Tuesday, 30 July 2013

It's a Love Story

There is supposed to be something magical about being eighteen.  I'm not really sure what that is as I study my reflection in the oblong mirror of my parents basement bathroom.  I wonder if people look back on eighteen with the same kind of nostalgia as they do on the comforting smell of their Mother's perfume on a shirt she doesn't wear anymore, or in the way that chocolate ice-cream in a cone tastes better outside on a hot summer day, than it does in the winter. Those are the memories that somehow push past the limits of real life.  I haven't felt the magic of eighteen, it seems more like a roller coaster than anything else.  I reach for my brush, and run it through my long, mousy brown hair that I like to pretend is more of a deep mahogany.  I debate the merits of a ponytail versus just pulling my hair partially back.  I wonder if he'll notice - if it will make him want to kiss me.  I've never been kissed by anyone before.  

I happily remember how Jack smiled at me the other day.  It was from across the room, but it was like I felt him catch my eye, and his looking at me pulled a smile onto his face.  Was that what love felt like? That little blush of excitement deep down in the pit of my stomach?  It was strange, I'd known Jack since the first day of grade ten, and we'd gone out for coffee before - we loved to talk to each other, he saw the world in such a different way, and I liked flirting with him.  It was like I was the only girl in his world when we had coffee together - even though I knew I wasn't.  I didn't know much about his other "girls" unless they were having problems.  But, mostly Jack and I talked, and flirted as if they never existed.  It was special, it was just him and me.  I wasn't sure if I loved him, or liked him or if I was just feeling a little desperate to latch on to some good memories of home.   I would be running away to the real world just as soon as August began to change her emerald greens for the rich rubies and golds of September.  Wasn't the time to fall in love, now or never?


I told my parents I was going for coffee with a friend.  It was easier that way.  I could avoid all of the questions, especially the unasked ones.  It's like once puberty descends on the unsuspecting, all our parents want to know is who their in-laws will be.  Sometimes when I tell them, just coffee with a friend - they don't bother to ask, or worry that I am running off with some boy.  I wish they knew I have better sense than all of that.  Seriously, it isn't my long term goal to be in labor by this time next year - but if I tell them I am going to coffee with a boy, I'm telling you it runs through their minds.  Its taken a good long time to build Jack up to the "friend" status, my parents don't really suspect him any more, but I've been out with him a few times in the last month, which is why I went with "coffee with a friend" - again strategic.  I don't want any limits placed on my time with him.  I like time alone with him, I want to see where it might go.


Ok, so let me tell you the truth about Jack.  To everyone, all of our friends, he and I are just...friends.  There's some history of course, we've been friends for a while, and though we've talked about dating, and our feelings for one another, we have a mutual understanding that a relationship wouldn't really be the best for us.  I feel like it's a mature decision, especially for two kids of eighteen.  It's why he's always dated other girls.  It makes me feel special, like we have this secret, even from the girls he is with.  I like being his sounding board, his outlet.  I am better than just a girlfriend.  I said goodnight to my parents, knowing they would be in bed early, and kissed my daddy's cheek when he gave me the keys to the car.  The sun was just sinking behind the rolling, green dressed hills, the hot breath of summer relaxing into the cool, sweet breeze, and the sound of sprinklers on the lawn in the freshness of twilight, put a smile on my face.


He was already waiting for me at the stone picnic table with the best view of the river. He had that blonde hair, and bronzed skin that reminded me of the hot California boys I adored on TV.  His teeth were a bit crooked, and mentally I thanked his parents for never getting them fixed.  If he had a perfect smile he would be way out of my league.  I feel like someone different when I'm with him.  Someone that no one else knows. 


