Monday, December 19, 2005

The Happiest Night of My Life!

After what started off to be the worst and most difficult year of my life, I find myself wondering how it is at all possible that things have turned around to the point where I can honestly say I have never been happier. And the answer I get is the same that Michael gave me in his letter almost two months ago: God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you. Those words – the words of our song - were the backdrop to the happiest and most memorable night of my life: last night, December 18, 2005.

Michael and I ran off to the mall on foot to do some last minute Christmas shopping. We decided to split up for 45 minutes because I needed to buy him something (which, I, of course, showed him beforehand… because I am a child). After an hour, Michael and I met at our pre-determined location. I wasn’t nearly ready to go home, but was prepared to pretend given how sick he was. (Unfortunately, I still hadn’t got his cough medicine.) Fortunately for me, Michael said he needed 45 more minutes. I willingly agreed and we went our separate ways.

After nearly an hour, Michael returned and said he was ready to go home. We bought the cough medicine and headed back. I noticed that his bag wasn’t in his hand anymore but assured myself that he’d stuffed it into one of the pockets of his oversized coat. On the walk home, Michael joked about proposing (something we’d talked about many times in the past week) and kept teasing me by pretending to drop to one knee in front of the very poorly decorated spruce near the Ballston Mall. I was tired so I told him to knock it off so we could go home. Still, he stopped me once or twice to hug or kiss me or say something sweet. I started getting suspicious...

We got to the door of my apartment and Michael put down my bags to open the lock. He turned to me before opening the door and told me how much he loved me before kissing me again. My heart started racing. What could be waiting behind the door? He opened it. It was just my apartment and the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree we had decorated together over a month ago that was not even lit. I felt a little sad but was tired so I staggered over to the couch where Michael took off my boots and sat across from me. As we tried to figure out what to get for dinner, he seemed to glare at me. After he handed me a menu, he came over to my side of the couch and kissed me again and said, “I can’t wait to marry you.” I laughed and told him he was getting sentimental. I felt proud that I’d finally cracked him.

As I looked over the menu, I heard him turn our song on in my room. He restarted it 3 times and I assumed it was because I had left it on loop while jamming to my new Carrie Underwood songs earlier that day. He came into the living room and sat back down close to me. I asked him if he was ready to order, but he said he wanted to wait a little while. He continued glaring at me and looked straight into my eyes before telling me how happy I made him and my imagination started to run wild. He couldn’t possibly have done anything to my room while we were at the mall, right? We had been on foot and he surely didn’t have enough time to get back and forth. I told myself not to get carried away and risk disappointment again and just enjoyed the moment.

Finally - and after much coughing - Michael put his head down and asked if we could rest for a little while before we ordered dinner. He was sick – and asked so sweetly - so I agreed. We headed over to my room and when I got into the hallway, I could see that the door was almost closed (something I never do). From the crack in the door, behind which our song was playing loudly, I could see a yellow glow coming out of the room. I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart started racing again. I felt Michael nudge me gently, but didn’t turn around. I opened the door and….

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I stopped breathing. I turned to Michael, who started to get on one knee and take my hands and I started to cry. It was a good minute before he reached for the ring and I just hugged him so hard and listened to the music. (Given that he is 6’5" and nearly a foot and a half taller than me, he was at eye level the entire time.) He reached for the box that was wrapped up in the penguin’s scarf and slowly opened it. I don’t know if it was from the fact that the ring was so beautiful or that it was so blinding, but this only made me cry more. “I want to take care of you for the rest of my life,” he said, before popping the question. I said “yes” but it must have been muffled by my crying, so he asked again. When I’d said yes a second time and returned to hugging him and crying into his shoulder (this time looking at the ring), the song ended. It couldn’t have been staged better if it was a movie, and I couldn’t have been more blown away than I was.

We sat on the floor for a while and drank the wine that he had poured. I couldn’t believe how happy I was – nor could I imagine how he’d managed to get back and forth to the mall 3 times in 45 minutes to set all this up – or how he’d been able to get away with putting a 7 foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of my room without my knowing it. In every way, it was more than a dream come true – just like Michael – and one that I will never EVER forget.

The most comical part, which I feel too compelled to share, was this morning - when I woke up and realized that I was engaged and discovered that in Michael’s rearranging of my room the night before, he’d made it virtually impossible for me to get into my wardrobe. I looked down at the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen and realized that it was mine, that Michael was stuck with me, and that this was the beginning of the best time in our lives.

And - for the 55th time since I'd become Michael's fiance- I cried…

I could not have been happier... It's hard to imagine I could ever be.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Decades Later, Kong Still Rules!

