in The Story Unfolding. Now I’m helping to coach others how to do the same.

I am afraid that you will die before we get to talk about what happened. That you will die and I will hear secondhand and not be allowed to grieve or attend a memorial.

I hate feeling the lack of closure. I wanted to connect the dots with you. I wanted to talk about what happened. About what I see. I wanted to talk about giving you up and how sad I am that the reason I did seems to not even matter in your current life.

I wanted to talk about how I wish we hadn’t loved with the brakes on, but that it probably couldn’t have been any other way.

It hurt so much to be shut out as if I was dangerous–if felt like it shut me out of so much.

I did not want our deep connection to break permanently. I wanted to be able to hold the story of who we were. But when I made my mistakes, it felt like you took our story, stood defiantly and angrily in front of me, ripped it up and threw it on the fire. I wanted to keep it safe.

And I got very, very scared.

I still find it difficult to drive in the area I know you are or have been.

I wanted to be fought for. When there is conflict or I fail you and you pull away, my heart can barely beat under the pain.

I am 45 years old. And my thirst for mercy feels stronger than ever. I long for it; to marinate in it, to know the depth of love and acceptance over and over again. I cannot get enough of it.

Love is on my side. But today, the pain of shame is ravaging my body and I am crying out for the healing in the now and not yet.

I seek the redemptive thread. To know it has meaning, a reason, a purpose. I have asked if this is what ages us–to have to live with unresolved heartache as the years add on to a heart that just can’t live with perpetual ache being the end of the story.

The silver lining in this shattering has involved needing to dig deeply and unearth my true self apart from your judgment and violence. To decide what I truly believe about myself. I can’t let you be my mirror. To turn from your reflection to my own, look myself in the eyes, and see more than the heartache.

I see a strong leader. I see a woman that intersects people and places wherever she goes with generosity and brilliance. I am a good mother. I am proud of the family Todd and I have built. I am a woman of great depth and capacity to fight for others freedom, to speak truth that can restore and heal. I am passionately loyal and believe the best about others, even you.

It makes me sad that my conscience is not completely clear. I wish I could erase my fumbles and failures, my flailing attempts to use scotch tape to piece together the broken. But in my own reflection, I now also see a woman deeply compassionate towards others’ fumbles. To be acquainted with deep grief means I can better love others who grieve, even act out as a result. I do not see them as moral failings, but failings of love. To know how to love oneself and others is what I ask to mark my second half of life. Even if it doesn’t come from you. Lines of tears stain my face. Unresolved pain wracks my upper back. Today I cannot climb the mountain by myself. Thankfully, I don’t have to.

May the depth of love’s healing power mark my days, my body, and my face and yours.

cake!

Dear Friends, Today I’m going to do something that feels really scary. I’m going to tell you what I want for my birthday.

I want $10 from 45 friends. I set up a way for you to give through PayPal in my sidebar. See?>>>>>

How do I write to you from my heart on this eve of my 45th birthday?

The last five years I looked Loss square in the face. He sneered and said, “I’m going to win.” And when I think of his face today, I can still feel a press of tears. Because there were many, many dark nights of the soul that I believed him.

But I am a fighter. Always have been. And while I still feel the fear and fatigue sometimes, Loss’ voice grows fainter as I grabbed out of the dark night into voices of hope and truth. They included counselors, a friend named Faith, and an online tribe. I experienced the pains and exhilaration of fighting for and birthing returning to our family’s home, a story that allows me to give the finger to Loss. My circle of safety grew smaller, but oh so much more solid. I pressed into creation and knowing my own heart like never before. And I thrashed through my beliefs, with my beliefs, and became more honest with my beliefs. Five years later, I can say, Loss will not win.

I tell you this because it’s not easy for me to put out there what I want from you. It feels scary and vulnerable. I’m a fighter for myself and others. But I’m not great at asking for what I want from others. And so while I am practicing #ChooseMeFirst for this season, the reason for which I share here, the hardest part about it is to show up to you, my dear friends and readers, and ask: Will you help me go on a trip to Austin this summer?

I rarely travel outside my state. In 45 years of living in California, I’ve never even been to Mexico. I’ve visited a few states in my days, but never Texas. I want to visit Austin in June and meet with 15 of my Story Sessions Sisters, my online tribe.

On June 8th, my oldest will graduate from high school. On June 14th, my youngest and only daughter will turn 13. We will spend the summer preparing to drop our oldest off at college. My middle son will be driving. These are all highly emotional events for me that I will be navigating. It feels hard to say, I want to go away in the midst of it all, especially because our family’s expenses will be abnormally high. But it’s exactly what I will need. To hold, eat, and share with my tribe of artists and intuitive feelers and friends.

Would you like to help me get there and be one of the 45 friends that gives $10?

A special shout-out to my first six friends who have given. Thank you Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grand-paws, Patrick, and one of my story sisters that isn’t able to come to Austin. Jamie Bagley, you are a poem and gift. Your support, love, and encouragement as you navigate an Illinois winter with little ones has meant a great, great deal. I love you very much.

To make up for the week before, I chose less expensive gifts for myself last week.

birthday

Day 26: Set up some special memories on our table where I usually decorate for whatever holiday is near-by.

Day 27: Took time alone and wrote through some pain. Then I got to share it in two different settings for some helpful feedback.

Day 28: Cleaned. A lot. I like clean. I wanted a relatively clean home for my birthday weekend. (Wed to Sun in our family is plenty of time for some unraveling, but…)

Day 29: I bought Jesus Feminist, a book I’ve wanted to read for quite a while, but was waiting for the price to drop. This week it did, so I snagged the digital version for $1.99.

#ChooseMeFirst is a 45 day series that started Feb 10 and will take me through my 45th birthday up to an event that makes me particularly anxious. I plan to chronicle my process online, because I don’t do much of value without an audience. To read about my WHY , click here.