     "Hey Angel-Face," He smiles as he speaks, drawing out his words with a gentle drawl. It's what he's always called me.
     "Hi," I sit next to him instead of across from him, our backs to the table top facing the deep blue of the churning river.  
     "I got your favorite." He says, pushing the iced coffee toward me.  It was my favorite, my heart fluttered happily.  He remembered.  I smiled at him, enjoying his lingering gaze on me as I sipped my coffee.  
     "So, did you decide when you're leaving?" He asked.
     "My parents want me to wait until the 25th, but I would really like to be there a few days ahead of time.  You know, get my bearings." I stirred the coffee, rumbling the ice against the side of the plastic glass.
     "Why do you want to go all the way to Vancouver? Don't you know it rains there like all the time? Do you even own an umbrella?" He nudges me with his elbow.  I smiled.
     "I can't get a degree in cool around here," I joke back.  I like his easy manner, the way he slung his arm behind me while we sat, but not around me.  
     "Oh, please.  You're looking for your MRS degree, and we both know it." 
     "Hey, if I'm not supposed to accept the first offer I get, I probably better start getting some offers lined up." I bite my lip and raise my eyebrows at him, expectation clear on my face.
     "What if the first offer is the best one?" I like the way he smells, like a guy, I guess, earthy and sun-kissed.  Girls just don't smell that way.  
     "Nothing is off the table." 
     "Well, if that's the case, and you're considering all offers equally, marry me, Angel-Face." I laugh, and lean into his shoulder.
     "What about Lisa?"
     "Oh, well, I'll tell her eventually." He promises with mock-sincerity.  
     "What do you think she'll say?" I ask. Lisa lives in another town, I've never even seen her.  It's better that way I think.  It's more like she doesn't really exist. It helps me believe that I'm the only girl for him. Unattainable and so, irresistible.
     "She'll say that she always knew, you know, deep down like girls do.  Intuition or something, that my heart always belonged to someone else." 

     "You might get slapped." I warn him.  He nods slowly, his lips pursed.
     "I suppose it would be time to take my place among the romantic heroes of our generation.  Getting slapped is a mark of the lover." He moves closer to me, his arm behind us tightening slightly around my shoulders.  The air is cooler, and I pull on the jacket that I remembered to bring.  The lights across the water are just starting to blink on, they aren't needed yet, but I like the dim glow they create, reminding me that night is coming.  When it's just the two of us, it's easy to let the world melt away, easy to believe that we do love each other, and that we'll always be together.  "So, what do you say?" He asks, his voice quiet, close.
     "If I say yes, what then?" I rest my hand over his. This is what we're like when we are together, natural.
     "Well, I'd buy you a little house, and come home to you every night.  I'd make sure it overlooked the river, we could sit outside and look out on it just like this. We will make all the babies you want, as long as they are girls and look like you." I laugh, tucking my knees up to my chest.  
     "But don't you want to run away and see the world?" 
     "Why? I'll never find anything more beautiful than you." I am suddenly aware of how close he is. I've lost my sense of whether he is still teasing, playing along with an unattainable fantasy, or if he's serious.  We aren't supposed to be serious, I'm not used to that. I hop to my feet, reality putting some distance between us.  He's watching me, a bemused smile on his handsome face. 
     "Come on." I say, offering my hand and gesturing to the tree-shaded path.  I love the way the old trees have grown up over the path, like a canopy beneath twinkling stars.  I can see the golden glow of the iron-cast lamps along the path, and it feels magical, like we're in London or Paris instead of plain-old British Columbia.  He takes my hand, and we walk, our fingers linked together, listening to the rumble of the river below us.  
     "You're really going to leave?" He asks.
     "I have to." I say, equally excited and scared by the thought of it.  What if he meant it? What if I didn't have to leave? Face the world? What if I could stay here, with him, forever.  It's tempting. In spite of all of his accolades, I know that he may be the only man ever to think I'm beautiful.  Should a girl snatch that up when she gets the chance? Looking out over the future with nothing but uncertainty, regret isn't something I'd like to have in my repertoire.  I may never meet anyone else - there is always that possibility.  It would be sad, I think, never to have this again.  "Why don't you run away with me? We could build our house on the bank of another river." I say.  I'm not sure when his fingers interlocked with mine, but I wrap my free hand around his arm and lean my head against his shoulder. 
     "But there aren't any other rivers like this one." He says, sweeping his arm out toward it. I know he's right, in one way. The city lights dance on the water, with night closing around us.  It is warm, and the potted flowers smell like summer.  The river, however isn't a friendly one.  It's not the kind that bubbles over little stones, or sings to the trees in the woods.  It's like a beast, deep, dark and lurking.  Moving slowly, to deceive, then powerfully so that there is no escape.  I move away from him, and close my hands around the iron railing, looking down over the deep, mysterious swirling of the water and wonder what secrets it keeps.  I am trying to imprint this moment forever on my memory, but the more I try to compress it, it slips away like sand through my fingers, and I know that I will always be able to recall the river, and will never remember it exactly right. I feel him behind me, close, pressing into my back, his chin leaning against my hair and his arms circle my shoulders.  My heart swells, and my stomach knots.  He shouldn't be this close, he has her, and she would be angry to see us like this.  Then I remember that he and I together is not real, it's just a fantasy and I relax into him.  He doesn't say anything, and neither do I.  It's like we understand somewhere down deep, that this is the last time we will love like this.  Or maybe it's just infatuation, but you'd never say that, you'd never say, it's the last time we will infatuate like this.    

