Category Archives: love

a heart-felt holiday

A repost from December 2009. It’s worth it.

————————-

Having neither spectacular accomplishments nor grave misfortunes to report, and, to be honest, having exhausted the vein of humorous family anecdotes over the years, I will tell you instead that we are all well and fine, and hope that you are too.

Instead of Srajek family details, which are really much the same as any other family’s day-to-day lives, I offer this story about something that happened to us this time last year, at the start of a long Midwest winter.

In our local paper there used to be a kid’s feature called “Letters to the Editor,” where school kids responded to a question from the editor, and then some responses from each school got published.  One week last December, Jacob’s answer to the question “What is the top item on your Christmas list this year?” turned up in the paper.  He wrote that since he wanted to be a carpenter when he grew up, he had “always wanted” a carpenter’s plane.

If he didn’t get that, the number two thing on the list was “lots of nice building wood,” a response that makes him sound quainter and less electronically minded than he really is, but, well, he was probably writing what he knew had the best chance of getting published (they’re never too young to play to the crowd).

About a week after his response appeared in the paper, we received a letter in the mail from a woman we did not know. She apologized if we were not the parents of Jacob Srajek, said that she had looked us up in the phone book, and she hoped her writing was not an imposition to us.  A clipping of Jacob’s letter was neatly taped to the corner of her own letter, which was printed on paper with a decorative floral border.
Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under family life, love

A Mystery Which Will Never Happen Again

I wrote this post 5 years ago, and every word is still true (except that J is a man now, not in-between anymore). Happy 21st birthday, my beautiful boy.

 

For J as he goes

The first time I saw him was in the watery black and white sonogram image; there, like a string of pearls was his spine, curled inside the inky blackness that was me.

On a summer day when he was four, he ran across the green grass of the backyard, his brown skin as alive as any animal’s, and there it was again, that spine, so straight, so fluid, and there were no words, only a primal shock of recognition: something that was mine and not mine.

Later he sat upright at the piano, those straight shoulders and his long, deft fingers, so deliberate on the keys. Whatever he was creating was pulling him farther and farther into his own world, someplace only he could hear. It was like watching beauty become itself.

Now, I watch as he cycles away from me, then stops, turns back and waves, then rides on. He moves with this same lithe, fluid strength, not a boy, not a man, but some exquisite creature somewhere in between. That spine, those shoulders.

I can tell myself that I grew every cell of his body inside of my own, but I know that I am lying, and using words to bridge the unbridgeable distance that began to grow and widen the moment his cells began to divide, and divide, and divide, until they became everything that he would need to become himself.

____________________________________

now all the fingers of this tree(darling)have

and now you are and i am now and we’re
a mystery which will never happen again,
a miracle which has never happened before–
and shining this our now must come to then

by e.e. cummings

 

IMG_0106

12 Comments

Filed under love, motherhood

Things That Carry Us

Very few people believe this, but I love riding the bus. Since I lost my license last April, I have become the world’s biggest fan of my community’s public transportation system, which really is pretty fantastic. But we are such a car-dependent society that unless you live in a large city, it’s hard to imagine existing easily without a vehicle.

Here, though, it works. It’s affordable, convenient, and it expands my world view. I meet new people all the time, eavesdrop shamelessly on private conversations, see things that I would never otherwise see from the confines of my own private vehicle. It’s a writer’s paradise.

ugly bus stop with mailbox in the background

lame picture of ugly bus stop with unidentifiable mailbox in the background

Last week, I was sitting at this gray, sort of depressing bus stop at the edge of a run down shopping area, willing my fingers not to become frostbitten, and I noticed a public mailbox in the middle of the parking lot. I was surprised to see it there because there seem to be fewer public mailboxes around these days.

Anyway, a few minutes passed, and this little old couple in a little old car pulled slowly up to the mailbox. The little old man rolled down the window about two inches and sort of scrunched this letter out through the window into the mailbox, rolled the window back up, and then very slowly drove away. A few more minutes passed, and a mail truck pulled up to empty the mailbox, and I thought how lovely that was–that the old man’s letter would be picked up and carried on along its way. Just like the bus I was waiting for would pick me up and carry me home.

Tiny_Beautiful-330Just like the book I’m reading, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is carrying along my thoughts and feelings about love. Moving me forward, making me feel less alone, the way the best writing always does. The book is about many things, but I’m finding the pieces about love to be particularly moving.

For example, in response to one reader (Johnny’s) question about his ambivalence about when it’s right to say “I love you” to the woman he’s dating, and his plaintive query,”What is this love thing all about?”, she writes: “You aren’t afraid of love. You’re afraid of all the junk you’ve yoked to love…Do you realize that your refusal to utter the word ‘love’ to your lover has created a force field all its own? Withholding distorts reality. It makes the people who do the withholding ugly and small-hearted. It makes the people from whom things are withheld crazy and desperate and incapable of knowing what they actually feel…Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word ‘love’ to all the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will. We’re all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it’s dinnertime” (Strayed, pp. 16-18).

My favorite man in the world called me last night to tell me that he loved me, and he sent me an email this morning, one of those chain ones that I usually hate that said “I wish you enough.” I sat in my office and started to cry. My second favorite man always tells me that he loves me when we say goodbye on the phone. It wasn’t always this way, but when things were hard in our family over the past few years, it started to become the thing we said to each other, to carry us along, and now we always say it because it’s true, and it’s the bridge that keeps us connected until the next conversation. I love you. I love you, too.

