Monthly Archives: April 2014

Introvert Issues Part 2…

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I was dragging my feet all morning. I was watching the clock and moving a little bit slower than was absolutely necessary. Part of me hoped that something would come up to make it impossible for me to go. Or, I would look up and it would be, so sad, too late.

I almost went so far as to wish one of my kids would throw up, the ultimate excuse infallible.

But I didn’t relish telling my husband that I had somehow missed the mommy group I was supposed to go to today.

I knew I could come up with an explanation that would be acceptable to any other Mom, but not my husband. He knows me too well. To him I am saran wrap. He sees right through me.

This is one of the reasons I’m terribly glad I married him. It’s healthy for me. And, like today, sometimes healthy tastes like a disagreeable kale salad.

At any rate, I arrived at the predetermined coffee shop at about the last possible moment. And my anxieties subsided when no one was there. Actually, I felt my spirits soar.

“Oh, well!” I thought, “At least he can’t say I didn’t try!”

And so I got a coffee and sat down with the kids.

At this moment, when I’ve already committed to a table and a for-here cup, another mother shows up with her son and we get to talking. And then one of her friends shows up with her daughter.

So, we had our own little mommy hour, and the universe contrived to make my husband correct once again, because I had fun. I’ll even go so far as to say that I needed that.

Best cappuccino I’ve had in this city, yet, too.

Introvert Issues…

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I’m not a person who requires a great deal of social interaction. One might even call me a loner. I never really felt alone. As someone who writes I’m almost never without a character’s voice chatting away in my head, anyway.

Friends used to come by my house to play and I was invariably in the middle of a project. I used to grab the first book I could find and pretend to be so involved I couldn’t play.

“Sorry, I’m right in the middle of a chapter.”

“You sure do read a lot.”

My sixth-grade self found it a very valid excuse.

But motherhood is a strange dichotomy. You’re lonely but you’re never alone. You’re without someone to talk to, but never without someone talking. You’re busy from morning till night and get nothing accomplished. You’re constantly standing over a stove, but never eat anything hot. Your nipples have never gotten so much action, but you’ve never felt less sexy.

In one minute you go from the ethereal revelations of first words and baby kisses to elbows deep in toilet water scrubbing poop out of superhero underwear.

Motherhood. It changed me.

Suddenly, I was lonely. The voices in my head couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And when the barista asked me how my day was, you better believe she heard every stitch of it, occasionally unto salty tears, mostly mine.

So, moving to a new place hasn’t been easy. I’ve been mourning a bit for the friends I left behind. And maybe I’ve been pouting a little about having to go in from scratch again. I wouldn’t say I’ve hit the point where I want to be social, but I have hit the step right before that one, the mommy loneliness.

My perceptive husband came in last week and let me know, “Barbara, it’s time to get a Mom’s group.”

Well, if there’s one thing I got from my family, it’s the inability to come to a decision coupled with a blazing resentment when anyone tells me what to do. So, after five minutes of looking at Mommy meet-ups I called it good.

And last week I put it off as I was in the throes of another book, my own, chip chip chipping away. I was writing so much I don’t think we left the house for a few days. Oops.

Well, my husband came home Friday and saw the state of things. And he took us all out to the park for a little airing which, I acknowledge now, was desperately needed.

And wouldn’t you know? I met a very nice Mom who invited me to her Mommy group.

So, this week’s project, besides chip chip chipping away at my book, is to be social.

Somehow writing a novel seems more attainable.

Mommy group is tomorrow. I think I’m nervous. I feel something like it in my belly.

Tonight I Took a Walk in the Dark…

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Tonight I took a walk in the dark
Unstrapped the bubble of light from my head and descended
Feet first to the curb
And by turns constrained and compelled by the wind
Whispered my winding way in the dark.
And I saw the light a life emits:
Flashing digital blue
Licking red flickers
Slow orange warm glow
Encased within the glass bay windows of a city.
And tiny I
In the space between
An out of body spirit
Blown away, blown toward
Home
The light.