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What great force exists -- at least in the realm of cinema – that could make me end my two-month long hiatus from movie reviewing on this blog? You’d better believe that a 25-foot tall gorilla could do the trick! Yes, after more than 70 years, King Kong rules. And this time, he is bigger, better, and more consistently-sized than ever!

Set in the same time period as the 1933 original, Peter Jackson’s highly-hyped and well-intentioned remake introduces a score of new and impressively revised characters. The best of these – aside from the beloved, but equally doomed simian – is Ann Darrow, played by a haunted Naomi Watts who brings a tenderness to the role that the late Fay Wray wasn't able to convey. Rather than screaming loudly - which she of course does throughout the film - Ann interacts with Kong, who is able to express a great range of emotions, thanks to Andy Serkis who provided the emotions for Lord of The Rings' Gollum. No longer is Ann debased to merely being a blonde-bombshell and the object of desire for the great ape, she comes to be a loving companion and through the captured gazes exchanged between them, they seem to have a quiet understanding of each other.

But this would not be a Peter Jackson movie without masterful special effects, CGI, and loads of action scenes. In that aspect, Kong more than delivers. Though a lot of the scenes occur at break-neck speed, and in spite of a few seams in the special effects (such as when the crew slides down the leg of a brontosauraus), this movie delivers some of the best and most dizzying action sequences ever put to film. A breathtaking battle between the giant gorilla (who holds Ann in his grip) and three T-Rexs puts the special effects in Jurrasic Park to utter shame. I'd see the film again just for that one sequence. And of course, Jackson throws in some (in my opinion, unecessary) creatures on Skull Island to stir things up. If you don't like bugs or fear them half as much as I do, consider closing your eyes for this part, ladies.

The storyline itself is much more thoughtful than the 1933 film, though there are many throwbacks and nods to the B-rate original. Still, I can't help but feel that this is a case of the artist being a little too close to his work. Jackson's affection for Kong is evident - especially in the buildup to the fateful final on top the Empire State Building - but at times, it borders on being too much. Though I agree with keeping the audience in suspense waiting for over an hour before catching a glimpse of it's star character, there are a lot of instances where details could better have been cut down (such as the extensive footage of the creepy, white-eyed natives who capture Ann as a sacrifice to Kong -- and, of course, the bugs).

Still, this is the stuff that great movies are made of: heart-pounding action, non-stop drama, and a romance that runs deep (on so many levels). And yet, it is also able to tug at the heart-strings (and tear ducts, in my case) quite a bit. To try to say more would be pointless. I highly recommend that you see it for yourself. Decades later and Kong still reigns, in the jungle and surely, this time around too, at the box-office.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

There Really IS No Place Like Home...

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Given the tumultuous turn-out of our first holiday celebration back in Brooklyn, “New Yawk” together, it’s a wonder that M has not yet suggested bowing out of our traditional “7 Fish” Christmas Eve Celebration. Having brought my Virginia-born and raised beau to meet my loud Italian family last month was nothing short of a soap opera in which voices were raised more often than glasses – though admittedly, everyone, including M, seemed to be drinking more than is usual at our family gatherings!

Several heated arguments, one Soprano-style sit-down, much clicking of my heels to Dorothy’s “There’s no place like home,” and a partridge in a pear tree later, and I was ready to pack up and enlist us both in some sort of familial witness-protection program. And now, barely a month later, the time to return is at hand. Whoever coined the phrase “You can’t go home again” certainly knew what he was talking about on one level, but in my case was sadly mistaken. When you come from an Italian-American family whose roots have forever been in Brooklyn, NY (and worse still, "Little Italy"), you MUST go home again – if only for the handmade manicotti (a redundancy that no self-respecting Italian-American would make, but that I’ll use to demonstrate my point here).

Nevertheless, the time to return is fast approaching and as I reflect on all the cooking I’ll be doing over next weekend, I wonder what dramatics this year’s get-together could possibly bring. What could trump watching one of my sisters’ dates to Thanksgiving flirt incessantly behind her back (literally!) leaning over her as she ate to glare at the other? What could be more entertaining than watching my uncles Lou and Tony usher my father into the next room as though they were ready to make him "an offer he couldn’t refuse" when he spoke out of turn about a private matter? It’s hard to imagine - though I know better than to hope - that the holiday will go off without a hitch, but I suppose that as long as no dishes are intentionally shattered (as in years of Christmas past) – or that a certain someone doesn’t harass my grandmother to no end about the calamari being overcooked, the linguini and clams being too oily, or the artichokes being too dry – we will somehow survive.