The poem for today is by David Whyte, whom I had in mind because I remember hearing him speak about the difference between hiking and kayaking. He said how struck he was by the difference in being carried by the water in a kayak, how you could carry so much more with you because you yourself were being carried along by this elemental force instead of being weighed down by everything you needed to carry on your back.

I’m pretty sure it’s like that with love.

What carries you? What helps you keep your head above water, or buoys you along when you need a little extra support? What connects you? I’d love it if you’d share (leave a comment), and so will others who stop by to read! [One last thing, and apologies for being self-promoting, but if you enjoy reading this blog, do feel free to share with others, via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.]

Loaves and Fishes

This is not the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

–David Whyte

loaves-and-fishes1

8 Comments

Filed under connection, love, recovery

Invitation: Come for Comfort

On Saturday afternoon I was at the nail place getting my no-chip manicure, looking at and listening to the people around me, which feels a bit like watching TV–calming and weird at the same time. There were two young women talking about their plans to go out drinking, discussing the names of drinks they planned to try: the “Dirty Girl Scout,” the “Naked Girl Scout,” and something with the words “blow job” in the title. There was a lady talking about her plans for the family Christmas dinner she was making, and how some of the kids could eat off of Christmas plates but not all could because she didn’t have enough for everyone, but maybe she should go to Kohl’s and buy more? And then there was the gigantic football player and his girlfriend: he was getting a mani-pedi, she was texting her friends.

Then the Christmas music started, specifically, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and tears started running down my cheeks because all I have on my mind are the people of Newton, Connecticut and their families. I was crying, but couldn’t wipe my face because my hands were soaking in polish remover, and this seemed both ridiculous and completely appropriate at the same time. We go about our regular, sweet, silly little lives, because what else would we do, and at the same time we are all, as one of the characters in Jan Karon’s lovely “Mitford” novels says, “trying to swallow something that won’t go down.”broken-hearts-on-hands

I’ve been wondering for days whether to write this post because what in God’s name can anyone say or do?  That is the question I was asking myself on Saturday, sitting there in the nail place, especially when the owner’s two little boys came in and crammed themselves into one pedicure chair together and played Angry Birds on an i-Pad. What can I do? What can I say? What can I do?

So this post has just been a draft, and would have remained as such until today’s news of the funerals started coming out, and I realized that I was actually afraid to take my 7-year old son out shopping on our way home tonight. What they say when school shootings happen is always the same: “Things like this don’t happen here.” But that has never been true. Things like this happen here, wherever you are reading this; here is Virginia, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Norway…the bottom line is that Newton, Connecticut is anywhere, everywhere, and those children and those families are us. All of us.

My intention in writing this post is to invite you to come and be here. Something like a virtual prayer service. Just be here, with whatever you have, whatever you can offer, whatever you feel. Come and sit here, in front of your computer screen, and pray as hard as you can, pray with everything in your heart. Cry or breathe, let your heart break open, then pray some more, because it matters and you won’t be alone. I truly believe that when we have no idea what to bring but bring ourselves anyway, it matters. If all you have to offer is grief, then sit here in front of your computer with your grief. You aren’t alone, and it matters. Your grief matters. Your love matters. There is love here. There is heart here. Because you are here and you aren’t alone.
brokenheartThe poet Denise Levertov wrote, “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” That is what made me write this post. And because, as the Rilke poem below tells us, when grief is all you have, then grief is what you bring. It is right and good to demand that God hear our grief and help us bear it.

Read the poem. And if you want to let me know that you were here, if it helps you to do that, I promise you that your prayers will be in my heart as I keep offering up whatever I have to offer. Your prayers will echo in the hearts of everyone who is here reading, and that matters. Together we can share what feels unbearable, together all our prayers will mean something, not just to us individually but to everyone else in pain. I promise that too.

I read this quote from one of the Newton school neighbors who took some children into his home to wait for their parents: “This little boy turns around, and composes himself, and he looks at me like he had just removed himself from the carnage and he says, ‘Just saying, your house is very small,'” Rosen said. “I wanted to tell him, ‘I love you. I love you.'”

When our hearts are broken, sometimes love comes out. It will never be enough, but it matters more than we ever know. I love you. I love you.

Pushing Through

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
 in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

18 Comments

Filed under courage, love, parenting

Your Life as a Pie Chart

At the beginning of this year, I had to attend one of those perennially unhelpful workshops on work/life balance.  I strongly despise the whole concept of work/life balance, partly because it implies that your work is not your life and your life is not your work, and partly because balance is a static position that doesn’t last.  (For more useful ways of looking at this issue, see David Whyte’s The Three Marriages.)

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under advent, love

Better Late Than Never: Advent Blog 2011

The 2nd Sunday of Advent has come and gone, the amaryllis’ that I wanted to plant by December 1st are still in their boxes, and last night we just didn’t have the energy to decorate the tree that Martin put up in the morning.  But! This morning in the shower, I decided that it was not too late to do another Advent blog.  I’ll explain how this came to be in a moment, but know that I’ll be doing my very best to post every day until Christmas, and I would love it, as always, if you were here.

not the amaryllis in my house

Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under advent, love

For All That Has Been, Thanks. For All That Will Be, Yes.

Tomorrow is our 19th wedding anniversary.  Martin and I got engaged in March of 1992 when we were living in Philadelphia.  After our engagement, I visited one of my former professors from Villanova and told him I was getting married.  He said the only thing that has ever helped me make sense of marriage, especially why people continue to stick with it when it feels like the most barren of deserts.  He asked me, “Is it a growth relationship?”

Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under hope, love, marriage