I know that it's getting late. So I push away from the railing and turn back toward the way we came. Reality demands that I work in the morning, that I pack to get ready to leave.  I need to be ready.  But, he stops me, his hand gently on my arm.
     "Tell me why it wouldn't work, Angel-Face." It's a demand from a fantasy.
     "You know why." I say, willing him to be lost in the deep pools of my eyes.  Maybe challenging him to come up with a better answer.  It's a conversation we've had before, and I know that here is where it ends.  But not this time.  He is leaning against the railing, the dark, swirling water behind him and I am caught in his arms.  They are around my waist, not just hugging, but holding.  Not only is he reluctant to let go, I don't want him to let me go. Letting go, means falling into something new.  I don't know if I want the old to end. 
     "I could love you," He says. "I think I could, if you didn't go." My fingers are playing with the zipper on his jacket. He feels solid, warm beneath the material. 
     "I know." I say. His hand brushes over my cheek, and I lift my face to his touch.  I know he's going to kiss me. It's late, and we are pressed together as if by the moment.  He brings my face to his and he kisses me, gently at first and then in a strange desperation to cling to one moment.  I think we both forget about what's real, and live that moment in the fantasy.  When we step away from each other we know it will be finished. All of it, the talk of love and our fantasy, and so we stay there for a while, in each others arms.  But eventually, we move to leave.  We walk back together in silence, and say our goodbyes.

We never talk about that night.  I move on, and he stays, right there, always by the river.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

From Beginning to End

 Life is so precious. Unfortunately we often don't take the time out to focus on that, being caught up with the busy-ness of the moment.  There are times that stretch out for me, months and months where everything seems to remain as it always was.  Then there are weeks like the one I've just had - that seem to be about the big things of life, the beginnings and the endings. 

My dear friend got married this week. I have seen her wait for the right man, pray for the right man, and now marry him.  I love weddings, the way families and friends come together.  Weddings offer such a beautiful hope for love, and for the future.  I could see the love clear across the face of my friend and her new husband - and it reminded me of something that I sometimes forget.  I still love like that too.  Weddings are the greatest celebration of the bringing together of two lives with an expectant hope looking forward.  Of course no one can guess what a marriage will bring them, my spirit is refreshed in an atmosphere of expectant hope, joy and love.  It was the same with my friend's wedding.  I know that I can't promise my friend that everything will always be perfect, but that seed of hope and joy will grow into something beautiful.

The endings are harder to explain, and difficult to understand,when the people we love are gone.  There have been a few this week, some I am not so connected to that make me angry or sad because of the injustice and the cruelty to the family.  But, one in particular has broken my heart.  She was a wonderful and kind lady, with a gentle heart, a sweet spirit, and a beautiful laugh.   I don't understand her passing, only that even in the midst of sadness and tragedy, God still loves us.  He doesn't cause bad things to happen, but we can cling to him as we walk through them.  I suppose in this way, endings are important too.  It all forces me to remember that it isn't about the little things that crowd around and demand attention.  Instead, it is more about the opportunities I am given to listen to people, to help people, and to love them.

Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.  - C.S. Lewis

 


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

This is the Life...



Sometimes I forget that I am a member of the elite.  I forget myself, and get scared of things that might make my life sad or uncomfortable.  Things that make me want to crawl away and hide myself, protect myself from the rest of humanity - and live selfishly and horde things to myself - as if that will offer some barrier to the world. I forget that the life I have, is unattainable for some and impossible for others.

When I stop to think about it, I remember that I was born in a society, wanted and valued.  Growing up I was encouraged to live my dreams, loved and supported while doing it.  I have been told to speak my mind, that my thoughts and observations are important.  I am loved by a husband and family, in a way that makes the wealthy pale in comparison.  When I saw this documentary trailer, it made me angry, and so sad.  I felt helpless, and so very small.Why am I so blessed?

I don't know what the answer is.  I don't know how to help, or what to do...not yet. I do know it starts with something small, a small sacrifice that maybe you can make too.  A sponsorship, a volunteer...something.  It's useless to sit around blaming myself for being born to privilege, I was so that I could help.  So that I could be a blessing to someone like me - who just happens to live a world away.