Sadly, for my family, the true meaning of the Christmas Season has been reduced to post-holiday arguments about who bought who a cheap gift, who gluttonously took all the leftover olive salad, and who ate most like a "gavone." For all its humor, it’s still somewhat disheartening. And try as I might, I can’t help being reduced, year after year, to a disappointed child on Christmas morning as the sum of each year’s “celebration” amounts to little more than coal in my proverbial stocking.

But - all griping aside - this year, I’m well-aware of how much I have to be grateful for. Aside from the most important gift of His precious Son, whose birth our celebration should in all ways revolve around, God has given me a second chance, and in bringing M into my life, the hope of a family and someday, a home of my own.

"There’s no place like home for the holidays." – Perhaps, someday I’ll hear that song while leaning over my grandmother and a bubbling pot of sauce and we won't laugh and shake our heads in quiet resignation, but smile.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Waiting for God, Hoping for M.

Over the time that’s passed since my last post, I came to realize that a lot of my doubts and frustration have stemmed from my obvious impatience with God. A lot of them also stem from the complications that M has been facing with regard to being able to see his daughter. Four months have passed now -- and God only knows what an eternity that must be to a five year old child.

For those four months, M has been waiting, and despite the fact that he is 24, this time has been no less excruciating. My prayers, seemingly unanswered, have begun to decrease, though the urgency of the situation has increased all the more. I keep telling myself that I have to believe that with God all things are possible. Yet, a solution to this nightmare seems so far off. I pray anyway.

Tomorrow morning, the court in Fauquier County will hear M’s petition and I will come face to face with the “ex” that so far has been little more than a name to me (aside from being the faceless girl who stalks my nightmares). After more than a month of waiting in hope of a pro-bono lawyer taking M’s case, and with little more than 2 hours left to the work-day, my hope that M will secure counsel before our 9:00AM court appointment is waning. It’s not that I doubt that God can do it, it’s that I doubt whether or not He will.

Although I realize that a lot of what is happening in M’s life is the result of his actions in the past, I also realize that M is the very sort of person one might describe as being “unlucky.” He just cannot seem to catch a break.

I’m fearful of tomorrow, though I know it would be better to enter into it with more hope. How long will we wait before God changes his ex’s heart? (If He chooses to.) How long will we wait before God moves in this situation? (If He chooses to.) At this point, even one more day seems like too long. But sadly, even if we put this all on God, it’s not, because it involves other people. For all we know, God may already have moved, but that doesn’t take us past the element of his ex’s free will to decide – or, in this case, the judge’s. It makes it a little difficult to believe that this is all in God’s hands when it seems that there are so many players who will determine M’s – and his little daughter’s -- fate.

I have to believe that all things will work together for good for both of them. But, when? Hopefully soon, when it seems that only a miracle will fix this situation... I ask anyway.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Facing my Doubts: Losing My Religion

EIGHT years ago today, at about this time, I was a completely different person – body, heart, and mind. Today, I find myself down, distracted. On what for so many years was set aside as my annual day of mourning (read: excessive wallowing in self-pity) when I grieved the loss of the version of myself that I once was, today is little more than the otherwise usual, altogether typical, dog-eat-dog day at the office. I’m not thinking about the accident – not dwelling as I otherwise would. I’m merely taking in what is and what has been my life. Even still - and much like the Weight Watchers frozen meal that now sits in my stomach like a weight of bricks - so much of it is hard to digest.

I fear that I may be on the verge of losing the one thing I’ve held dear as a result of the accident and so many other obstacles I can’t yet bring myself to write about. I fear that I may be losing my religion, the very faith that sustained me through times of trouble.

Last night, when confronted with this admission on my part, M directed my attention to a passage in an old-time favorite C.S. Lewis novel of mine.

“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so absent a help in our time of trouble?”

The trouble for me is that I’ve not reached out in desperate need in quite some time, it seems. Perhaps, I’ve grown so independent in these past few trials that I’ve ceased to see Him as sufficient. All that was magical and awesome about my faith seems to have faded. For whatever reason – probably a fault that is my own – my joy is gone. I am doubtful for the first time in a very long time.

Almost two years ago, I was hospitalized for a month after a failed attempt to correct my spine surgically. I become isolated and despondent. My Bible was little more than a decoration on the window sill aside my bed. My only prayer was that I wouldn’t wake to face another day of captivity on the unit. And then God bowed to my requests, to show me the error of my heart’s desire. I flat-lined. Having been given too large a dose of methadone, which I’d been overmedicated on for days on account of the pain, on the same day I felt too sick to sustain any interaction, when I’d called everyone I could imagine had the faintest desire to visit that night and asked them to refrain, my heart stopped; I stopped breathing. By what I could only then describe as an act of God’s grace, my sister, who had not received my message and decided to take the two hour-long drive to the hospital with less than half an hour before the end of visiting hours, found me in that state and alerted the nurses' station who sent in a crash team immediately to revive me.

