Let Them Be Empty

“Quietude, which some men cannot abide
because it reveals their inward poverty,
is as a palace of cedar to the wise,
for along its hallowed courts
the King in his beauty deigns to walk.”

-Charles Spurgeon

 

We went camping over the holiday weekend and as I sat in our campsite on Friday night I felt agitated.  A little edgy.  We had arrived mid-afternoon, taken a long walk, had a leisurely dinner and the requisite s’mores, settled the boys in the tent for the night and then… there was nothing to do.

The dishes were done, my cell had no service, I was miles from my laptop and laundry and ‘to do’ lists and I found myself irritable and mildly cranky.  All this empty space stretched wide before me and I felt panicky in the face of it.  What, pray tell, was I supposed to do with all this free time?!

 

 

View from our campground in the Northern Cascades

View from our campground in the Northern Cascades

Busy!  Busy!  Busy?

I realized as I sat by the water and tried to get a freaking grip on myself that I’m used to filling every single spare space in my life with something.  Most days I feel like I’m checking things off of a non-stop, ongoing, ever-growing list of things that need to be done.  Work, writing, meals, laundry, school drop off, school pick up, community group prep, library runs, grocery shopping, volunteering at the school, you get the idea.

Here’s the thing, though.  I’m not actually all that busy.  Not really.  It’s just that in between all these things, when I get a spare minute, I’m really quick to fill it with something.   When Jason puts the boys to bed, I clean up the kitchen but I also try to catch a snippet of a show or a podcast while I’m at it.  Or last week, when I had ten minutes before I had to pick up Isaiah from preschool, I queued up an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on my phone and did a speed clean of the guest bathroom before running out the door.  Gotta get while the gettin’s good, right?   And c’mon, when else will I get to watch Grey’s Anatomy?  I mean, really.   Some things are important.

So as we settled into the woods for the weekend and I was faced with this endless expanse of spare minutes, I didn’t know what to do with them.  I was restless and uneasy because I was without my usual props and distractions.   I had gotten out of the practice of filling my spare moments with… nothing.  This weekend was a crash course in (re)learning how to let them be empty.

Always On Call

It was harder than I thought it would be.  I thought I had a handle on how to rest.  And we’re the Rusts!  Camping is our thing!  But it’s actually been awhile since we’ve been out there and I realized this weekend that one day a week of mostly shutting things down and kinda sorta resting isn’t actually enough.   I need to practice more.

I’ve been re-reading Simplicity Parenting this month and the author, Kim John Payne, says that it used to be that only physicians and a few select others knew what it was like to be “on-call” from time to time.  But now, with our smart phones and high-speed wifi at all times and in all places, we are all  “on-call” all of the time.  This, he says, means that “most of us are in a slightly anxious, arrested state most of the time.”   Getting a phone call while we’re driving or feeling the buzz of a text message during dinner means we are constantly vacillating physiologically between a moderate and a hyper-aroused state and it can be difficult to calm our minds down.

Palace of Cedar

So what did I do with all that spare time this weekend?   I drank tea by the river one evening.  I sat quietly in the afternoons and looked out at the trees and the mountains.  I read books.  I wrote an entry in my “giving thanks” journal which now has exactly 2 entries.  I had a really good conversation with Jason as we lingered by the campfire on our last night.  I even used Isaiah’s water colors one afternoon and tried my hand at painting.    In short, not much.  But I felt an unfurling of sorts; an unclenching of fists and a freedom from my usual frenetic pace.  I also felt a nearness of God that I don’t normally feel.

I’m hoping that I will be more intentional now that we’re home and push into those spaces of quiet more often; that I will let the spare moments in my day be empty instead of constantly and frantically filling them to capacity.  I want to work on quietude.  It’s going to take some effort, though.  Today when I picked Gryffin up from school I was a few minutes earlier than usual and I immediately turned on Grey’s Anatomy.    Ah well, I’m a work in progress and it had been three whole days.

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More pictures from the weekend…

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View from Phelps Creek Trail

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Taking a breather during one of our hikes

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More from Phelps Creek Trail

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Jason had to carry the boys across the rushing water a few times. This is the spot where I voted to turn back.   Jason: 1, Nance: 0. When he was carrying Isaiah, Jason could hear him whispering, “Please don’t let me die, please don’t let me die.”