It's A Girl - Documentary Film

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Recovering from the Lie

Recently, someone told a lie about me.  Not one of those kind of behind-your-back, nasty kind of lies, it was a strange one.  He said it right to my face, and as the words invaded our conversation like so many armed soldiers, though I was shocked by them, I didn't immediately recognize it as a lie.  After all, this was a person of authority in my life, and I've been taught anything, it's to respect authority.  I respect it to the point where I don't even realize when someone in authority may have malicious intent, because people in authority are supposed to have my best at heart.  But sitting here, with a jar of antipasto and a box of cookies, I'm starting to think that the lie affected me even more than I originally thought.  Ok, I know I can't solve life's problems with a jar of antipasto, but on the off chance it's clearing my head, I'm think the old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones..." might have been misquoted.  

Now, this is a lie that has bared itself as false, at least I can gather evidence from my own life and experience that show it as untrue, no matter how relevant or pertinent this authoritative figure believed it.  It has taken me a few weeks to sort it out, and it might take a few more picking off the residual pieces of this lie - but to ignore the power of it would be dangerous. This is not to say that the lie itself had the power, but as I heard it, and transferred it through my mind and my heart I gave it power that was damaging, and left unchecked could have made a casualty of my self confidence.  

This whole experience has made me think both about the others that have been influenced by lies told to them, as well as my own position of authority.  Have I told lies to students, believing I know what's best for them that were damaging? Of course, the ones that come to mind usually center around, Of course you need to know how to complete the metaphorical analysis of a poem, you will use it all the time... but I'm sure there have been others.  I am sorry for them.

What are the lies that you've believed about yourself? Where did you hear them, and what damage have they caused? Recognize them for what they are, and be prepared to do battle.  You aren't good enough. How could God ever use you? You're a screw-up. You're not worth anything. You're ugly, no one wants you.  These are evil words, and only some of them.  They sneak down deep into the recesses of your soul, and desire to tear you apart, to keep you from what God has for you.

SO, take the time you need.  Recover.  But as I have discovered, recovery is not a process where you sit back, relax and everything is made right.  Recovery is hard, you need to be active in it, so active that it sometimes feels like a battle.  But, know the truth! 

By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which he has called you, and how rich is his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Beware of the lies that come cloaked in good advice.  Know who and what God has created you to be! I think the best thing - out of all of this, this process of recovery, that God has granted me the ability to understand that it's not these broken people in our lives, who speak over us - maybe with good intentions that we need to fight against.  In truth, they need as much love as we can give them.  It is the LIE itself, that we need to tear apart from its very root.  For the people we see every day...

But, he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.  It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously - Take God seriously. Micah 6:8 MSG

 

 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

From the Emerald Blooded...



I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago.  A friend of mine is building their first home. What kind of reaction would you expect? Excitement? Encouragement? Nope. Not from me. Instead a tiny, pinched voice from somewhere deep inside...Of course they can build a house, and have a new house.  They have a full time job! The little diatribe went on for a bit longer, but it was overshadowed by the voice of realization. That one came out loud and clear.  You're Jealous! I literally stopped as the thought hit me - and I realized that it's true. I get jealous - easily. 

It was kind of a shock to my system.  I never really thought about it before, I just assumed that I was above such things.  Yet, as I really thought about it, I could pinpoint several instances when I've opened my mouth, or thought things that are judgmental toward others - when the root of it is jealousy.  This innate belief down deep in me that I'm not good enough - or that I am somehow better than others, showing itself whenever I feel threatened by the good things that happen to other people. It's sad. When something good happens to someone else, instead of celebrating that with them, I put on a fake smile for them and immediately go and whine to God in my mind that it's just not fair. Because instead of relying on God for his timing, instead of being responsible for the decisions I make, instead of simply being THANKFUL for all of the things that I have, that other people don't have but want, I readily give into jealousy and spite and cover it up with a smile on my face. 

James 4: 2-3 You desire and you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

I've heard this scripture before, but always in the context of asking for something.  But, was surprised to read it fully.  Jealousy makes me ask for things "to spend on my own passion" if what I am asking for, makes me look good or sounds right and is another way of me being judgmental of someone else, then even those things are wrong.  I don't know if someone can change over night, I doubt it - but it was a little signal to me of something that has to change. I imagine though it's only a small discovery of many.  I'm sorry for those of you I've hurt by being jealous, any one I've pretended in front of, when I've been feeling something else inside. It's part of a journey I've started. A journey to say what God says, and more importantly think what God thinks, not just act the way I think that he acts.  It shouldn't shock me that I'm actually not better than anyone else - but that instant-jealous reaction is easy to let slip by when I'm not watching for it.  From now on, I'm going to be watching for it, guarding against it and loving people, bringing them to Christ instead.

