Damn the Words

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The universe took its time on you
Crafted you to offer the world
Something different from everyone else
When you doubt
How you were created
You doubt an energy greater than us both
–irreplaceable
― Rupi Kaur

We purchased our cabin in the mountains when the kids were small. For me, it was sight unseen. Long story short, Eric holds the vision and I try not to complain. The early days were rough. A double-wide not equipped for the frigid temperatures of the Gunnison Valley of Colorado, the previous owner winterized every year on Labor Day, returning on Memorial Day for three decades of summers. After his passing, his children tried to keep it up but they chose to part with the maintenance efforts of a 1975 uninsulated manufactured home alongside a tricky sibling relationship.

After enough visits with backed up sewage, broken pipes, fogged up storm windows, Eric overhauled the plumbing and heating systems. We also got a new paint job to minimize the vibe that resembled the possessed home in Stranger Things.

The sellers left us with all the furniture, including three vintage sewing machines, two console record player/stereo systems, a large selection of albums from the mid-1960’s, four percolating coffee makers and a host of vintage, industrial sofas that could seat a small village. The house was packed and dark and oppressive – but clean, filled with possibility and a potential for loads of memories.

After eight years of ownership, our home is comfortable in all four seasons. A pellet stove, along with some new furniture items, balance out the older pieces to create an atmosphere of eclectic ease. When we are busy in our daily lives the last thing we want  to worry about are expensive home furnishings.

Our  home away from home is the best of us, but with the passing of time, the needs of our family have changed.

Duty calls and our cabin has to take on new purpose. After a hefty handful of Gunnison summers and extended winter visits, we put the house on the rental market. Placing our home in the hands of others was scary. Would they find our humble double-wide as cozy as we do? Would they appreciate the serenity and surroundings?

Every guest is pestered by VRBO to write a review, to evaluate their visit. It’s a vulnerable thing to read the words of others about something you’ve poured your heart into, but all of our reviews have been glowing. That is, all but one.

And now we aim a critical eye at our eclectic, cozy cabin furnishings. The innocence is over. Someone wrote hurtful and condescending words which made us question our home. No longer do we view our mishmash of furnishings as cozy, we now reconsider our personal taste, wondering if it just might be tacky.

As much as we try to ignore the words, we are still impacted. The jabs lodge themselves far more than any compliment ever could and we question if we are good enough.

Harvard Business Review says it takes an average of 5.6 compliments to make up for a single criticism. The hurtful statements, the ones that attack our essence and our ways of being in the world, are the indelible ones. The simple goodness of my home was attacked with entitled, superior opinion. The words hurt. And I stand in my home wondering if they are right, that maybe I’m the one missing something, that maybe they know things I don’t. My taste, my hope for my home, my offering is all called into question.

I think of the people doing their work in the world – vulnerable people making a mark for the common good on a constant and consistent basis. I think of the women in my circles who are calling out injustice, who are telling the world how they’ve been hurt and violated, with quaking in their bodies alongside an indescribable fierceness. I think of beautiful people living into their call and purpose, knowing the paycheck will barely cover expenses for a month.

I’m not sure any of them would say they are strong or brave or courageous. I think all of them would say I’m just doing what needs to be done. And all the while they remain generous, unassailable, warm, inviting, a comfortable place to land. The attacks fly and the insults lodge but the softness remains, unyielding in love and compassion.

The words may cut us down, rendering us impotent for a time as we re-evaluate and regroup. But, my friends, the rising is remarkable. The power of adversity and defiance is holy as the divine feminine bubbles up from the soil. The flood of beauty will never be contained, no matter the scorn. There is only reverence and fierce hope.

Despite the doubt and quaking, despite the fear and trembling, we will rise. Our bodies, wombs for renewed life. Just as we are – cozy, eclectic, wondrous.

Damn the words.

Some Words for These Days

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You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
― Maya Angelou

I come to this space today a reluctant writer. This is my fourth attempt to make sense of our national situation. A situation that feels on par with November 2016. I might dare to claim it feels worse. We are doing the best we can and we are tired. We’ve resisted and questioned and sought answers. We’ve raged and cried and prayed. We’ve eaten too much and spent more time on social media than is appropriate. We have carried the weight of the world in our bodies, with few bouts of relief. We have cycled between fasting from news and engaging, depending upon our mental, physical, spiritual wellness. We’ve found our safe people, the ones we can sequester ourselves with at parties, the ones who get us and need to make sense of things too.

It’s been a long upward hike. The air is getting thin and the laden backpack pulls us downward. The mountain pitch just notched up another few degrees. We stop, gather our wits, cuss, swig some water and shuffle forward – one foot in front of the other.

There’s no perfect or right way to do this. There isn’t. Ignore the voices that tell you there is. There isn’t. All of us have our path to plod, built for our unique story and body and experience. None of us can tell another what to do or how to do it.

Take some time away. The rest of us will breathe for you. It’s okay. Keep mindful but factor in some mindlessness too. A little Queer Eye is perfect medicine. A walk outside. Look up, notice the leaves, stop long enough to absorb the clouds – how they blossom and scoot. Remember that all life is life. All life is sacred, even those damned weeds that grow in the concrete cracks too skinny for plucking fingers. Talk to the weeds. Talk to the dogs, and if you’re in a good space, talk to the people about the dogs.

Find a book, one that sucks you in and is more exciting than anything your phone can offer. Put the coziest sheets and covers on the bed. Use your best hand lotion before you fall asleep. Open the window and let the breeze blow.

Make love.

Crack open a game of Monopoly. Play with the kid you know you can beat. It will teach them an important lesson while it helps you feel successful. Don’t rub it in, just retreat to a hidden corner and do a happy dance for five seconds or so.

Get good music on repeat. Mumford and Sons has a new release – I’ll pay large sums of money (or a limb) to anyone who can get me an advance copy of Delta, their new album that drops in November. This is a public service. Greg Laswell has a wonderful new album, too. I Will Not Resign is a perfect mantra for all of us.

If there’s a church in your remote neck of the woods you know is safe and welcoming to all, think about attending (Church Clarity can help). Maybe sit in the back and slip out if you have to. You can come to mine. We would love to have you.

Don’t answer the phone if you don’t know the number. Recruit someone else to listen to the voicemails. Refrain from answering your doorbell if you’re not expecting anyone.

Find your coziest blanket and snuggle with a child, a pet, a pillow, a partner (not always in that order).

Take your space. Wear the comfortable clothes.

Eat. Just eat. It doesn’t matter what it is. I still have the ten pounds from November, 2016 on the 3B (beer, bread, butter) Diet. Message me, I’ll send the details.

Monitor social media usage. As a form of solidarity and community, few things can match Instagram right now. But be careful with Facebook. Be careful with comments. Your engagement will NOT change anyone’s mind. Is it your work to be in community or is your work to challenge?  Pick one, you can’t do both right now.

Women, stoke your anger. We need you soon. If your anger is latent, it’s because you need to grieve. Grieve well, friends. This is the true beginning.

Talk to someone – a pastor, therapist, friend. I have names.

I’m not sure what tomorrow holds but something has died this week. The personal and collective grief is real. My bones ache. My eyes are heavy-laden. My muscles twinge. My body is tired – a deep, painful weariness.

We don’t have to do our best right now. We just have to be: caring for ourselves, holding our people and/or pets, loving the earth, staring at the sky.

We belong to one another and I need you.

Whole.