Anna is a longtime friend of mine. Although she is not a blogger, her words in handwritten letters and emails alike have moved me for more than a decade.
I knew she would do well by the series with anything she submitted, but did not know just how deeply what she eventually sent would rock me. The moment I read her post’s concluding words, I knew hers would be the post to close out the FTIAT series. I have reread the post at least a dozen time since, and my conclusion is always the same.
I want the words Anna has written here to be the ones indelibly etched in people’s hearts when they recall this series. I want them to send long-lasting ripples of love and grace through those hearts the way they have done with mine.
And I want to thank Anna for not only writing but living by example, and for always, always loving without strings.
Recommended post: This one
A Love Without Strings
(Note: Out of respect for the recovering, some names have been changed)
I met Gabriel in my living room, where I was sunk into a fat flowery couch with my right foot propped up, recovering from ankle surgery. I was four months sober at the time and had been scared to death of general anesthesia– not because I thought I might not wake up, but because I was terrified I’d like the drugs so much they’d pull me back into the hell I’d just climbed out of.
Gabriel was a 28-year-old French-speaking guitar-playing wisecracking heroin addict. He was tall and cool, slouching down in the chair in my living room while his recovery teacher Mark chatted with me about God and friends and the world outside my living room. Read more…
Anthony Robinson is better known to this blog’s readers as “Ba.D.” Since he’s worked hard to build his name, it’s important to him that name be included here.
I wrote in preface to his other guest post that “our relationship was built through the written word.” Before our son was born, I loved reading between hundreds and thousands of words written by him any given day. After our son’s birth, his written words became fewer, mostly reaching me in text message-sized bites.
I’ve missed his written words. I’ve missed their rhythm, so different than that arising in conversation, and the lovely heart so clearly revealed by them.
This post is a gift to me in so many ways, and one I am sure to savor for a long, long time to come.
The Ocean Roars, Too.
When Deb approached me to write a guest blog for her “For This I Am Thankful” series, I was both flattered and terrified. I used to be a semi-prolific blogger, but I’d not penned anything worthwhile in a long time; my current well of writing was dry. I was full of false starts, neat ideas that wouldn’t go anywhere, and lots of staring at a blank screen until I’d fall asleep at the keyboard.
I had no idea what to write.
I was lying in bed, struggling to stay awake and considering Seppuku when I heard the soft sounds of my son snoring in the other room, when the Eureka moment hit.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I snore. I’m not talking about just a little heavy breathing or a light purr. I saw wood. I am a chainsaw. I roar like a 747 coming down for an emergency landing, or a Mack Truck bearing down on a stalled out Datsun on the I-5 on a rainy evening: My snore is the Destroyer of Worlds and the Eater of Suns.
Of all the things for my son to inherit from me—my sense of humor, my dashing good looks, my penchant for bad movies, my funky eyesight, that annoying thing I do that Deb keeps telling me about—one of the few things I could have wished on him was my snore. Read more…
Christine (Know My Worth) has an aptitude for verse that both confounds and delights my much more verbose self. While I typically read prose, I not only enjoy reading her verse but mulling it over and savoring it long after my eyes have stopped reading any one of her poems.
Recommended post: Seeing Potential
For this I am thankful…
a raw, primal siren
informing of desire
signaling a most basic need
The desire to eat
a fierce roar
in the pit of my stomach
sweet, sour, salty
crunchy, cheesy, creamy
“It’s not time to eat”
“I don’t need that”
Why do I deny my desire?
Why do I ignore my primal needs?
“I can’t risk it”
“It’s too much work”
Why do I deny my desire?
Why do I ignore my primal needs?
A hunger for faith
to believe in something
bigger than myself
to give myself over
to something I cannot see
“I can’t see it”
“It doesn’t make sense”
Why do I deny my desire?
Why do I ignore my primal needs?
hunger scares me
Like a lion roaring deep within
hunger could become insatiable
hunger could become the ruler of me
my brain could disengage
primal nature take over
and hunger would consume
my every moment
life without hunger
is a weak and empty existence
crouching in fear
surrounded by darkness
So I listen to my hunger
and I am fed
and I am not alone
and I find light
I will not starve myself
or live in fear
I embrace hunger
I embrace life
and for this
I am thankful
Jess (Sapphire & Rain) and I go way, way back, at least as far as my personal blogging timeline is concerned. I was only a few months into blogging when Jess made me my very own blogging award: the Double Trouble Blogger Award for “witty and insightful writing.” Although I loved her before that, I loved her eleventy billion times more when I looked at the quirky icon she’d made just for me. Sixteen months later, it still makes me smile.
