I have good people, people who dance up canyons, and who hug me frequently. They ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ when I show them my newly acquired muscles. They are good and kind, sunshine and whole. We revel in our muscles, and lead me around half-huts and caves. God has been gracious with those He’s lent me.

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The Great Yoga Bash

One of the blessed consequences of living in bumbling, rural Missouri was that we were forced to bond with the few cousins we had near, friendships enforced by virtue of geographical proximity. I remember the mass of cousins as a gangly conglomeration of wild and awkward, moody and amusing.

And we all eventually shifted, and moved, and changed, and scattered, as growing children are prone to do, until most owned proper houses and children and debts and worries of their own. Time became a wobbly gamble, and so now we see each other rarely, and briefly, and at odd intervals.

But not this Saturday.

This Saturday, we decided. We decided we would force a collision of four and a half splintering families, all under the guise of yoga. We would bend and fold our bodies to Marissa’s instructions, breathing like the ocean. We would eat deliciously scalding Navajo Tacos, created with all the brilliance of Piper. Richard, Jon, and Jeff would converge to plot out new games. We would talk of Julie’s discovery of her ferocious feelings in respect to her three girls and feminism.

We decided that, for a handful of hours on a rainy afternoon, we would figure out all the ways we fit now, and how mostly we don’t, except on these colliding days. We would relish, for a day, how flexible family is, how durable. (Literally and metaphorically. Yoga is hard.)

And when most left, dividing into themselves and returning to their own lives, I would languish in the chaos of my eldest brother’s home. I would dance with small children to horrible music, and eat heady, decadent ribs, and absorb all of the affection I could, storing it away for when I, too, would have to return to my own reality.

Which is finals. My reality is finals. Help. I’m procrastinating.

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Your Emotional Leftovers

   A warning: I’ve been working on my unseemly habit of under sharing. And by that, I mean I’ve been trying my hand at oversharing. Consider yourself warned.

You went to sleep hurting last night. Ill and aching. You wake up the same. You hurt in ways you didn’t know you could. You’ve never been punched in the throat before, but this must be what it feels like–bruised all the way through.

You wake up somewhere around seven AM. You can’t help it. Today is your last day of work, and you’ve done maybe the most despicable thing you could have–you texted in sick. To be fair, you are, and you sent the message the night before, a heads-up. But, to be fair, it’s your last day. There are some things not to be done.

You stare at the ceiling for a while. You consider calling in to confirm your sins with your boss, because she never responded to the text. What if they go a day without laundry? You know the kind of chaos that this can spell for a hotel. But you don’t. You worry she’ll be some unholy kind of furious, and you appear to be a grade A chicken.

At seven thirty, you get up and apply for a job. Your roommate will roll over and be really confused about your life choices, so you’ll head downstairs, where you sit on a upturned couch, because carpet cleaners are coming in a half hour.

You try to ignore all the ways your body hurts, and the new way your stomach is trying to gnaw through itself. Morally, you haven’t felt this bad since the time you played laser tag on a Sunday. Who even calls in sick on the last day of work? You google it. Apparently, a lot of people do. Even though they’re not sick! How did that not make it onto the 10 Big No-No’s God gave to Moses? “Thou shalt not sluff thy last day of work. Unless you’re under the weather. In which case, lie low and drink lots of liquids.” Because now it looks like the rest of us are faking it.

You shouldn’t have googled it, because now you’re sitting in an empty living room, ready to burst into tears. That said, you should really just stop consulting Google for all your life problems.

You decide to vacuum the floor instead, never mind it’s not eight yet and you have neighbors sleeping beneath you. You very loudly, very ineffectively vacuum, and then return to your spot on the overturned couch. You continue to successfully not cry.

Your shoddy vacuum job has woken your roommate for good. She comes over, and sits down in front of you, says, “So, I can practically see the stress radiating off of you right now.” She says it in the way that means you’re going to have to figure out ways to talk about this.