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Mornings around the campfire

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We camped at Shaefer Creek near the Chiwawa River – about 20 miles from Lake Wenatchee. Probably our favorite spot in Washington yet.

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The boys practiced and perfected this move on our last morning. Gryffin could hold him like this for about 20 seconds. An impressive feat considering the weight ratio!

 

 

 

 

 

Is Racism Over Yet?

Weekend Worthy

We’re heading out of town tomorrow for a semi-impromptu camping trip and I thought I’d leave this for you all to enjoy this weekend.  She packs a lot of info into 6 minutes and she has a long list of links after the video over on youtube.

 

 

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Other posts on Race

Misplaced Imagining
Fury in #Ferguson
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
The (Not So) Subtle Racism of the Gilmore Girls
Complete White Privilege Awareness Series

Office Redux

I’ve wanted to revamp my office space for awhile now and last week I finally made the push to finish it.  Earlier this year I took over half of our playroom as my office but I basically just moved the table and book shelf up from downstairs and left it at that.  It has taken me several more months to really make the space my own but I’m happy with the way it has turned out.

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Isaiah likes to swing wildly in the hammock behind me when I’m working so he does, on occasion, swing into my head but otherwise it doesn’t seem to have hampered the playing in the “playroom” one bit.   I took the video of him below a couple days ago when he kept slamming into me.

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The table is from Ikea.  It’s actually a small kitchen table that I found in the “as is” section about 3 years ago.  It’s been in our guest room ever since serving as a desk/tv stand.

The book shelf was purchased from Costco circa 2002.  The white magazine holders organize all of my work and writing what nots.  They are from Ikea by way of Amazon Prime ($6.75 for a pack of 5).  The clock is from Target ($4.99) and the rest was re-purposed from around the house.

The white frames used to hang in the boys’ bedroom before we redecorated.   They had “Where the Wild Things Are” quotes in them so I just swapped them out for the ampersand (reminds me of my calligraphy days) and the “expecto patronum” which I made in Google Illustrator because Harry Potter (it’s the spell that drives away and protects a person from the dementors, which seemed fitting for how I feel sometimes when I’m writing).

The calendar pages are free printables.  You can find them here.

My Co-Worker

Lest you think it’s all serene and cozy in here, I give you… Isaiah in the hammock.  This is during “quiet time” which I’ll admit is not usually very quiet, but I’m going to hand it to him this time because, as he was quick to point out, he was swinging q u i e t l y.  See my chair there?  In the bottom left of the frame?  Now imagine where my head would be…

 

How Long Do We Have to Feel Guilty?

That’s the question I got from a student following a White privilege presentation I gave at an InterVarsity conference last month.

 

“So, like, I think I get this White privilege stuff and everything but, like,
how long do we have to feel guilty about it?  I mean, really?”

 

Several of the other students leaned forward in their seats as I contemplated my answer. It’s a good question and one that probably surfaces at some point for most White folks grappling with this subject.

I feel uncomfortable!  How long do I have to sit with this sense of unease?  Do I have to feel guilty forever?

Adventures in Missing the Point

While I understand the sentiment behind it, I think it’s the wrong question.

First, it assumes that guilt is bad.   Unlike shame, guilt is not a negative emotion.  It’s unpleasant, yes, but according to Dr. Brene Brown, guilt is actually adaptive and helpful.  It allows a person to hold something that they have done (or not done) up against their personal values and feel a psychological discomfort.  It carries with it the power to prompt meaningful and lasting change.

Second, for this particular conversation, it’s important to note the difference between personal guilt and collective guilt. Collective, or communal, guilt isn’t something that we readily understand in our culture.  We are an individualistic society.  We want to know what we, personally, have done wrong and will then make the appropriate amends if we deem it necessary.  But if you can’t show me what have personally done to wrong you, there is no way I am going to feel guilty!

This is why systemic racism flourishes.  Because it’s impossible to pin it down.  There is no one person on which to place the blame.  There is no one person to shoulder the responsibility so we can each let ourselves off the hook and sit comfortably in our belief that we live in a post-racial society where the so-called race-baiters and rioters have simply been misinformed.

White Privilege

You Win!  Wait, Do You?

If you won the 100 meter dash at the Olympic Games and later found out that your coaches and teammates had rigged the race, how would you feel?   Was it your fault?  No.  Did you rig the race?  No.   Technically, you are not to blame so you can kick back with your gold medal and call it a job well done.