In what I could only describe as the stuff of my darkest and most disturbing nightmares, I was woken to the bright lights blinding my eyes, the white masks, the feeling of needles prodding my arms and legs trying to open up any vein that might be salvaged. I can still recall the cold burning of the narcane that surged through my body as I screamed at the doctors to please stop to no avail, and the hours spent undergoing all sorts of probing tests to see how much damage the overdose had caused. During that entire time of lingering uncertainty, the only thing that seemed certain was that God had made me eat my words and that it was nothing less than a miracle that had allowed me to live to regret them.

For two years, that story was my main defense to anyone who tried to argue with me as to whether or not God, in fact, exists. But now, even that story fails to do more than bring back painful and haunting memories I’d rather leave to the past. I feel so cut off from God. I feel so uncertain, so much like C.S. Lewis describes, only I have no specific cause for grief. Perhaps the problem is that I’m feeling too much. M said that faith and God are not proved by feeling. Yet, I long to feel faith and hope and joy as I used to.

Right now, all I can feel is the brace on my back that digs into my ribs, the pain that runs sharp into my legs and dull into my feet, the minutes that drag on like hours and force me to be here when I’d prefer to be anyplace else. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t feel at all. Still, I can’t help but let what I feel (or don’t feel, in this case) affect what I know. I can only hope (and I do think there is still some left) that whatever it was that has gone returns. But I can’t help but fear – it is me that has turned away.

When God has been so faithful, how dare I be so faithless? But however doubtful I've become, I still believe, He'll show Himself again somehow -- hopefully by more subtle means this time...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Walk Has Changed

This is my last week as a 23 year old. Nevertheless, because of how much pain I’ve been in as of late, I’ve been walking around more like an 83 year old. My grandma calls this “waddling” and I must agree, my daily walk has been a lot more like “March of the Penguins” than I would like.

In a week, it will be 8 years since the accident. Oftentimes, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was getting ready for my Sweet 16 when one random mistake – one split second – one wrong turn changed my course in life forever.

I still remember the way the rain felt against my face that morning. We’d been in such a hurry to get everything prepared for “my big day” – a party that my mom could scarcely afford but was determined to give me – that we never could have imagined that our haste would be so costly.

I had just gotten my nails done and was more concerned with examining them than helping my mother find her way to the hair salon. My two sisters were in the back seat and were carrying on loudly with my mother, who was lost. “Turn left.” “No, turn right.” “I’m sure it’s left.” “We’re gonna be late.” My mother quickly turned left, speeding through the rain, anxious to get me to my appointment on time. None of us saw the signs that indicated we had gone the wrong way on a three lane highway. But in a few short seconds that played on like hours, we saw the car speeding towards us, swerving between the lanes ahead of us and we all understood the terrible mistake that had just been made. I turned to the center of the car, put my hands against my sisters’ chests, fearful that they would come through the middle of the car, yet still, I could see what was about to happen. As if I had experienced it in slow motion, I felt the impact of the cars crashing, heard the metal crushing into metal, felt my head crash against the windshield. And then, everything went dark.

I opened my eyes and heard my mother and sisters screaming and crying. “Nancy, open your eyes. Look at me,” they yelled, but I could barely lift my head. I finally looked up and saw that the windshield was broken. Light was streaming in through the cracks that spread like a spider web through the glass. As I tried to lift my hand to touch it, I felt the pain rush down my neck into my back and down my arms and legs -- a pain that would stay with me for 8 long years, cause my confinement for 2 long months and ultimately result in a series of spinal surgeries that proved unsuccessful at helping in any way. In one moment, all of the things that I had come to love so much: cheerleading, swimming, softball, gymnastics, rollerblading, and simply running up the stairs, were taken from me. Worse than this, and aside from the physical changes I suffered, I lost my hope. I forgot God. I was angry and hopeless.

It has been many years since that accident and still I try to put the pieces back together of why it had to happen. The pain oftentimes seems so unnecessary. And I ask myself daily: What is God trying to show me through this? Though I still grasp for answers, I realize I have learned a lot. I’m older and wiser now, and though the pain of the past still follows me, there is not one step I take that does not remind me of how far I’ve come --all because of God’s grace, all because I am walking with Him. And I thank God for every step I'm able to take. My walk has surely changed, but I am stronger for it. And I am thankful.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Facing my Fears... Head-on

Over the last week, I did two things that I swore I’d never do: cut my hair off, and drove a car.

