Tag Archives: gnawing

Losing it in the Lyft…

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He was a good friend. He was my pastor. He was my father’s best friend. He was my best friend’s father. All week long I’ve been trying to come up with connections that might justify my grief.

He died last Friday, the day of that last post, the one where I wonder how long it would be.

We went over on Saturday morning. I was expecting to lose it, to fall apart the moment I saw their faces, the “survived by”. But my emotions shunted to my core. I remembered much, was remembering much, but could feel nothing.

And there were kids and there was work and there were meals and there was school. By Wednesday morning the feelings began creeping back into my gut. I cracked at Mom’s group for a moment, but there was a bus ride and a school pickup and homework. And then I had to leave for a team building event.

I left the babies and the husband in the middle of dinner and began to walk. I was going to meet a new coworker to share a lyft to our event. The weather was the foggy drizzle in which San Francisco specializes. It was an empathetic touch I appreciated of my city. The sidewalk and I understood each other for every step of the six blocks.

I reached the house and rang the bell on the address. The gate buzzed and I pushed through, but I failed to catch the door before the buzzer stopped. I tried it and realized that I was trapped between the gate and the door. I took out my phone only to learn that I don’t have my new coworker’s phone number. And just like that I was forced to be still.

I waited for someone to come looking for me and then I began texting other coworkers trying to find the phone number. But I was trapped in that four square feet too long. I broke.

Yes, friends, this is when I broke.

So, now, I’m sobbing in my new coworker’s entryway, trying to contain myself, and climbing into a lyft, my first lyft, my very first lyft ride ever.

“Oh, you’re sniffling,” the lyft driver says, “I hope you are not getting a cold.”

“No,” I say, “I’m just sad.”

At which point I break down sob-heaving against the window pane.

But then it gets worse because, yes, it turns out my new coworker requested a lyft line, which is like a carpool. And to my quivering horror we stop and pick up someone else, this adorable young Asian girl who has no idea into what she is stepping.

So, now there are three people in the lyft respectfully gazing out their windows and I am in the back sobbing quietly into the glass.

Because I stood still. And it caught up to me. And I’m so very very sorry.

Writing Workshop Number Two…

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For the first writing workshop I took in my young adult novel and fielded some pretty good questions regarding my manuscript.

For my second workshop I took in a picture book and its accompanying query letter.

This particular book began six years ago at about fifteen hundred words, well too long for a picture book. At the time I was going for a story book kind of vibe.  After ten rejections or so I sat on it for a while, you know, had some kids, moved once, etc.

The second cut brought it down under a thousand. I was much happier with it, but it went through another ten rejections or so.  I sat on it again through another move and another baby.

The third cut brought it down under six hundred words and was about as bare bones as I could get it and still leave it complete. I did a little more research on query letters and cut a couple of sentences that evidenced my novice status.  But I still felt the silent dagger as the six weeks slipped by as one and another forewent claiming my little work.

So, to the workshop I carried my little book.

I believe I threw it down and said something like, “Please, tell me what’s wrong with it!”

For starters, the woman who read my piece out loud could hardly keep from laughing from one sentence to another. Everyone around the table was near riotous when she finished.  I was not expecting this and it shook me a bit.  It was pleasant, but surprising.  I mean, I had thought it was funny, but this funny?

And then the feedback came. One lady wanted to hear more about this, another wanted more about that, and so on, naming almost every piece I had cut out over the previous six years.

I confessed, “Well, yes, originally this was followed by a bit that went like this.”

Riotous laughter! Everyone loved it!  “Why would you have left that out?!”

So, I’m getting slowly frustrated because how on Earth am I supposed to squeeze all this into a picture book? And if it is indeed this good already then what on Earth am I doing here?

And then someone asked, “Have you considered making it an early reader?”

A light bulb clicked on centimeters above my head.

I didn’t hear anything after that. My little manuscript would lend itself well to the playful vignettes of an early reader.  The only problem is that this would change my writing style.  I couldn’t use any of those long elegant sentences I was so very fond of.  Sigh.  I love commas if you haven’t been able to tell.  And the story vocabulary would need to be altered.   My story may live, but in a drastically different manifestation.

So, I’ve been playing with it and I think I like where it’s going. It does appear I have signed on for a few more years, though.  And I’ve heard early readers are harder to sell.  Is this true? Anyone?

At any rate, she loved my query letter, so that’s something.

Chip, chip, chipping away!

Bound…

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Last week I got into a fight with my husband. I said something. He said something. I said something else when I probably shouldn’t have. Then he REALLY said something.

The next day there was a bit of resolution … an unsatisfactory bit.

And then a few days later I said something again.

Now, here I am on Sunday morning sitting in church and I realize I have a fistful of strings clenched tight in my hands. This string is tied back to the moment he said this. This string leads back to the moment I said that. This string is from the moment that he didn’t understand. This string is from the moment where I was uncompromising.

And I’m picking at the bundle, trying to keep them straight. Counting the tally, who owes who what? Who has been vindicated? Did I come out ahead?

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past six weeks since my son started school it’s that I’m not good at multitasking. I’m late for pickup. I’m late for soccer practice. I forget the library books. I forget the teacher’s birthday.

And it works to my benefit now as I get confused by this tangle in my lap, trying to keep track of my debt, my desserts.

I have to drop it. This could go on for weeks or months or more. I could hold tight to this little string or that one and save it for the moment when I could say, “See here. Remember when you said this?”

