The Ministry of Saying Goodbye (and Sticking Around)
Last night there were a few knocks on my back door (I.e., the sliding glass door from our living room/kitchen that opens into a courtyard out back). A neighbor returning some cleaning supplies. A neighbor dropping off fresh, hot bread because they know my daughter loves is (poor girl, my husband and I gobbled it up since she was already in bed). A neighbor asking if I had any boxes to spare, because she is moving away, to Georgia, in two days. This particular neighbor, she pulls at my heart. She is the one who invites me to her parties, who stuffs me full of food, who gives my children toys and presents, who has forced me to watch hours and hours of Afghani music videos. She is so young at heart, even though she has a very energetic toddler and she is very pregnant an the mold in her apartment gives her terrible allergies and her husband is always gone working at a job that isn’t always very safe. She is always looking for a reason to be happy. She is always looking for a reason to laugh. And in two days she will be gone.
I am always tempted in these times to despair. What would happen to my mind if I counted up all the beautiful, precious, traumatized people I have known for a time and then have said goodbye to, to never see or hear from them again? I think my mind would break, maybe. I think my heart would say I can’t do this any more. And then later, much later, my spirit would say: all those little points of connection mean something. All you can really count on is that they have changed you, in some way, that you will never be the same.
I’m moving myself, in five days. To a house around the corner. Don’t worry, I will probably write an emotional blog about it soon. So I sit here in the corner of my trashed living room, surrounded by debris and cardboard and packing tape. In a few weeks, I will be starting a Welcome Center one morning a week at my daughter’s elementary school to provide resources and a hospitable space for parents. My husband is currently picking up a few extra jobs and right now we are in a season of live where every evening is full, when I don’t have time to write, when we don’t ever get a good night's sleep, where I drink too much coffee and don’t eat enough vegetables and always forget to return the library books.
Even though I wish it weren’t true, it seems that life will never not be full of transition.
Case in point: my book came out 6 weeks ago. The whirlwind and big emotions are winding down. But it is still out there—on bookshelves, in the hands of people I know and love and strangers far and wide. I am still learning how to shepherd this long work after the initial burst. For those of you who read it, shared it, reached out to me—it has meant the world to me. I love hearing from you! If you are so inclined, could you leave an honest (short—doesn’t have to be a novel!) review at Amazon and Goodreads--it would be incredibly helpful (srsly--it makes the book more visible the more people review it!). If you plan on using it in a small group or what to host an online discussion (FB groups are awesome for book clubs!) HarperOne put out a great study guide with discussion questions.
And now I have to get back to packing before my baby wakes up. It’s time for goodbyes and new beginnings and the strengthening of relationships I already have. The work is never not finished. And what counts is the life you are actually living.
I’ve been busy with writing lately (where in the heck do I find the time?). I wrote a blog about how I was feeling 3 weeks after my book was published and the vulnerability hangover I was experiencing. For Aletia, I wrote about the possibilities of shorter work weeks and how it might help our entire communities (also with some background info on how our family makes decisions about work). I had my piece on my pilgrimage to Chimayo published over at the gorgeous female-only online magazine Cordella (srsly go spend some time over there). A nice little tidbit for y’all is that two of my besties who are also in my writing group went to Chimayo with me and, since they are writers, they also wrote essays! You can find Amy’s here and Christiana’s here. Writing groups FTW!
But the story I poured my heart and soul into over the past month was this one: I moved to the Edge of Portland to Help Refugees. But They Can’t Afford to Live Here Anymore.
I sweated and prayed and cried and agonized over this piece. It made my life and my neighbors visible in a way I was uncomfortable with. But in the long run I decided the risks were worth the imperative I felt to call attention to the moral crisis happening in Portland. This city is breaking my heart, and I can’t stay quiet about it. If there is no room for the poor here, then there is no room for me. I’ve been grateful to the response I have received from the piece and I look forward to learning more about advocacy and engaging in issues on systemic levels. (Side note that I find hilarious: I might be the only writer to ever have a cover story both for Christianity Today and a local alternative weekly magazine?)
What I am Into (Packing Edition)
Are you tired yet? I know I am. Anyways, here are five things I have been into while I try and pack and clean and while my children undo everything I work for the second my back is turned:
1. Listening to Podcasts While I Clean
(Currently my rotation is: Pop Culture Happy Hour, Pass the Mic, Revisionist History, Beautiful Writers)
2. Reading Harry Potter to my daughter at night
We bought this gorgeous illustrated version and have been enjoying this nightly ritual so much. A perfect fall activity.
3. Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls
4. Watching the Brooklyn 99 Season 4 Premiere
I can’t think of any new shows I am excited to watch this fall. Can anyone help a girl out?
5. Being Brave and Trying Exercise Classes for the First Time
I have two friends who go to the same gym as me and in the past few weeks I have tried both Zumba and a Barre class with them. I must say, there is something to sweating out your anxiety to fast-paced music with a bunch of other enthusiastic people. Not sure if this is going to stick, but for now it is getting me out of an exercise rut.
Ok, there you have it. I hope your life is a little less chaotic than mine this week.