Yes, it’s true. I have an unhealthy fear of driving and short haircuts. It all dates back to a couple of scarring childhood experiences: a shearing of mythic proportions at a salon named “Little Princesses” that cut my hair (which was down to my feet) up to my ears - and a head-on collision that left me physically damaged for the last 8 years.

Nevertheless, this past week, I faced those fears head-on (no puns intended) and surprisingly, neither was as horrifying as I’d imagined they would be. In fact, after both instances, I felt a lot better about myself and the world. I had done two things I could never have imagined doing and the results had been relatively successful. (I didn’t cry after either, and amazingly, no one was injured or killed!)

As I sat in the front seat of M’s Chevy, a location in a car I’d boycotted my entire life (even when asked to sit double-parked in case a policeman came– a cause of many a fight with my parents), I kept my foot pinned down to the brake and took a deep breath. “Take your foot off the brake,” M said patiently. “No,” I shot back. “Nan, you have to take your foot off the brake,” he repeated. “No,” I blurted out again, “I have to sit here for a little bit.” I sat waiting. “Nan, come on” M started again, chuckling a little.

Didn’t he realize what a huge deal this was? That I was taking my (not to mention HIS) life into my hands and doing the very thing I swore up and down for 8 years I would never ever EVER do? I had to laugh a little myself. “Will you say a prayer?” I said, turning to him, pressing down even harder on the brake, in an attempt to buy more time. “No, I will not pray about this,” M said, “You know, right now, God is watching this and He’s laughing at you.” He joked. We had a good laugh, but it brought me no closer to moving my foot in any way.

Eventually, I had to give up and take my chances at the wheel which had (perhaps too trustingly) been put in my hands. I let up on the brake and felt the car creeping forward up the road. I held on tight to the steering wheel as though it would fly away if I lost my grip. I felt like a little old lady moving at a snail's pace down the road, clinging to the wheel and turning it ever so slightly to stay within the lines. My first time, I made it up to a massive 25 miles an hour!

What? It was my first time!

On our second attempt, I was more poised. I felt more confident that the car would obey me and I didn’t freak out. Eventually, I got up to 50 miles an hour! There were no casualties! No small animals or children were injured, nor were any trees unnecessarily mowed down! I DROVE and I lived to tell about it.

Who ever would have thought?!

Certainly not me… though I must say that M did not seem altogether surprised. It just goes to show that a little faith goes a long way. In this case, a couple of miles, and as for next time… one can only imagine how far!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


“I keep asking myself why all of this happened,” the letter read, “but you see… I already know the answer. God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”

When M and I first met, that song was in my head constantly. We’d walk around together singing it everyday as though we were rehearsing for some upcoming performance. Never though, did I realize how true the words in the song would eventually become for us.

“Every long lost dream led me to where you are…”

I met M in the depths of a debilitating illness. My life had hit rock bottom. I had stopped praying, no longer trusting God’s faithfulness. I had no hope for the future. Suddenly, all the verses that I’d so often focused on about the promises “not for destruction, but for a future and a hope” seemed to return void. At a time in my life where it seemed that all was irrevocably lost, I found M.

“I think about the years I spent just passing through. I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you. But you just smile and take my hand - You’ve been there you understand - It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true…”

M was in a similar situation. He had lost his visitation rights to his daughter and a great deal of his hope for the future. Having reached a similar conclusion about his life that I had, he too was ready to give up. In two separate devastating turns of events in both of our lives, our paths were made to cross. And together, we not only found the hope we had lost in God, but the desire we had lost in life.

“Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars, pointing me on my way into your loving arms…”

In a few short months, my life changed so drastically. It was as if I’d been reborn. Suddenly, everything in my past that had brought me pain seemed so worthwhile because it had brought me to this point. That was the same realization that M came to while he was in jail. “Everything I’ve done caused me to meet you, so I am grateful for all of it,” he wrote. I never thought I’d feel that way, but God proved so faithful to us both, and even as we were so faithless and doubtful, he blessed us so immensely.

“This much I know is true… that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”

For where we’ve been and what we’ve been through, I am that much more grateful to be where I stand. I am blessed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Time & Punishment

It was half past twelve when I finally heard the door creak open. Weary of waiting, I’d retired to the couch with the hope that closing my eyes would keep me from endlessly watching the clock. Needless to say, it did not. The bright green numbers slowly and reluctantly increased at a measured pace and in my heart, a seed of doubt as to whether or not M would make it before the night was over began to grow. Before the door was fully opened and before he was completely in view, I sprung up to my knees, feeling so overwhelmed that I couldn’t find it in myself to stand. “I’m not in jail anymore,” M said in an excited tone, as though he needed to reassure himself of that fact. “I know,” I said, so overjoyed that I could barely speak. “Come over here!” I called out. And he did.