So you say, “I’m just. Really stressed about finding a job?” Which is about a 16th of the truth. You’re still trying to identity the rest of your emotions, but you know that whatever they are, they’re directly related to your tear ducts, so you stop there.

Your roommate “Hmms.” because she’s smart, and probably knows you’re on the brink of some emotional upheaval.

It’s right about then that you get a phone call. You answer, and it’s your boss. No, not the one you texted, but the other one. You blunder through your explanation, apologizing profusely.

“So. You’re not coming in.” You can hear all the judgement. You’re speaking to the boss who once had a panic attack at work and didn’t leave, and vomited on and off through an entire day’s migraine at work and didn’t leave. You’re speaking to a spindly woman made of steel and cigarettes and zero excuses.

“Yeah,” you say lamely. “I have a really bad cold.”

She hangs up, and you try really hard to not cry. But you do. Just a little. Two tears, and a hiccup. But it hurts to hiccup, so you stop.

All your other roommates are suddenly awake and moving and cooking and there, and you just really, really want to talk to your mom. So you slip outside, and call her, and only just manage to get in the passenger seat of your car before you start crying profusely.

Your mother sounds fairly confused. You try to explain, through all the crying. “–and I’m sick, and I have a fever, and so I called off, but I texted the wrong boss, and I know they’re actually going to think I’m a despicable human being, and I sort of feel like one, too. And now–”

You go on for several minutes. Crying and explaining and crying. Your Mom says she’s sorry you’re sick. She actually validates very few of your fears, but you hang up feeling significantly better.

You sit in your car for another fifteen minutes, crying periodically, just to be safe. You acknowledge the fact that there are people whose days you may have ruined, and that might be angry at you for a little bit. You also acknowledge the fact that there’s nothing to be done at this point. You also recognize the fact that you might have been a little selfish in your choice not to go in.

Then you pull up Netflix and watch half an episode of some new mystery sci-fy. And then you go inside and sleep off your dehydration hangover that’s combined forces with whatever illness you were already harboring.

Later, you’ll eat an entire bowl of guacamole and three bananas, because they’re the only things you can swallow that don’t feel like gargled glass. You inevitably move onto pistachio ice cream, because it feels like one of those days.

It’s not until you’re lying in bed, late in the night, when your roommate’s already asleep, that you finally figure out what’s really bothering you. You’re not good with endings. You’re not good at finishing things. This is something you’ve been horribly conscious of for a while now–you don’t like finishing books or series or movies or TV shows. You worry about it in school, and in jobs and with friends.  You often manage three-quarters of things, but not four-quarters of things.

It’s a trait you also associate with your absentee father. And you have not ended this summer job well. You really don’t want to be like your father. You are fully capable of seeing all the ways that these two things are not logically related, but emotionally you can see all the ways these two things are definitely related.

But as it is, it’s past twelve o’clock at night, and you figure you’ve done enough emotional decoding for a day, and so you drift off to sleep. You can hash through more subconscious hiccups tomorrow. You’ve got plenty of leftovers.

  

I Promise

So, Marissa once told me I’m loud, and I stomped by way of disagreement. This, of course, was only supporting her argument. She’s consistently reassured me that it’s not a bad thing, but that she finds it endearing. (Except not at six thirty AM, which is completely reasonable.) But then, this morning, between showering and getting ready, I wrote a poem for her. Because it felt like the obvious thing to do, of course.

I am not loud.

I’m not offended;

I am a respecter of wrong opinions.

See, you say I’m loud,

and this language is so final and definitive.

you and are

I am, am I?

Now, I don’t want to brag,

but I happen to be very not-loud.

I’m not-loud like the boxes stacked beneath your bed.

I’m not-loud like a steel safe is secure,

like a hushed confession is forgiven.

That said, I’m also not-loud like a closed drawer

at five o’clock in the morning.

I’m not-loud like a blow dryer before dawn and

I’m not-loud like a surprise visit after a three year absence.