“Takes one to know one!” is what I thought both then and now–now that I think of her foremost as a friend and secondarily a blogger. Her thoughts in both spheres continue to entrance me, and it’s my hope Jess and I will have a lot of years of conversation ahead, both on and off of our blogs.
Recommended post: Question everything
Past, present and imperfection
In the fall of 1998, I was eighteen years old and not yet motivated enough to get my driver’s license. My slightly older boyfriend drove me around most of the time, but on some days he was unavailable. My dad was usually at work. So on those days, I had to walk to my job.
It wasn’t a big deal, really. I applied for that job because it was within walking distance. I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone for transportation– a wise choice. It took about ten minutes to walk from my house to work on the other side of the highway. I just hated crossing the parking lot of the furniture store.
Something about that store spooked me, but I didn’t know what it was. I gazed into the windows every time I walked past; there was a beautiful ivory and blue striped sofa that I wanted to buy when I finally moved out on my own. Maybe when I was ready to make a purchase, I would be brave enough to venture inside. The thought of my future apartment kept my mind occupied as I rushed across the often empty lot and past a dumpster that sat under the dark shade of a thick oak tree. By the time I reached the office supply store where I worked, the eerie feelings had left me. Read more…
Sheila (Mary Tyler Mom) has changed my life with her words. You have heard about some of these changes in my many reflections on Donna’s Cancer Story, her blog series about her daughter’s battle with cancer. You will hear about the other changes in time.
While I first knew Sheila thanks to her daughter, I have come to see her as much more than “Donna’s mom.” She is a mom, an advocate for social change and for hope, and an exceedingly rare writer whose powerful words unify intellect and heart. She makes me laugh when I least expect it. In the face of her words, I have no room left for my compulsive overthinking; as long as I am reading them, I am immersed in the world as seen through her eyes. This is a gift for which I am exceedingly thankful.
Thinking back to when I first read Sheila’s words, I am floored to think how little I then understood how much knowing her would change me. It is an honor to know Sheila, to have hugged her, and now, to feature her here today.
Ode to Jay
I remember it clearly. It was a cloudy November day. I was playing with my eleven month old baby boy. I turned my head and he was smiling at me, so full of joy and love. I loved him, too, but in that moment, it was like meeting him for the first time, as if, almost, I had just birthed him.
My son was born into a complicated family. His older sister, Donna, three and a half years older, was in treatment for an aggressive brain tumor. She was prevented from visiting the hospital to see him and for his first week of life had to be in a different room, as she had RSV, a cold strain that can be fatal to infants. She died when Jay was just shy of ten months. He was a brother without a sister, just as I was a mother without a daughter. None of that was right.
Much of Jay’s first year is fuzzy to me, a swirl of relapses, surgeries, chemotherapies, fear, dread, and sadness, none of it much related to him. His infancy squeezed in between hospice visits and hospitalizations. I nursed him, thank God, because I honestly believe that if I hadn’t, our bond would have been tenuous, another casualty of cancer.
For Jay I am thankful. Every day I thank my lucky stars that I have him to care for, to call me Mom, to fuss over. My grief after Donna’s death might very possibly have consumed me, had I not had Jay to feed and bathe and diaper. And love. Read more…
Chris (From the Bungalow) and I met face to face in March 2012, when I flew to Chicago to join him and his wife in shaving heads for St. Baldrick’s. Before that meeting, Chris and I had been blogging buddies for nearly a year. In light of our frequent thoughtful exchanges, I fully expected my introversion to be subdued even in the face of our first meeting. It was.
If you’ve been here a while, you know Chris inspired me to read the life-changing Donna’s Cancer Story. You know implicitly of his eloquence and ability to persuade; but for that, I would have a much fuller head of hair right now. What you may not know is that he’s also a father, a musician, a music therapist and one hell of a friend. My offline life is better for knowing Chris, and I trust you will understand why when you read his powerful words below.
Recommended post: Blissfully Bald
I will not sit idly by…
“They’ve ruled out everything else. I have ALS.”
As I listened to my mom speak those words, they didn’t make sense. Somehow, it never really registered with me until just now, right after I typed them. There has been an underlying malaise these past few months following the loss of my parents’ house to fire, and shortly thereafter, the sudden loss of my maternal grandmother to cancer. But that diagnosis… those words? Superficial until now. I didn’t want to accept it. I couldn’t.
Lou-fucking-Gehrig’s Disease, terminal in 100% of cases. Terminal? How?! How do we not know a goddamn thing about this? How did this happen?! Forget about that. How is my mom handling her prognosis? How is my dad handling it? My sisters? Me?