I don’t remember what ultimately caused us to break away from the embrace. Needless to say, it was quite a while before we did. As my heart filled up with an equal measure of regret and relief, being in his arms again felt so new and so familiar at the same time that I didn’t know how to let go. Suddenly, in a few quick moments that seemed to come so soon after such a prolonged absence, the world was once again as it should be.

Except that M had clearly lost a lot of weight, further justifying the nickname I once gave him when I called him “my little skeleton,” in spite of his 6’5” frame. I told him that although he did not retain his jumpsuit he’d done well to find something to be for Halloween (and life, for the time being)- he had more than lived up to his name. I suppose he’d missed me too much to be at all perturbed by that comment and I did well to supply him with some much needed nourishment as soon as we got past our initial greeting. His approach to the bowl of food I set before him was nearly as pronounced as his affection towards me and I sat quietly reading the letter he had scrawled so beautifully (though not neatly) on the back of some crumpled prison form.

“They clearly don’t understand how much I love you. If they did they’d realize this is cruel and unusual punishment,” I read aloud. The punishment we both endured had seemed so cruel, but we had faithfully served our time and now... we had all the time in the world to set things right. And after all that time and punishment, we were so thankful, we were so much stronger; it was so worth it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Counting Down!

In fourteen hours, the nightmare that has kept me from a solid night’s sleep in a little under a week will finally come to an end, but who’s counting? Naturally, I am – though neither my range of math skills (minimal) nor desire to calculate the distance between us time-wise (even less) is as vast as M’s. When we spoke a couple of days ago, he gave me the exact number of seconds it would be before we’d see each other again. I suppose when you have that much time on your hands, there’s not much else to do besides count it! Though the prospect of calculating the numerical timeframe of one’s confinement seems more like hell to me than prison… but that’s just me.

Ah, so now my (slightly less mathematical) countdown has begun and the waiting game drags on just a little longer, though regardless of how close in proximity midnight is, it still feels like a lifetime away. But just think… that absurdly large number that M arrived at is ever constantly dwindling down, even as I sit here typing. If only there was a way to fast forward through it! Nevertheless, there is patience in the waiting, and my faith that God will bring something great out of our unfortunate set of circumstances has all the more increased.

There are many lessons to be learned from this unsettling turn of events, patience and perseverance hardly among the least of these… and the soothing benefits of math (or internet sites that do it for you!), of course. Only 48,600 seconds to go, not that I’m counting or anything!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Little Too Ironic

In a turn of events that would be fitting for a late lyrical addition to Alanis Morisette’s “Isn’t it Ironic?” my boyfriend is now attired in a prison jumpsuit. Wasn’t it me who suggested only a week ago that we dress up as a cop and a jail bird for Halloween? Who knew that M would take that suggestion so literally?! This surely was not what I had in mind when I suggested that he inquire into getting a real prison uniform! Nevertheless, it seems that Halloween has arrived early for this couple, though I’ve yet to enlist in the police academy or any similar law enforcement training.

And while my boyfriend is far from dancing to the jail house rock, I’m looking forward to him getting in step – on the right path – soon enough. Surely, this will be a lesson to him that the next time he thinks to pick up the phone to call his ex-wife, he’d be wise to consider whether or not calling the police himself would be less time consuming.

Sadly, albeit my musing, this is no laughing matter. In fact, unsurprisingly, M was very sad on the phone this morning. Sounding more drained than I’ve ever heard him, he spoke hoarsely into the receiver, explaining that his new “bed” – a three inch piece of plastic mat cushioning him from the concrete floor – and a thin gray blanket which he finally received was somewhat of an improvement, though he did not sleep at all last night, giving us something in common.

“I wrote you a letter yesterday,” he said in a low voice. “I wrote you one too,” I replied, referring to one of the many notes I’ve hidden in various pockets of the leather jacket he left draped across my dining room chair. “Do you have it with you?” I asked, irrelevantly, trying to make conversation. (I’ve learned it to be better to ask these sorts of questions rather than those regarding the eating, sleeping, or showering situation!) “No,” he said, “It’s in my cell.” “How romantic,” I joked.

How many more sleepless nights will pass before he comes home? Whatever the number, one more seems like too many, but I wait patiently, and God knows, I thank Him everyday for sustaining both of us through this nightmare. I’ve never been so appreciative to have a bed and a blanket as I’ve been these past few nights. Funny what lengths it takes to make us appreciate the things we’ve so commonly come to take for granted.