A Biology Lesson…

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We’ve been here for five weeks now and, not surprisingly, we’re still trying different churches.

We thought for Easter Sunday we’d try a new church that we had enjoyed going to the last time we lived here. They didn’t have much of a kids’ program at that time, but it has since grown, so much in fact that their single Easter service was being held in the Davies Symphony Hall downtown.

We were a tad late thanks to the combined efforts of our three children and the complexities of downtown parking. And it turned out that the church wasn’t exaggerating their need by renting the hall. James and I were relegated to the second tier.

It was rather magnificent sitting that high, our backs to the curved dome of the roof, looking down into the gold and light glittering hall with its full orchestra and forty-person choir.

I’ve heard a lot said from various people against big churches, but let me tell you, whether you like it or not we belong to a very big church.

And yesterday I recognized it. There was a low rumble of seats from top to bottom when everyone stood. There were people from every heritage, a global throng echoing in unison, “He is risen, indeed!” It was an impossibly large crowd in an impossibly beautiful space reflecting light from every surface and confessing in one voice, one baptism and one Lord.

I gloried in the foretaste. I reveled in the promise that I was not alone. I was just one facet of a church that began long before me and extended to peoples beyond my imagination. And one day I would see his kingdom come, more perfect still than this poor reflection, of one voice but known individually and fully.

It was a beautiful service and afterwards we picked up the kids and began walking the six or so blocks through downtown to a friend’s house where we’d be eating Easter brunch.

The neighborhood we live in is well out of downtown and, as yet, we hadn’t run into the mass of city’s homeless. But we did now.

We passed several people holding signs before my son tugged my sleeve.

I gave him a dollar and his sister got a dime and they approached a man and placed the money in his cup.

There were men sleeping on the sidewalk lined up in front of a building providing some type of services. A woman with no teeth in a wheelchair glowed to see us coming in all our Easter glory and crooned at the baby as we got closer. She noticed the kids looking at the man passed out, half-dressed on the sidewalk next to her.

“Oh, don’t look at him. You don’t want to see him. Look at me, oh, don’t you all look so nice! You enjoy ‘em, Momma, they grow up so fast.”

I nodded and said, “Happy Easter.”

The buildings were stained, the sidewalks were dirty and here I walked with two kids in Sunday clothes managing to rub their bodies and arms over every available surface. A man in a wheelchair greeted us grandly before selling a bag of crack to a customer. The customer loudly admired the kids’ clothes before opening the bag to make sure the crack was, indeed, in there. My daughter decided she was done walking and collapsed to the sidewalk and laid her face down on the stained pavement. We passed a man cursing in his sleep, pants not completely on, surrounded by the sum of his soiled belongings. My son began making a list of ways to make money to help give people houses.

At one point, I turned around to discover my daughter playing in the small square foot of dirt surrounding a city tree. Next to her in the dirt was a rotting apple core. And I could see the pee stain on the tree above her head. I called her over as I carried baby, diaper bag, and everybody’s coats, but she’s three, so she didn’t come and when James finally pulled her up, there her thumb went, straight in her mouth.

Hadn’t I just come from the glistening promise of heaven, a world washed clean? Now here I was walking my little bits of purity through the present reality of a very dirty world.

My personality is such that these things affected me. A preoccupied mind on Barbara looks a lot like moodiness and general irritability. Lord bless the family of the artist!

So, I was a pill for the rest of the day and my husband decided to take us all to the beach, the two not being unrelated. He knows how to handle my moods and doses me with beauty and nature until the symptoms of my philosophical malaise abate.

So there I found myself, sitting on the dunes of Ocean Beach watching a long line of fog obscure the transition in hue between sea and sky.

Have I mentioned that I was a biology major?

I know it seems unlikely, but it happens to be a bachelor’s of art. My husband likes to tease that only I could get an arts degree in a science. And he might very well be right, so there.

At any rate, as I was walking along the frigid beach I remembered my ecosystems class and specifically the bit about the intertidal region. The beach and tide pools had always seemed so peaceful to me. I remember being surprised at realizing how treacherous life there was, covered in water at high tide, baked in the sun at low tide, every day, four times a day, living in extremes.