What am I supposed to do now? What is my mom supposed to do? I have more questions than answers. That’s an overwhelming place to be. I’m sad and angry. She lost both of her sisters when they were in their 30′s, lost both of her parents to cancer, and now this? An innocent, loving, caring mother and grandmother sentenced to death at some not-so-distant point in the future while her body slowly shuts down? Bullshit. It’s not right. It’s not fair.
And yet, there’s this voice in my head that keeps whispering to me… Read more…
Katy (I Want A Dumpster Baby) caught me with her name, but kept me with her heart. I once tried to explain her to my godmother, saying that I loved all of the things about her that are like my mom while also loving her for who she is even apart from that. When I met her in March, I could feel her before I even saw her. And when I saw her, the love just radiated from her as if it were literally a light.
Katy is, as she says, an alcoholic who doesn’t drink and a smoker who doesn’t smoke. I say she is a lover who loves and loves and loves, sometimes with funniness, often with glitter guns and others with don’t-you-dare-try-that-on-me firmness, but always in a way that makes me think, “Man, is the world better for you being in it.”
Recommended post: It Just Gets Better and Better
Mothers and Daughters
Here’s the thing about Mothers and Daughters. It’s a tricky relationship. One that ebbs and flows and, ultimately, one that teaches a girl how to get along in the world as a girl and then as a woman. The mother does her best to teach her daughter what she has learned and then does her best to let her go. No matter how many wrong turns the daughter makes, the mother is just there letting her know that she is loved. The mother will do anything for her daughter, and yet, the one thing she will not do is love her to death. There is a point where the mother does the one thing that she never thought she would have to do and that is say, “enough.” From this tiny little woman who is my mom comes this powerhouse of strength, faith and commitment. My mom is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She has the strength and conviction of an army of men.
I may not have always agreed with her. I still don’t. But I respect her. And the best thing is that today, I’ve earned her respect. I make living amends to my mom each day I am clean and sober. It’s the best gift I could give her. I want so desperately to give her a grandchild. I am working my best on that effort and my mom has been my angel while I’ve been going though this fertility struggle. With little notes every other day, just saying “HIYA” or “How you doing Honey” or stories of my niece and nephews she knows will make me smile.
She also takes the time to write long, beautiful notes to me since they moved across the country and I am so appreciative. She knows I don’t like to talk on the phone and she has adapted. My mom is the best audience a comedienne like me could ever want. She laughs at EVERYTHING I say, all the while saying, “You are so funny, Kitten.”
I’ve been given the gift of watching my mom explore and open her mind and world to new ideas and to not see things as so black and white. I hope I have had a hand in that. It’s made me less judgmental. I’ve been sober for 10 years and when I got sober, I started smoking cigarettes and continued for 10 years. My dear sweet mom never said one word about that. The whole time, and I know she hated it. Always has. But it was the lesser of two evils and if she could have her daughter sober and smoking, that was the better option for her. NO JUDGEMENT. I find that incredible. She would even come outside with me when I visit while I smoked because she just wanted to be with me. We weren’t very touchy feely while I was growing up, but I tell my mom every chance I get how much I love her and respect her. I watched her wish she could have had a more open relationship with her mother, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen with us. I wrap my arms around her tiny little frame and I almost cry every time because I love that woman so much it hurts.
I’m so thankful I’ve had the gift of time and sobriety to grow with my mom. I think about our relationship today and it is strong. It is blooming. We like each other today. So very much.
We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve challenged, we’ve accepted, we’ve forgiven, we’ve healed. And now, we just love. For this I am thankful.
That all’s my fancy way of saying, “I made the mistake of first reading this post while walking to the grocery store, without a single tissue on hand.” I’d recommend you have a tissue or two on hand as you read, but that you also be prepared to laugh.
My favorite reads are those that call forth tears and laughter alike. It’s these that live longest in my heart. And, indeed, as long as my heart beats, this post will resound within it.
Recommended post: I hope you dance…and other cliches for my daughter
Mama and that Old Brown Dog
My mom hated dogs, and she was quick to give her reasons. They’re loud. They stink. They’re a waste of hard-earned money that should be spent on more important things like food and HBO. I never had a pet as a child, but I guess you don’t miss what you never had because it wasn’t a bone of contention with me. I didn’t ache for a puppy only to be denied by my frugal parents. No, I longed for Barbie dolls. They were much easier to care for anyway, and my Malibu Ken never once left a smelly surprise by the back door.