After this situation, I don’t take anything for granted anymore. And isn’t it ironic?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Seeking Rest, Finding None

I’m unraveling. As I sit here at my desk trying desperately to think of anything else, all I can do is hear his words repeating in my head. He sounded so tired, so sad. I asked if he’d been sleeping, as I’d been up till 5AM last night with a sick feeling that he was awake, he told me that they’d not given him a bed yet. He’s been sleeping on the concrete floor of a 20-foot holding cell for two nights now without a blanket, a small improvement from his first night of sleeping upright on a concrete bench. More than tired, he’s thirsty. At 4:30AM he’s given a pint of milk and nothing else to drink for the rest of the day, not even with the meals that he’s refusing to eat. Knowing how picky he is about food, I’m not altogether shocked. There is a sink above the toilet, he said, but unsurprisingly he finds that to be as appealing as the thin bologna sandwiches he won’t eat. He asked if I’d make raviolis for him when he gets home.

Yesterday was his ex-wife’s birthday. I wonder if she was happy knowing that the father of her child was spending his day dehydrating in a filthy jail thanks to her. How do you go from being married to someone to caring not at all for them? How do people just change like that? I’ll never understand.

I went to church last night and felt surprisingly joyful - joyful because I believe with all my heart that God will somehow use this for good. As I sang the words to the song, “and right now in the good times and bad, you are on your throne, you are God alone,” I reminded myself that God is still in control and I prayed that he would give M some comfort through this difficult time, when it’s difficult to find any at all.

When it’s obvious that M and I lack the power to change this situation in any way, shape, or form, it helps to know that ultimately, this is in God’s hands. I just pray these next few days will pass quickly. I just pray they’ll be some rest for M tonight.

Friday, October 21, 2005

When the Past Catches Up

What happens when the present proves that the PAST really hasn't? When the skeletons in the closet not only fall out, but the ghosts come back to haunt? I suppose one finds themself in the quiet of their own mind, where I am now, wondering if any effort to make sense of it all will ever be worthwhile.

A few hours ago, I got a call letting me know that M is in jail. He won't be coming home for 15 days. I picture him sitting there in the quiet of his cell. I wonder if he's cold or hungry, what he's thinking, and if he's missing me. And I sit here, confined to my own prison, in this apartment without him, knowing he won't be coming home tonight, knowing that I won't hear from him again until next week, wishing his past wasn't catching up with him so quickly and so seemingly out of nowhere. Didn't we just agree to leave the past behind us? Maybe I was naive to think the past could ever cease to matter. Even if it's behind us, it still follows close behind. When will it cease biting at our heels?

M has a child and an ex-wife, and while he did everything he could to make his marriage work, and while he's done everything he can to move on with his life, the both of them will always be a part of it. No matter how much time has past, this is his present and it will also be his future. I've accepted that. But at times like this, when the past comes back to bite him and his ex-wife has done everything in her power to disrupt his peace of mind, it's hard to keep my own.

M's past is catching up with him. He's made some sore mistakes. He's suffered plenty. And now his suffering seems so pointless. All because he called his ex-wife's phone. All because he wanted to see his only child. She's kept them apart now for 2 months. We've prayed every night that God would change her heart. And yet, she showed up today in court and told lies to have him locked up. And who does she spite? She spites M, but in the end, she hurts their daughter more. How does a 5 year old put this all in perspective when I, a 23 year old cannot?

I try now to keep focused on the future. I try to look forward to the day when M will come back home, when he will be reunited with his daughter, when we will be beyond these problems from his past life. For now, all I can do is wait, and try to be strong for him. All I can do is pray and remember that tomorrow brings me one day closer, though the morning right now seems so very far away.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Letting the Past Pass

If you go digging in a graveyard, you’re bound to unearth a skeleton or two. That was what came to mind last night as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling trying to turn off the images in my mind that have gnawed away at me ever since I insisted on hearing the details of M’s past relationships.

“Why do you want to know?” he asked me. “I need to know,” I insisted. But did I?

Regardless of whether or not I did, much to my eventual dismay, he willingly complied, and much to his, in true girl fashion, I proceeded to get teary-eyed and poorly feign indifference.

“Nan, what’s wrong?” he asked, as though he didn’t already have an idea as to why I’d become so quiet. “Nothing,” I lied in a tone barely louder than a whisper, “I’m fine.” That was it. The charade was over. And I wondered how many arguments have begun with those same seemingly affirmative words.

It was the beginning of a long night and three long days after in which I tried everything imaginable to avoid picturing my boyfriend gallivanting about with the women of his past. Like an insufferable and unending melodramatic soap opera which I could not turn off in my mind, I witnessed again and again far too many compromising situations -- and in the end all that was compromised was my newfound happiness. Sadly, I had brought it upon myself. M had given me what I wanted against his better judgment and I had successfully turned it around on him, and for three days all we did was tear up one another’s pasts until we were both so weary of it that it seemed like there was nothing left to say.