I’m not-loud like the laughter of that favorite aunt.

No, no, it’s not cackling, it’s jovial, is all.

I’m not-loud like the snooze button abused.

Wait a second, I mean it.

No, really, now.

I am not loud.   

I wake between the hazy hours of three and four. I untangle myself from my sleeping bag on the floor, and contemplate driving across country, of a near dozen hours already behind us, and another seven ahead. Missouri to Iowa to Nebraska to Wyoming to Colorado to Wyoming again and, finally, to Utah. We pack bags, blundering but ambitious. We are determined to end this last leg of the trip, and if waking at near four in the morning is what it takes, it’s what we’ll do.

Somewhere in this bleary morning ride, I make the wonderful mistake of looking up. I twist my neck and cram my face as close to the window as I can manage. Because apparently the best time to go star gazing is over the empty Colorado highways at four thirty-six in the morning. Perhaps that’s when the stars will shine brightest, and you’ll wish you knew more about the great whirling bodies that are so far away, or that you knew their names, their shapes and stories. Perhaps you’ll wonder those things, but perhaps, like me, you’ll also suddenly feel the intimate presence of your God, as if he’s sitting not-so-far off watching the early morning band of travelers making their way through darkened countryside. Perhaps, just as you are craned to look up, He is, in that exact moment, looking down. Perhaps you’ll marvel, bewildered as to how the pinpricks of light in the sky can make you believe in God even more, all in a matter of mere seconds.

What is it about mornings? I often jokingly refer to early morning hours as The Unholy Hours, but if I’m being totally honest, I can tell you that it is in these rare mornings that I’ve most often felt brief yet pungent moments of God’s love for me. There was a day in Iquitos when I woke a little early. I got up and bathed, accompanied only by my own silence, and I remember that as I walked across the dawn-coated living room, I felt the calmest of tugs somewhere deep inside me. As if God had just stopped by to say, “Hey. I see you. I love you, you know?” So I stopped, and stared at the light, and marveled, and nearly wept with the simplicity.

Marissa and I have discussed some of the gaps in the English language–this is who we are and what we do. We often lament the lack of an adjective that roughly means “something that makes me believe in God more.” A word that encompasses the feeling you get from sunrises and stars and great mountains slopes and watching one pray. I feel that awesome is very nearly that word, if it were not as worn out as it is. I lack a simple way to say awed and humbled, acknowledging that God was there, that He had touched that thing, that soul, that sky–why is there no word for that? Because this is what I felt that long, stretching morning, winding through those empty roads, gazing at the star-clustered sky. I felt God and His love, but I still don’t have a word to truly explain to you that feeling, and for that, I apologize.

“I work in extremes.”

“Nights have been hard for me this past week. I’ve been besieged by nagging insecurities and unrelenting, illogical fears, and so I lie in my bed till unholy hours, rolling and fidgeting and trying to find the exact position that will help me forget said fears and insecurities. I don’t exactly understand why, but being alone is now paralyzing, in some way that it wasn’t for Post-Mission-Me. I was so used to having someone near, with whom to converse, to argue with, to eat with, to walk with, to discuss and evaluate life with, to define personal flaws with and then set out to better. I know I’ve been back for almost two months now, and this feeling of isolation and strange alone-ness should probably be gone now, but I actually have no idea how to get rid of it, or how to stifle it, if only to sleep a few sound nights. I thought it was the Monthly Hormone Hurricane, but I think this might be like an actual ‘Me Thing.’ And I’m not dying, it’s just annoying, and I’m also annoyed at myself, like, ‘Jeez, Melody, get a grip. Stop this madness. Go eat an ice cream, read a book, don’t be needy,’ And none of those things have worked. At all. Ugh. Life.” — A text to my unofficial therapist, Marissa; i give her car rides, she gives me therapy

When I was prepping up to come home–emotional bracing, and whatnot–I was told by several people that suddenly being without a companion by your side would be strange; I would probably stick to my mother like a shadow for the first several days. They said sleeping in a room alone, without companion and friend, would be mildly terrifying, that I would probably be a little anxious.