But you are part of the team that rigged the race.  You are part of the collective culture of a team that believed winning was paramount at any cost.  And you, as a member of said team, contributed to this culture of winning at any cost, regardless of whether or not you were aware of the plan to rig the race.  Just as the nation of Israel was called to corporate repentance after the sin of Achan, the entire metaphorical team in this scenario is to blame and you are part of that team.

Shifting Our Focus

So we must move the conversation away from individual guilt and culpability to a collective understanding of how we got here in the first place.  We bear the weight of our past together.  Our team, our people, rigged the race and even though the rules were rectified in an attempt to make things fair, there is no re-starting the race and there is no doubt that we continue to thrive and benefit from that rigging to this day.  Don’t believe me?  Here are just a few ways this currently plays out…

First Understanding, then Responsibility

Out of a collective understanding of our past should spring a collective responsibility.  When we know better, we do better,* right?  So it’s not “how long do we have to feel guilty” but rather, “what do we do now?”  What do we do with the gold medal hanging from our communal neck now that we understand how we got it?

I can’t take off the medal.

You can’t take off the medal.

We have to take it off together.   We have to take it off together and lay it at the feet of those who have been forced their entire lives to run behind us.  We lay it at the feet of those who have been running all their lives at the short end of a rigged race.  We lay it at the feet of those who have been bearing the weight for us, taking the blame and burying their kids.

And until we’re ready to do that, I for one, am going to keep on feeling guilty.

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*Maya Angelou

 

 

 

SpokenWord — #BlackLivesMatter

My friend, Ashley, wrote this spoken word piece based on her reflections on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

This is the line that stands out the most to me:

“A commodified culture 
auctioned off to the highest bidder”

Check it out…

Ashley’s the one you see at the very end of the video.
You can find more of her work here.

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Video by Nate Grossman Productions and Thomas Moore on piano.

OuterSpace Bedroom

With Isaiah turning 5 and the boys moving steadily towards “grade school” age I decided that it’s time to update their room.  When we moved into our house 3 years ago, I basically tossed all the stuff from the “nursery” at the old house into their room and called it a day.  At some point we got them bunk beds and put some road sign decals in there but we’ve otherwise left it untouched.

Until now!

I spent a few weeks brainstorming, setting a budget, checking out the various options and prepping for the task.   Then my folks were in town last week and they helped me transform the bedroom in just a couple days while the boys were in school.

Painting

My dad helped me paint one of the walls a matte black with some leftover paint from a different project.  I had been debating whether or not to switch out the dark navy curtains (one long set on the big window and the two patterned ones on the small windows you see there) but they ended up looking fine with the black so I left them as is.  The moon is a vinyl decal and the hanging solar system was a gift from a friend.

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Bedding

Rocket Ship Sheets.  They’ve got white comforters for winter time (just put those away!) and a dark gray twin-sized micro-fleece blanket.  Otherwise, no bedspreads, per se.

 

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Frames

I re-purposed some black frames from around the house and added some free printables that I found via Pinterest.  I had them printed at Staples for a couple bucks.  I also put up some clipboards for rotating art work.

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I forgot to get a picture but I also hung a silver Ikea magazine rack behind their door to corral the ever-expanding collection of National Geographic Kids, Highlights & High Fives.

Gryffin’s go-to interest has always been cars/trucks/all-things-vehicular while Isaiah usually prefers balls and sports-related items.  I picked outer space for the room redux because it’s something in which both boys seem equally interested.   But, of course, while they were initially pretty pumped about it, Isaiah has since announced that he does not like rocket ships.  At all.  Ever.

Ahh well.  He’s stuck with them now!

Do Both

Dear Isaiah,

Well, tomorrow’s the big day.  We’ve been counting down for weeks.  This feels like a monumental birthday for all of us.  Five.  Five!  My baby is five.  Papa and I are no longer the harried parents of “two kids under two:” no longer the sleep-deprived duo that planned each day and every outing around nap times; no longer the ones chasing down the toddlers at the beach and in the park and through the grocery store.  It’s different now.  You are different.  You’ll start kindergarten this Fall and thus usher us into an entirely new season as a family.

I don’t miss the tantrums or the 4am wake-ups, the diapers or the potty training but still I often wonder, why must you be so insistent on growing up?  