Monday, 8 July 2013

When I Married You...




Eight years ago, when I married you, I thought I knew what marriage was.  I had it all figured out, it was two people, just us every minute of every day - and there was no one else in the world.  I would get to spend all my time with you, and be adored by you, and all of the yucky things like snakes, and spiders and fears and sadness, would simply disappear - because it was just me and you and together we could beat anything.  Eight years ago, I would have said, we are perfect for each other, that we are the very best of friends, and that marriage isn't so hard to figure out as long as we had each other.

Eight years is a long time - and as days transform themselves into weeks, months, and years, it becomes more and more clear that not only did I really not know what marriage is, but that I am still trying to figure it out.  It turns out, that you wanted more in a best friend than just someone who was infatuated with you, someone who would only tell you what you want to hear.  Instead we've learned to tell each other the truth, to speak in a way that doesn't hurt, and when it does hurt - to work until we understand.  That friendship means a smile for you when you come home, and a sincere appreciation of the fact that you love to play games, and will always love to play them - even if I do not.  Friendship means working together, even on projects we can't remember why we started, on our home - when that closet door falls off for the thousandth time, or the sink backs up, or I knock the side view mirror off of the car....Best friends means we forgive, even before we tick each other off, and that when we're angry, we don't stay that way. As far as "perfect" for each other - we're not, but thank goodness for that.  Can you imagine the boredom around here if we ever achieve perfection? Let's just keep being not perfect together.

Then to the question of love.  What is love? At the very least, I think it changes. It changed for us, didn't it? At first it was all sweet, and adorable, butterflies and flowers, romance and the smell of rain in the springtime, but love changes.  It gets roots, and starts to grow down deep, and take hold in experiences and memories, like the time you lost your job, the time we drove to Banff, the time I lost the keys, working through the summer to fix up this house, coaxing Calypso out from behind the couch with tuna, holding Micah finally, and looking down into Olivia's little face, and love becomes less something fuzzy and bubbly, and more something rooted and deep, warm and comfortable.  

It struck me the other day, I still think you're handsome - and I get a little glow when you smile at me.
We are full of hope on this adventure - it's not always fun, it's not always easy, but you don't know how happy I am that I'm with you.  

Even though we almost forgot this year...as someone wise once said, Home is wherever I'm with you.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Guts and Glory?

There she weaves by night and day,
A magic web with colors gay,
For she has heard a whisper say, 
A curse is on her if she stay 
To look down on Camelot.
(The Lady of Shalott - Tennyson)

 That quote comes from one of my favorite movies, and very favorite heroine's of all time - Anne of Green Gables.  It's the part in the movie when Anne convinces her friends to reenact The Lady of Shalott and while reciting the ballad finds herself in a leaky boat sinking to the bottom of a river.  Perhaps not the best thought out plan - but that's why I love her.  Anne and I couldn't be more different, she is impulsive, and gets herself into trouble, she's passionate and brave - where I am cautious, overly so, I avoid conflict and I rarely speak my mind.  In fact, when trying to settle on a "girl" name before the birth of my daughter, I think that was why I was so attracted to using Anne (with an E of course) as a part of her name. Though I could do without the impulsiveness, I wanted my daughter to be brave, confident and good, like Anne Shirley. 


I love reading and writing about female characters with guts.  You know what I mean, women who aren't afraid to stand up for what's right, who don't let people push them around, or believe it when people tell them they are ugly or worthless.  Ladies who stand up and do what's right, regardless of the consequences.  The only problem I've found, is that it's easier to be brave while reading a book, or writing a character.  Real life sort of sneaks up on you, and it's harder to block out those taunting little voices that tell you, you're no good, or you aren't pretty - like her, or you're not strong enough, or you're not smart enough.  But, I've started to think, us ladies have been misinformed.  Why aren't we more like Anne Shirley? Elizabeth Bennet? Gwendolyn Fairfax? Scout Finch?

I've decided not to let anyone hold me back anymore. I've decided to believe I am beautiful and strong, that I can love people, and be kind without letting people's words dictate how I look at myself.  You only get one chance to write your own story - be the heroine you want to read about. 

The Search for Light, on the Darkest Day of My Life

It's never easy to tell someone that they have cancer. That's what the thoracic surgeon said. I wanted to assure him in that ...