When 2005 rolled around, we decided to buy a larger home and move my elderly mother in with us. I worried about her being alone and defenseless in her small apartment. She was beginning to have a tough time with even the simple chores of bringing her grocery bags in from her car or toting around a laundry basket. It would be a mutually beneficial arrangement because in exchange for a safe, rent-free home for my mom live in, my 8-month-old daughter and 5-year-old son would get full access to their grandmother, and I would have someone in the kitchen who knew her ladle from a hole in the ground. Win-Win!
What my mother didn’t know was that I was secretly plotting to get a dog for my kids once we moved into the new home. We had a nice backyard with a tall privacy fence. Fido would have room to run and sunbathe and all would be right with the world. I scoured shelter websites looking for the perfect dog to rescue, but it was a daunting task. With so many homeless pups to choose from, we decided to take the family to a farm where the dogs were housed, meet the shelter director and let the dog pick us instead.
It was overwhelming…and loud…and it smelled foul. Dogs barked excitedly and came at us from every direction. Each one met our arrival with a look in their eyes that screamed, “Please pick me,” and I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of sadness in knowing that only one would be going home with us that day. Tiny dogs and big dogs alike clamored for our attention…all except for one. He was an older, non-descript, brown dog that stood off to the side making a noise that was not quite a howl and not quite a bark. It was more a like a scolding for the other dogs that seemed to say, “Settle down, you fools! Don’t you know we have company?”
I liked that brown dog. He wasn’t jumpy or desperate. When I asked the director about his story, she said he didn’t really have one. A Good Samaritan found him by the side of a road and rescued him – no drama, just a plain, brown dog. That was good enough for me, and from a pool of nearly fifty dogs, we decided that laid-back Benji would be coming home with us.
My mom was less than thrilled with our new four-legged housemate. She scolded him for barking and for daring to laze around on a sofa that was deemed a “No Dog Zone.” She proclaimed her utter disdain for having a mutt inside the house to anyone who would listen to her. She protested even further as we added two more dogs along the way, but although she would never admit it, I could see a soft spot growing for Benji. Being an older dog, he wasn’t interested in the wrestling matches and stair races that kept our other pets busy. There were many evenings when the chaos of our house filled with five people and three dogs became too much for my mom and Benji, and I would find them hiding out in her room watching Law and Order reruns, my mom in her recliner and Benji at her feet. They had a lot in common, those two.
In early June of 2008, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died two and a half months later. For weeks after her death, I would find Benji in her room alone, once again escaping the noise and drama of the day. He seemed to miss his crime-show-watching partner, pacing around the room while sniffing every square inch. His quiet place would never be the same.
Benji became the grandfather dog of the house in the years after my mom died. His face turned gray and his walk up the stairs became slower, shakier. He no longer raced to lap up crumbs from around the dinner table, preferring to sit in the background while the younger dogs fought over scraps. He would bark to go outside only to turn around and immediately bark to go back inside. (We decided that elderly dogs must suffer from dementia like elderly humans.) His hearing was nearly gone and his eyesight wasn’t too far behind.
After a weekend out of town, we came home last month to find that Benji’s health had taken a catastrophic turn for the worse while we were away. He could barely walk and every breath was a struggle. The vet counseled us as he gently broke the news that he couldn’t fix that Brown Dog our family loved so much. As we huddled around Benji in the exam room, we stroked his coarse coat and told him how much we would miss him…and then he was gone.
I always joked that Benji took my mom’s place as the senior citizen of the house. It just feels wrong for them both to be gone now. The loss of my mother brought heart-wrenching pain, but I’m glad that my children had so much time with her before she left us. If there is any silver lining to such a horrible black cloud of enduring the sickness and death of a loved one, it’s that I know my children learned an important lesson: We MUST take care of each other. Loving and caring for someone (human or critter) even when it’s hard, even when you want to scream and run away, even when you can’t make it better is a legacy that I have left to my children. They know that we are in this for the long run. I will love them and take care of them to the moon and back. I am certain that when my day comes, they will also do the same for me.
It’s the circle of life, and for this I am thankful.
Andrew (Lucid Dreams & Saturn Skies) intrigues me with the merger of meditation and the macabre on his blog. It’s a unique merger that keeps me coming back for more.
He shares my love of horror, and has even helped feed my own with his horror stories. I enjoy reading his blog features about terrifying things–more so when they’re fictional than when they’re true!–but am equally fond of his reflective posts.
Recommended post: As the Life of A Flower
Initially, when Deb approached me about FTIAT, I drew a blank. It isn’t that I don’t have gratitude for all the wonderful people and things in my life – I do. It was that I couldn’t quite find a way to express what I wanted to express. That coupled with the craziness surrounding the last semesters of my undergrad career led me to put the project in my digital dustbin. However, a recent conversation with a close friend and another invitation from Deb conspired to swat me upside the head with inspiration.