The other day you overheard Papa and I bemoaning your birthday and saying all the usual things that parents say, like, “How can he be 5 already?” and “When did he get so old?” and “I’m not ready for this.”   You’ve been asking ever since, in the car and at the playground and just before bedtime, “Do you not want me to get older?  How come you don’t want me to have my birthday?”

Of course I want you to have your birthday.  How could I wish for anything but?  I want you to grow and change and stretch out into the life before you just as you ought.  I wish, of course, for a smooth passage as you reach ever onward and upward and I would be grieved beyond measure if you were unable to move forward in your life.  Yes, I wish for birthday after birthday after birthday after birthday for you.

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But I remember reaching down and pulling you up onto my chest five years ago and I feel a deep-in-my-bones yearning to return to that moment.  I remember Gryffin meeting you the next day at the hospital, poking your eyelid and saying “baby, eye.”  I remember holding you each night that first year before I put you down for bed – how you would rest your head, just so, on my right shoulder.  You still do, actually.   I remember how you crawled through the strawberry fields one Summer, your pants covered in the mud and the red juice of the berries you left in your wake.  I remember your first steps at the old house.  I remember you riding in the push-car on Halloween in the astronaut suit.  I remember brother pushing you in the dump truck along Madrona Beach.  I remember your 2nd birthday when you wore a flannel button-down shirt.  I remember you starting preschool and Papa teaching you how to ride your bike and the way you went crazy last November when we got our first snowfall. Would that I could return to even one of those moments.

I want you to have a birthday and I don’t want you to have a birthday.  I want you to grow up and I don’t want you to grow up.  I want you to do both.  But the first desire always outweighs the last.  And to me, Isaiah, you will always be every age you have ever been.  So keep on growing, Bup, keep on growing.

Wishing you a very happy birthday and many, many happy returns of the day,
Mama

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Other Birthday Posts

On Your Marks…
On the Occasion of Your 3rd Birthday, the Bombings in Boston and Other Awful Things
On the Cusp

 

 

 

Think Like a Korean: What White Folks Can Learn from a Collectivist Culture

Do you all remember the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007?  It was horrific; the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history.  It brought up all the usual conversations about fear and grief and gun control but I remember chatting with a Korean friend of mine immediately after the shooting and her response really surprised me.  She was devastated to learn that the gunman was Korean.

It completely baffled me.  Why was she so shaken?  I couldn’t fathom the depth of her feelings.  It wasn’t like she had done the shooting.  She didn’t even know the guy!

It didn’t matter that he was a stranger or that he lived 3,000 miles away.  It didn’t matter that she had never met him or even heard his name before April 16, 2007.  What mattered was that he, as a fellow Korean, was connected to her.  He was inextricably part of her and she felt as though she bore some of the weight of what had happened, just by being Korean.

Over the next few days several other Korean friends expressed a similar sentiment and it was a feeling altogether unfamiliar to me.  It has never occurred to me after tragedies like Sandy Hook or Santa Barbara to grieve the fact that the perpetrator was White.   It doesn’t reflect poorly on me, does it?

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Collectivist vs Individualistic

Korea is what’s known as a collectivist culture.  It emphasizes the needs of family, work, and community above the needs or desires of individuals.   Each person labors for the good of society as a whole.  Cooperation and care for the other are benchmarks and the group rises and falls together.  On the other hand, America – particularly White America – is an individualistic culture.  We promote the needs and desires of individuals regardless of the cost to the group.

Is one better than the other?  It’s hard to say.   Certainly each has it’s positive and negative aspects.   But ultimately, understanding collectivism is essential to understanding White Privilege.  It’s nearly impossible to shoulder the weight of Whiteness when looking at it through the lens of individualism.

Born to Walk Alone

Individualism is deeply ingrained in White culture.  From our bootstrap mentality to our self-serve buffet tables, our corporate structures and even our songs, our deference for individualism is all-encompassing in the US.  This makes it difficult to decipher our role in something like the shooting of Michael Brown or, more recently, Walter Scott.  Why should we, just because we are White, bear the blame?  We had nothing to do with it!  Why can’t we just move on already?

We are so laser-focused on ourselves and our own individual actions that we cannot see the forest for the trees.  We say, “hey, I didn’t shoot the guy.  I’m not part of this,” and go about our days wholly satisfied with our own innocence.  We approach it as individuals and thus absolve ourselves as individuals.  Case closed.  But in order to understand our own culpability we have to shift our focus.  We have to pan out.  We have to see that White folks collectively bear the blame.

