A promising emptiness

I'm here tonight as if an obstinate magnet, pulled toward the light of an empty page like a moth that spots a beacon on a dark and stormy night. He flies toward it, hopeful, determined, in need.

I can hardly keep my eyes open and I'm already in bed, but unfortunately, today was another mostly-dreadful one. And so I am here. Flitting over the promising emptiness of a white expanse and an eager cursor. 

The page asks nothing, and it is infinitely patient. It is an open embrace that never tires. It doesn't tick or talk or melt down or whine. It doesn't judge or pressure. It accepts truths and lies, ugliness and beauty. It is not defensive or harsh or rude. It never glances subtly toward a clock or a phone. It asks nothing but offers everything. And so I am here. 

In front of this empty slate, I am never cold. I am not lonely. Or overwhelmed. Or exhausted. I pour onto the page that my littlest boy called me a jerk, that he kicked me, that I snapped and spent a decent amount of time crying on the kitchen floor because this week has been relentless and "jerk" was the last straw. In doing so, I release these things and can start to let them go. I come to a peace, of sorts, with the underbelly of this life that is mine. The parts that aren't pretty but are real, the parts I don't like but must handle, the parts that others don't often discuss but must surely experience too. And so I am here.

I also record the moments that light my heart on fire: the graceful way Jack received the news that our pug would be staying in Brooklyn; that amidst his tears, he first asked "Is Percy happy?"; and secondly, "How will I tell S? Can you help me, Mom?" (S is a friend who adores Percy and sometimes had him sleep over.) I can hold on to these twinklings with specificity and accuracy, integrating them more fully into memory and heart. 

When I write, my cat sits by me. Almost always. He purrs like a gentle motor, bathes himself, falls asleep, snores in a subtle, irresistible way. He lets me reach over and play with his little pink toe pads. They're like warm jelly beans. I think he likes when I write, think he likes the positive zen flow over and around us as a page fills. I do.

The page never suggests that I am too much. It doesn't blink when I rage to it, doesn't mind if I cry. It welcomes jokes and also deeply serious privacies. It is consistent and punctual, generous and reliable, even when little else seems to be. It is enlivening and comforting and the best tool for unearthing self-understanding and acceptance that I've discovered. And so I am here.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt "Sometimes, I wonder about my writing. I keep on and on because..." This week's link-up is hosted by Kristi Campbell.

Thank you and why I write

I am overwhelmed, in the very best of ways, by the deluge of beautiful responses I've received since posting Do you know? last night. 

I will admit to a nervous hand clicking "save and publish," a shaky heart wondering how my words would be received.

What I hoped for was twofold: a refreshing sense of getting feelings off my chest and connection with you; perhaps you'd understand, know exactly what I meant, feel less alone. What I didn't expect were your generous notes of thanks and "Yes, me too!" and "This resonates so powerfully with me." 

Via text, email, the comments and even in person today, I have heard from you. You've told me that you felt a lump in your heart, your throat, behind your eyes as the tears welled. That you sat in silence and felt moved beyond expectation. That you feel what I've written is brave and eloquent and real. That you know and feel it all too.

What I want to say to you is thank you. 

I am not a trained writer, and rarely do I sit down with a plan. I sit down to write because I need to. It is a drive that comes from deep within. I can only explain it like that.

I write to understand, to question, to figure things out, to better know myself. I write to unearth and illuminate truth, to attempt to pull the masking veils from expectations -societal, personal- that are absurd, antiquated, harmful, unfair. 

I write to hold myself accountable. I write because I love words and stringing them together makes me soul sing.

I write to connect, to comfort, to bear witness to and to stand up for things. I write to laugh and to make you laugh. I write to record. I write to release.

And then y'all show up and make everything even better. I am humbled and thankful and full today. Thank you!

Not perfect, but whole

I'm not even going to delve into the matter of today being May 1 and I'm in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. That seems as wrong as the fact that there are only five weeks of school left. 

It really does take my breath away that summer break is nigh. Didn't my baby just start kindergarten? And soon my big boy will enter 4th grade and approach a double-digit age?

I chose not to think of those things this week, although they flitted through my attention when my eyes wandered to my calendar and reminders for camp payments rolled in. Instead I focused on being present with myself and those around me; my boys and friends, classmates and pets. 

Recently, I spoke to a very neat woman, wise and kind. She radiated serenity, a quality in others I am always drawn to like a moth to the brightest light. I want to know that secret, I want to understand the peace in this woman's face. So I talked to her for as long as she let me.

She told me about the importance of knowing ourselves deeply. That knowledge, and the acceptance of it, pads our hearts and souls. It nourishes us and is also protective, especially in our relationships with others both known and not. 

"When we know ourselves, Emily, we cannot be manipulated, for we are already whole. We don't have to spend energy defending ourselves against unknowns [unknown attacks], because we are already aware of our attributes."

Our conversation reminded me of an Adult Development class I took in grad school. Drawing on psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg's six stages of moral development, our professor, Robert Kegan, argued that the highest stage of adult development was at the point an individual could see him/herself as the subject and any given other as the object. Intimacy and deep connection are infinitely possible, but the Self is not enmeshed with the Other.

Put differently, the Self's identity is not dependent on the relationship with the Other. Rather the Self as an independent entity can approach and relate to and with another without worry that the Self will be lost or subsumed. 

The point is this: it is wise to make all effort to truly understand the essence of who we are. Then, faults can be addressed and worked on, strengths can be honed, real acceptance can be found. In the process, an authentic sense of self emerges and can be carried into relationships.

I think it's those sorts of selves that I find so appealing. People who recognize what is awesome about themselves and what is less optimal and who embrace it all in an accepting hug. They work to be just who they are but in a responsible way, fine-tuning internally as they go.

They are not perfect, but they're whole. And outwards from that core radiates pure light.

This week, I wrote a lot. I spent hours on the couch. I felt utterly alive and yet lazy too, as if this life of fitting words this way and that were but a puzzle of leisure I've not earned. And yet, something is different, and I wonder if it's growth. The very sort that might just radiate light.