But they drop from my hands in my sudden inability to keep it all straight. And I gasp a little and grasp a little. Because I’m pretty sure I was coming out on top. But in that moment I feel free. And I can breathe. So, then I decide.

I toss them away, throwing the jumbled ball to the ground and wiping my hands down my arms as if to brush off the clinging spider webs of sour memory.

And I drink my communion cup slowly, letting it flow down my throat to coat, like the pink Pepto Bismol in the old commercial, redeeming every bitter thing as it goes down slowly into my gut.

How ‘bout that? There was resurrection in the morning! What a glorious surprise is a new beginning!

And the last song we sing is, “We are bound, we are bound, we are bound for Promised Land.”

So, I leave church without strings binding me backwards, but bound by one leading me ever forward into promised places.

Brave Habits…

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For the past few days my baby has been waking up unusually early. When he wakes up this early he’s not the happy baby that’s ready to be up. He’s grumpy and falls asleep on me again instantly.

So, on Sunday at six thirty I found myself quite awake in an apartment of sleeping people. We had bacon, but no eggs. So I walked down the two flights of stairs and into the sixty degree summer morning made chiller by the wind.

I was thinking about fear. I thought about how much people fear and the silly things they fear. I remembered how fearful I had been as a child when I had to interact with adults or make phone calls to strangers. I remembered my mother practically pushing me out of the van on the first day of soccer practice with a new team.

I got to the little shop on 25th and Clement that opens at six and bought some eggs and a small orange juice. I nodded to the workers unloading produce. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner. He’s a nice man with laughing eyes and we talk about our kids. His youngest is six, the perfect age, he says.

“So, I’m just getting there, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, my daughter’s fourteen and all this,” he mimes texting on a cell phone and shakes his head, “just drives me crazy.”

I laugh, but I wonder if that’s what I look like sometimes. We say goodbye and I walk back out into the wind.

I think about fear again. I wonder if his daughter is on the phone so much because she fears loneliness. Could that be my reason? How can I be scared of loneliness if I’m never alone? How much does fear hold us back from doing more and bigger? If I wasn’t scared how much more could God do with me?

I remembered how scared I was before I went to Africa for a medical mission trip when I was twenty. There were things to fear. A girl had been pricked by a needle the year before and had been getting tested for HIV all the year since. I was going to see AIDS, polio, and starvation. God had shown me, at the time, that it was more than just a scary experience; it was a chance to be brave.

And doesn’t life give us so many opportunities to be brave?

How many things would I have missed if I had not been brave? Would I be walking the streets of San Francisco right now?

I say good morning to the crazy Bikram people on the sidewalk, freezing in their shorts waiting for the instructor to come let them in so that they can feel a bit of real summer before breakfast.

I was suddenly thankful that I was a fearful child. I breathed my thanks into the cold. How often do we long for a chance to prove our bravery, to be bold, to be daring?

When I fear, my chance arrives.

The streets are quiet. I look to the right and see the fog covering the bay, straight ahead and see it breaking over the tops of the trees in the presidio, little wisps overflowing at the top, dissolving on the other side. I wonder how cold it is at the beach with no break between you and the wind.

My keys sound loud in the stillness of the street. I feel the instant relief as the door to my building closes behind me. I walk past the sleeping doors of my neighbors and unlock my own. I consider the word “dormant”, “door-mant”.

I continue to think about fear, so insidious that we don’t often recognize it hiding in our reticence. I want to take the time right now to sit down and seek it out in myself, but we leave for church in an hour. What resistance in me is really fear?

And as I’m laying the bacon out strip by strip on the baking tray I find it strangely appropriate to think of Pa Ingalls. He reminds Laura that if you do something enough it becomes a habit with a body, just as anything else does.

So it goes with finishing things and bravery.

Practice, practice, practice…

Wanna Dance…

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One summer in high school I went to see the local community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. My friend was in it.

It was there that I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with Blaine Jacobson. He would grow pudgy and off-key not two summers later, for a very disillusioning performance of Carousel. But for now, he played Perchik, the rogue intellectual from Kiev. He had curly black hair, olive skin, and the most adorable way of singing through his nose. I immediately volunteered to work back stage.

For four performances I watched him from the wings and breathed the perfume off of his costume before he walked on.

Being in the theatre would have been good for me at the time and I could feel God nudging me to audition for the next show, but fear sat heavy on the dream. It’s an old enemy, see? We’ve been fighting it for a while.

During the cast party I couldn’t take it anymore, God’s nudging or my crush. I sat in the metal folding chair in the corner of the auditorium dressed all in black and made a deal with God. I said, “God, if Blaine Jacobson comes over and talks to me right now I will audition for the next show.”

At that moment Blaine Jacobson inconceivably decided to notice me, approach me, and ask me if I was going to dance with everyone else. I managed to mumble and fumble a refusal, blushed viciously, and kept sitting hard in my chair. God smiled to himself and I smiled back into the heavens abashed. I didn’t have the heart to audition for the next show and we both knew it. It would take me two more shows before I would fulfill my end of the metal folding chair bargain.

God listens.

My writing time has been moving around and sometimes gets swallowed whole. What was a little break after finishing my book, has started to become the self-loathing indicative of a victorious Resistance. This morning in Moms’ group I prayed that if God wanted me to write he would help me find the time to make it happen.

This evening the power went out in my husband’s office and the whole building went home. James came home four hours early.

Now I’m writing.

Sometimes when you ask for something it takes a while. But sometimes, yes, sometimes, Blaine Jacobson crosses the room and asks you to dance.