Hang on to your hats folks. Things are about to get science-y!
You see, I am a biology major (and a business major, in the interest of full disclosure). Naturally, I find the science fascinating. So does one of my closest friends, who is enrolled in her first college biology class at the moment. It’s kind of funny how minds can meld during a close friendship, even if said brains are separated by thousands of miles. (My friend lives in Alaska.) You see, as I recall it, she and I were basically struck by the same pseudo-epiphany almost the same day, and it was that conversation that led to this post.
The more I study biology, the more I am amazed that any living system works at all. We are used to thinking of our body as a single whole, but that could not be further from the truth. In reality, each and every one of us are a super colony of trillions upon trillions of interconnected and symbiotic cells and bacteria.
All of the intricate structures that make up our bodies are either made of cells or are secreted by said cells. Said cells are regulated by the genetic code: DNA. The acronym DNA is tossed around quite a bit, thanks to shows like CSI and NCIS, but as with many of the other acronyms we use on a daily basis, many use it without knowing what it’s short for. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, and it acts as the molecule that confers inheritance. In a basic biological sense, if not a psycho-spiritual one, DNA makes you you.
Crazy, right? You know what’s crazier? At the end of the day, DNA is just a bunch of stringy white goop. Seriously. One day in lab I was twirling a bunch of fruit DNA we’d isolated on the end of a glass stir rod, amazed that this pulpy looking gunk was quite literally the stuff of life.
That white stringy gunk is responsible for everything. It contains within it the recipe of life. Somehow it can direct all the varied cells to find their proper place in the body. Not only that, it contains within it code for the mechanisms that allow said cells to communicate with one another, to divide, and even to kill themselves.
What is more, DNA is the code for all known life. From bacteria to elephants to people, all organisms use the same molecule both to replicate themselves and to provide the recipe for their living bodies. It’s all wonderfully complex and, especially for those trying to unravel life’s mysteries, often very confusing.
So you might be wondering at this point what I am thankful for. Life itself. Not only is how it works amazing, but it’s amazing that it works in the first place!
Dawn (Enlightenment Ain’t for Sissies) is most familiar to me for the thought-provoking, inspiring posters she creates for her Facebook page. Her rarer blog writings reflect equal care, and an honesty so unflinching it feels both nerve-wracking and empowering. I am grateful for the openness of her writing, which creates the perfect setting for my open reflection and assessment of my own life, as it exists now . . . and as I might strive for it to be in the years to come.
Recommended post: When does life begin?
Set it free
There is an old adage that if you love something set it free and if it loves you, it will return, but if it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with. As I write this, I am that which is being set free. You see, two months ago, I asked my husband for a divorce.
My husband is a good man. He is kind. He is generous. He is a wonderful father. He is good husband. I am the stay-at-home mom of a bright, independent kindergartner. I want for nothing. We don’t fight. We communicate. So why do I want a divorce? I ask myself that every day and only come up with one answer.
I want a divorce because I don’t love my husband the way that he loves me and our sexual chemistry has disappeared. That simply isn’t fair to either of us. He loves me so big and so much it hurts me that I am unable to give that back to him. He deserves to find someone who will love him as much as he loves me. The final kick to him here is that he has helped me realize that I deserve to love someone that way too. I want to feel the electric joy of someone’s touch when we are way too old to care. That may seem selfish, but it is honest.
We’ve tried counseling. For those who may be thinking that this is all my fault – the counselor agreed with you. We’ve tried every permutation we can think of to get us back on track, and this is where we’ve ended up. This was not a rash decision, it was years in the making, and it is still not made.
I am on a precipice of my life. I could continue as it is, tepid and safe, living with my best friend. No sex life, risk cheating and most likely end up resenting the fact that I kept myself from my dream of a life with possibility. Or, I leave. Terrified. Alone. A single mom. Away from my best friend and the father of my child,finally having to be a grown up, doing everything on my own, realizing dreams I didn’t even know I had. Learning for the first time in my life how to be me. Succeeding or failing, but knowing that those successes and failures are mine.
I don’t have the answers yet, and for this I am thankful. I am thankful for my husband who is giving me the time and the room to make this very difficult decision. The man who is risking it all to give me my wings. The man who will move heaven and Earth to give me room to fly. The man who will support me no matter which choice I make. The man who could be making this ugly and full of hate but instead is making it about love and respect. I am thankful for him.
© Dawn Biggs 16 April 2012