I saw the evidence of this as I walked the line of highest tide, where no greater wave would come to clear away the broken pieces of half masticated crab or the clear gelatinous drops that had once been jellyfish. There were shards of shells, broken sand dollars, parts of seaweed, feathers, and driftwood, the detritus of another world. Even the sand beneath my feet was a finely ground testament to the wearing power of persistence.

And God stroked my hair and put the image cupped in front of my eyes. This is where you live, Barbara, the harsh intertidal region between worlds. Heaven may be like the still deep ocean. Earth may be the rough baked rock. And the Christian walking this world in hopes of another suffers the rub of one against the other.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. Church bells pealed welcome all over the city to believers of all languages to declare the same God, and him risen. It was also 4-20-14 and a giant pot celebration was happening in Golden Gate Park. This is where I live.

Last biology lesson:

Do you know how a barnacle feeds? He opens his little door and reaches out a wispy foot into the water to catch the plankton floating by. And when the tide goes low and leaves the barnacle exposed he tucks his foot back in and closes his doors, now self-contained with enough water to make it until the sea comes back.

And so we live, buffeted without, tucked in with sufficient water, maybe, waiting in faith that the sea will come again.

An Easter Dialogue…

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And a frenzied murmur began in the darkness. Come awake! Christ is risen! Come awake! He is risen indeed!

I wrote this for church a few years back. It’s a dialogue or, really, a mesh of two monologues of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. I was intrigued by their parallel stories in connection to the cross. Both of them were followers in secret, until the cross. And, then, when everyone else was hiding in fear the two who had been hidden came forward.

Happy Easter!

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus Dialogue:

Nicodemus: It was Joseph here who went to Pilate for the body.

Joseph of Arimathea: I’m a Council member from Arimathea. Nicodemus helped.

N: I helped to prepare his body.

J: I’m a man of position, quite successful in what I do.

N: I’m a man of belief, and traditions, the rabbi of a nation.

J: Jesus came at an inconvenient time for me.

N: It was an inconvenient time.

J: If I had been younger…

N: In my more revolutionary days…

J: There would have been less at stake.

N: It would have been easier to seek him out.

J: But now I’m enmeshed. I have responsibilities; people depend on me for their livelihoods.

N: A people watches me for guidance, for surety of their faith.

J: His apostles were thought of as crazy fishermen.

N: My peers had already labeled him a heretic.

J: I feared, yes, I was afraid what that stigma might do to my situation.

N: I couldn’t lead others astray with my misplaced approval. I had to test his words for myself.

J: As it was, I followed his teachings in secret.

N: So it was, I looked for him in the night.

J: I believed in Him. He was the Messiah. He gave flesh to the law in his words, with his actions.

N: That conversation with Jesus, things that I had understood for so long became confusing. It was a
paradigm shift of the most severe kind.

J: I wondered if a time would come when I would have to stop hiding.

N: I wondered if there was a day when I would finally understand.

J: Then I heard the news that he’d been imprisoned.

N: They demanded his crucifixion. It was Passover.

J: Everyone was there. I was there. I have money. Some powerful people owe me favors. Surely there would be something I could do? Something somebody would do?

N: Then they lifted him up on the cross. And it all came clear. What he had said to me about Moses’s snake lifted up on a pole in the desert that those who looked upon it might be spared their certain death.

J: Why?

N: Because the Son of Man must be lifted up. I was being spared my certain death. I wanted to shout, “Look on him! Look on him!”

J: Look on him.

N: And I believed.

J: He died.

N: And I was born. Born again as he said, not by flesh but by spirit and into a life that has no end.

J: His friends feared. But someone had to take care of the arrangements. So I stepped forward.

N: This time in the daylight.

J: I claimed him.

N: I brought myrrh and aloe.

J: They were calling the cross his defeat.

N: My fellow council members were satisfied it was over.

J: But I had found boldness there.

N: It had made all things clear.

J: And the best news was still to come,

J&N: Three days later.