This was not true. I slept fine–like a rock–those first several days. My mother worked, and thus, from 9 to 5, I had no shadow to hide under, and I didn’t feel anxious in any special way whenever I adventured off. Strange, yes, a little. But not anxious, or scared or any of the things I thought perhaps might happen, the things I had been warned of.

But I suppose mine was a slow process though. A series of days upon days building up upon one another, weeks slipping by. It was something I wasn’t even sure I noticed, for a while, at least. But now, forty-three days in, it’s hit home, like a monster that sat patiently in my closet since day one, biding it’s time, waiting to creep out. You’ve been there all along, haven’t you?

I am without companion and friend. However difficult it was to literally have to have someone there all the time, I had someone there all the time. It was easily as comforting as it was discomforting, at times as liberating as it was depressing. And sometimes that person pushed and nicked at sore spots, gouging under the skin, and made one want to rip out their hair, but that person was there to make things okay when things felt like it certainly wasn’t okay.

Nights are suddenly longer, harder to sleep through, and I occasionally just sit, and feel a lacking, looking for someone over my shoulder. I wonder where I might go to find a friendship like that again, a companionship so loyal and, admittedly, annoying, but loved.

I suppose today I miss companionship and companions, simultaneously, all at once. It’s a mess. Well, I’m a mess, but, fortunate for Marissa, she landed herself in London for half the summer, so we’ll have to hash out this hot mess when she gets home, but until then, watch out for that Compton girl. She’s a strange combination of weepy and rash these days. It’s not a pretty sight to behold.

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. . . . . . . . . . . . An Exceptional Sunday . . . . . . . . . . . .

Today was an exceptional Sunday. It was a mother’s day–my mother is the best, hands down.

We went to church, and they put cheesecake in my hands,

even though I’m certain I’ve never birthed a human being,

but those are rather minor details, really.

Today was really just a ‘congrats on having a uterus day’

and I’ve definitely got one of those.

(My point is, I got cheesecake!)

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And then I raced Aurora home from church, running down

a humongous* hill in heels

pretending I was an airplane.

Upon arriving home, I found Taylor and Caroline and Richard and AesaLina,

two small dogs,

and a million fiendish children

all cluttered inside our quaint house on the corner.

We ate, and made merry, and I thought of that scripture several times,

the one that says we shouldn’t laugh too hard on the Sabbath day, and I was like

“Are we sinning right now? We might be sinning.”

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Then Joy and I lazed in the warmth of the afternoon sun,

tapping out songs on the piano and trying,

subtly,

to one up each other on our almost-existent skills.

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And then Richard and AesaLina had to depart,

because four children with a three to four ratio on the male populace of said children

and so then we played CLUE with Taylor and Caroline,

and then I was like,

“Yes, we are definite sinners this day.”

because if there wasn’t someone on the floor giggling in a

strange, raspy, hideous way,

well, then it probably wouldn’t be my family.

And then, just when we thought things were winding down, and the giggles were rubbing off,

and we were like,

time to wrap this mess up, kiddos.

we got into a crazy face contest.

And let me clarify. There’s the cutesy crazy face, but then there’s the dedication and full body contortions and going

the whole nine yards

and then twelve and a half more because my great-grandchildren will need these one day,

I just know it.

(Well. Nobody said it was a contest, but I so knew what was going on, and won.)

Proof you want? Proof you have.

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I don’t know, guys. I sure love us a lot.

* Joy’s my new right-hand woman. She knows how to spell humongous when I need it, and it’s really my only criteria for applying for status of right-hand woman. Also giving me piggy back rides when I’m under extreme physical duress and exhaustion, but she actually doesn’t know that part yet, so let’s see if she sticks around.