I didn’t personally shoot Michael Brown last August or Walter Scott last week but I am part of it.  I am part of a culture that is producing more and more Darren Wilsons and Michael Slagers.   I am part of a culture that has sharp racial disparities in our police stops.  I am part of a culture that is killing unarmed children.  We have to be willing to look at these facts, as a group, and ask ourselves how and why these things are continuing to happen in our supposedly post-racial world.  Nobody is exempt.  Nobody gets a free pass.  Until we learn to think like Koreans and shoulder the collective weight, we won’t make any progress.

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Other posts on Race

Feeling Your Skin
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
The (Not So) Subtle Racism of the Gilmore Girls

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Special thanks to the InterVarsity student at the OPAT conference last weekend – Annie – who made a keen observation about White culture that got the wheels turning for this post.

On Women & Scarcity

I have a friend, a colleague of sorts, who makes me uncomfortable on a regular basis.  I often leave her office feeling ever-so-slightly shaken; my hands a tad clammy and my heart beating a little faster than usual.  Want to know what she does?

She compliments me.

I’ll be bent over the computer in deep concentration or digging through my bag searching for a pen and she’ll say,

“Girl, you are wearing those boots today!  Wow.  You are looking wonderful.  I mean it.  You look goooooood.”

And then she’ll smile at me, nodding her head approvingly.

It’s not just compliments, either.  She’s also the first one to “like” my writing or my Facebook posts.  She shares wholeheartedly in my joy when I succeed and she doesn’t hesitate for a hot second to tell me that she likes and appreciates the work I’m doing.  It’s genuine and open and warm.   And a little unnerving.

Why, though?  Why does it unsettle me so?

It’s All Greek to Me

I think it unsettles me because it’s a language in which I’m not conversant.  It’s not how I typically interact with other women. I play my cards a little closer to my chest and while I admittedly have a hard time letting my guard down, I think most women in my life function this way as well, at least on some level.  It’s simply the mode of operation for most of us.   I might admire your confidence or your convictions, your outfit or your haircut, and I might even mention one or all of them at some point but I’m not going to be too effusive or eager about it.

We live in a culture of supposed scarcity.  Every billboard, every commercial, every magazine tells us the same story.  You aren’t ________ enough.  Cool, skinny, smart, rich, charming, pretty, you name it.  You aren’t enough.   Add to those feelings the innumerable ways that women have had to jockey for their place at the proverbial table and I think we’re close to cracking the code of female interaction.

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Imagine a long table full of food aplenty.  Desserts and drinks and options galore.  But as soon as you are about to sit down, someone laughs and says, “No, that’s not for you!”   Then they show you to your table which is considerably smaller and, compared to the other table, the spread sparse.

Seat’s Taken

Women have been sitting at this short table for centuries and what has it taught us?   Shown again and again to a table with limited scope and scanty choices we have inevitably been set up to spar for space and contend for opportunity.  Surrounded on all sides by a constant sense of scarcity, we inevitably buy in to the belief that there is never enough.  We must be ever-vigilant and on the watch to get while the getting’s good.  When the pickings are slim, you gotta be sure you get yours.

This leaves little room to root for someone else’s success if it means that we might miss our shot.  If she is intelligent, or beautiful, or successful, or interesting, or fill-in-the-blank, what about me?  It’s the fallacy of the scarcity mentality.  We mistakenly assume that there isn’t enough room for all of us.   You must be relegated to the far end of the table so that I can maintain my seat.

Most worrisome is that we don’t even realize that we are operating out of this false sense of shortage.  I didn’t, at least, until I was confronted by my friend and her bald admiration and encouragement.  She has found a way to see through the lie of scarcity and chooses instead to operate from a place of plenty.  Rather than withholding her delight and her high esteem in an futile attempt at self-preservation, she gives it freely and without reserve.

An Antidote

Cheryl Strayed, in her Dear Sugar column, writes this about withholding our true feelings:

 

“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.

So release yourself from that. Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic.”