Where did the last two weeks go? Ever feel that way? Oh, yes. Sickness runs through a family. A spring sport starts. Special birthdays. Marriage tune-ups. Meetings at schools. Hair drama. Homework drama. Can’t give the siblings all the same things drama. Why don’t we throw in the violence of daylight savings in early March and a fibromyalgia flare-up? It all adds up to trying to FIND me under the rubble, much less #choosemefirst.

But I did give myself a gift every day. And guess how I did it? By spending a wee bit too much money. So while I flailed through the last two weeks, I bought a purse with a semi-decent label, because well, it made sense at the time:

purse

And a pair of ballet flats. Cuz I haven’t had a pair yet. Cha-ching.

ballet flats

And then I decided to fly to Austin in June to meet my Story Sessions tribe in person. Made the first payment for the retreat. Which is a glorious idea. And for what it’s worth? All I want for my 45th birthday this year from others is $10. From 45 people. To pay for the plane ticket. Isn’t that a fabulous idea? :)

Money, money, money. In a family with all the above happening and more.

So I thought I’d add on a new bathrobe, some throw pillows, and a new cookbook to help inspire me to stop stress-eating. WHY WOULD I BE STRESSED!?

But then I remember. I remember buying my daughter a mint leather jacket on the spot because she looked so darling.  Or that I helped my son raise $1000 a few summers ago to go to a conference in New Orleans I didn’t even believe in. Challenge? Catalyst? I can’t remember.

And my God Bless Him middle-child. He has sat through more choir concerts and practices than he or I can count. So he wants to take track. Yep. Change the schedule, spend more on gas, buy the equipment and uniform. Yep, yep, yep. It’s yours.

And so, though I was not as thoughtful about these last two weeks as I wanted to be, I decide to delight in my choices and balance them with a few less expensive ones, throw in one that happened before my 45 days started, and something we just needed to replace in our kitchen, cuz I was just too embarrassed to take our 20-year old crock to one more potluck. So here’s the list:

  • Day 16: new purse
  • Day 17: hang up the bedroom pictures (four weeks after painting)
  • Day 18: down-payment for Austin retreat (!!)
  • Day 19: Revisit the material from the e-course I took beginning in January (Coming Home to the Body at Abby of the Arts)
  • Day 20: new ballet flats
  • Day 21: new bathrobe (starting to feel a little sheepish at this point.)
  • Day 22: new throw pillows (really feeling sheepish now)
  • replace 20 year old cast iron crock (have completely thrown in the budget towel)
  • new cookbook
  • plant my gladiolus bulbs (need potting soil…search for change in couch cushions commence)

In The Language of Flowers, gladiolus means “You pierce my heart”.

Gladiolus-pastel-mixI leave it up to your imagination who I might think of when they bloom. It will have nothing to do with them blooming around the time someone is packing for college.

How did/can you choose yourself first today or tomorrow? Join me?

#ChooseMeFirst is a 45 day series that started Feb 10 and will take me through my 45th birthday up to an event that makes me particularly anxious. I plan to chronicle my process online, because I don’t do much of value without an audience. To read about my WHY , click here.

Scream Trina Alexander via Compfight

If I told you I don’t throw temper tantrums anymore because now I’m a big girl, it would be a lie.

As long as I can remember I’ve thrown temper tantrums. And as long as I can remember, they’ve been silenced to no avail.

Shame hasn’t silenced them, though he’s tried damn hard. From throwing glasses of water on me to shock me into awareness of his upper hand to telling this grown woman the fetal position is her only option because she deserves a talking to, still the temper rises.

Obligation hasn’t silenced them, though she’s tried damn hard. Being the good girl, Christian, wife, and mother…oh, how hard I’ve worked to silence the temper with obligation. To stay on track, to serve, to cover the bases of responsible living.

But still the temper shows up like a gypsy at a socialite’s dinner party and completely screws with The Plan. She claps her hands and stomps on the table and lets the strap on her left shoulder drop while she yells, “Wake up!” to the shocked and more socially accepted.

One time this happened with house guests. I threw a glass at the window where a lawyer and his wife sat on the other side on my front porch. It was during a conversation about homosexuality and I was told to, “Hush and Settle Down.” It didn’t go over well.

One time I called a friend who worked in drywall because I needed him to come fix the hole my foot had punched through my bedroom wall in utter frustration from trying to be the perfect mother and not getting the results I expected. The stress would not stay quiet one more moment.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic.”

“You’re such a drama queen.”

“You need to lead a boring life.”

And there’s nothing like seeing the wide-eyes of your own children, or their disdain as teens and wanting to squash the temper forever.

But when I listen, I hear the whispers.

Temper: Anger, Passion, Fury, Gall, Indignation, Outrage, Storm.

What would happen if we reached deep inside and whispered for the girl we once were to come back–to show herself–to know she’s loved and accepted and not forgotten.”

My anger would scream for the abused.

My passion would fight the misogynists.

My fury would warn you to not ever use shame to control us again.

You might share my gall when children are not nurtured, but told their heart is wicked.

You might share my outrage when others are cast-aside.

I would allow myself to feel my indignation towards denial, especially among my heritage and home of evangelicalism.

I would know that young girl and wise woman who sometimes storms with temper is on to something and will name the injustice, judgment, control, denial, and oppression for what it is.

“The girls we once were are coming back to us now. May we brave learning to rebel as a spiritual discipline”–Brandy Walker

I want my daughter and I to rebel against shame and obligation. Against judgment, injustice and oppression. I want my daughter to throw a temper tantrum when women, children, artists, the poor, or anyone who is not just like us is not invited to the table.

A table a gypsy is stomping on.