 

Certainly women are not the only ones who suffer in this climate of never enough.  There are many, many manifestations of the myth of paucity and no one is immune.  But I don’t think we actually need to work all that hard to see through the lie.  We need only to remember that God has spread before us a banqueting table the likes of which we have never seen; that there is indeed room for each and every one of us.   We remember that a seat has been saved and God is waiting to anoint our heads with oil and make our cups to overflow.

Oh, and we should probably remember not to be jackasses, too.

 

 

 

Say No by Saying Yes

Sunday is a day for reading poetry.  No?  Not in your case?  Ah well, it is in mine.  I read a poem called “Look Out” a couple Sundays ago by Wendell Berry and there’s a line from it that’s still reverberating.   I will spare you the entire poem but this is the last stanza…

Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.

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On Sundays we attempt to observe a day of rest.  A chance to regroup and get our bearings.   Jason and I have been doing this for over 13 years now and it’s taken on different configurations throughout our life together.  When we were newlyweds living in our tiny apartment on Cacique Street in Santa Barbara, we would turn our clocks around and light a bunch of candles (easy to accomplish when we lived in a one-room place with two clocks and no kids).  Nowadays it involves the boys, just one candle and we focus on resting as a fam without the distractions of work and screens and school.

It’s hard for all of us.  Every week.  The boys know that Sundays = no screens and they bemoan the loss of Woody the Woodpecker, Oscar’s Oasis and Fruit Ninja.  Jason and I likewise skip screen time which means no work, no Facebook, no I’m-bored-got-5-minutes-to-kill Pinterest perusing.

I wish I could say that it’s easy to rest and stop working and writing and internetting.   I wish that I didn’t have to fight the urge to check my phone all the live long day, eager for the dopamine rush that comes when I see a new message or alert.  But it’s hard to quiet the pull and the allure of social media, the constant connectedness and instant distraction when it’s what I feed myself all week long.  It’s like constantly eating junk food and then quitting cold turkey with a crude crash diet.  But this is where the Wendell Berry poem  and that one pesky line that keeps bubbling to the surface of my mind come into play.

Say no by saying yes

Instead of lamenting all that I imagine I am giving up when I say no to screens and work and the go go go of the rest of the week, I can focus instead on what I gain by saying yes.  It’s easier to say no to Twitter when it means saying yes to a walk along the Sound with my family on a Sunday afternoon.  It’s easier to say no to email and Facebook and that vague sense of connection when it means saying yes to a good conversation with Jason or the genuine connection found in breaking bread with friends.   When I think about what I’m saying yes to, it’s a lot easier to say no without the usual feelings of frustration or the illusion of loss.

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It’s pouring over into other places in my life as well.  What am I saying yes to with my work, my family, my writing, my friends, my kids, my community?  And to what do I need to say no in order that I might say yes?   It goes hand in hand with what I shared a few weeks ago about not wanting to succeed at the things in life that don’t really matter.   I want to embrace the things in life that do matter and release my tightly clenched fist on all the rest.

I want to say YES

I want to say yes to people.  I want to say yes to uninterrupted, all-in time with Isaiah during our lunch hour together.  That means I have to say no to putting my phone out on the counter while we’re eating. I want to say yes to hearing about Gryffin’s day at school so I have to say no to work and the lure of my laptop after 3:45pm.  I want to say yes to phone calls with my sister, Facetime with my folks, leading our community group, connecting with neighbors and having time with Jason in the evenings.  That might mean saying no to Words with Friends or House of Cards or my oft-sought, much-cherished alone time.

I want to say yes to reading.  That means that after the boys are in bed I have to say no to squeezing in one more load of laundry, no to the quick-scan-that-turns-into-40-minutes of Facebook, no to researching various medical maladies on webMD so that I can say yes to poetry, yes to stories and novels and thought-provoking essays, articles and non-fiction.

I want to say yes to beauty and expansiveness and being outdoors, even though that means I must sometimes say no to holing up again at home.  I want to say yes to camping and hiking and swimming and throwing rocks into Lake Washington; yes to “the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”*

I want to say yes to good health even though it sadly means saying no to my beloved, admittedly gargantuan vat bowl of ice cream after dinner.  I want to say no to laziness and fatigue by saying yes to a workout or a walk after dinner.

I want to say no to being cool and aloof and mysterious by saying yes to vulnerability, warmth, and kindness.

I want to say no to fear and smallness and despair by saying yes to courage and openness and hope.

I want to say no by saying yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

 

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*from another Wendell Berry poem