And it got me thinking… Why do we feel the need to dig around in the pasts of those we love when we know that in the end, all we’ll get is dirty? Why do we find it so difficult to allow ourselves to be happy in the moment or feel the need to cultivate evidence to justify our deepest fears? (We only end up blaming ourselves for overlooking them down the line should they come to pass.) We insist on playing Russian Roulette with our hearts and ultimately kill our joy. Why can't we get past our own childish curiosity when we know the details will only drag us down? In essence, why are we so often unable to let the past be past us?

Fortunately, M and I soon tired from our inquisitions and agreed to put this all behind us – where it rightfully belonged. As I lay in his arms and listened to him breathe, I realized that it did not matter who he’d held before. All that mattered was here and now. The rest was history. It always had been. The only way it would affect the present or the future would be if we let it. Now I acknowledged that and decided against it. And my joy returned.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Elizabethtown, Worth a trip?

So I had this wonderful idea on Friday. Rather than attending a good friend's party, I decided to persuade my boyfriend to take me to see Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" on it's opening night. What a sad sad mistake I made. Had I told him to take 20 dollars, crumble it up, and throw it in the street, he would have been more pleased with the night's outcome. It definitely would have been more entertaining for us both. But this is still a gross understatement.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Elizabethtown is by far the worst, most poorly made, ill-conceived, and badly written film I have ever seen in my entire life... possibly the worst film in the entire history of cinema. I never write about movies in my blog, but if I can prevent one poor soul from the two unbearable hours of misery I endured, I will be content with this post.

Never in all my years have I seen an audience so disgruntled by any film. Even the insanely drunk crowd behind us, who spent the better part of the night laughing inappropriately at how unfunny the film was eventually became angered as the film dragged on. The couple sitting next to us eventually ended up 5 feet further away from one another with their arms folded defensively across their chests. Whether it was a first date or not, it was clear that it would be their last. Yes, this film will definitely be the downfall of many would-be relationships. Of all the assesments of this film that I've heard, I have to say, my little sister summed it up best when I called her the next day, only to find out that I was too late and that she had already wasted her time and money seeing it, when she said, "For two hours, I wanted to kill myself. The ticket lady should have given us razor blades instead of tickets." Once again, a gross understatement.

Having made films like Jerry McGuire and Vanilla Sky, I had come to expect more from Cameron Crowe. But this was beyond ameteurish. It was plain torture. It called to mind the infinitely long Andy Warhol film of a fly sitting on a man's arm. I wondered if Crowe got some similar sick pleasure out of forcing us to sit there for 2 hours vainly hoping there would be a point to what we'd been watching. Sadly, the joke was on us. And there was really nothing funny about it.

I probably should not have admitt to my boyfriend afterwards that I had already read the bad reviews the film had gotten before we went to see it. "It was galling," "It was a spectacular disappointment," "It was a disaster of mythic proportions." Maybe that should have given it away? Nevertheless, I'd been convinced that the film was worth seeing if only to see my favorite elf, Orlando Bloom. Much to my dismay, by the end of the film, I, myself, was inclined to hop on an excercise-bike-turned-instrument-of-death in the way he did in the film. That would have been far less painful!

My prediction? By next weekend, this film will crash and burn much in the way the ridiculous giant bird in the memorial service scene did. Now THAT will be entertaining.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

We all struggle in our lives. Some of the daily battles we wage are harder to bear than others. Nevertheless, it is rarely comforting to acknowledge that there are others worse off out there. If anything, it makes us feel guilty for not having a better attitude about our own situations. “Not only do I feel bad that I’m upset about A, B, and C, but now I feel guilty that I’m feeling so down when there are people in the world who are going through X, Y, and Z.” For anyone who followed the coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you know what I mean here. The suffering of others all too often gives us perspective. Whether we benefit from it or not depends on how we approach our own situations.

I can still recall being a scrawny kid (ah, the good old days), sitting slouched down at the dinner table in front of a heaping plate of pasta and meatballs that was twice my size, hearing my grandmother tell me in a high pitched nasal voice how there were children “starving in the world” who would “die” for the food I was wasting. (I usually preferred this tactic to get me to eat my dinner above being told that my macaroni was growing hair – something that to this day still rings in my ears when I’m not feeling particularly hungry!) I usually gave in, begrudgingly shoveling forkfuls of pasta into my mouth, wondering how exactly the starving children of the world would benefit by my having eaten the food they would have “died for.”

I felt even guiltier! Not only was I a wasteful child, ungrateful for the wonderful bounty of food set before me, but now I was consuming food that could have benefited those starving children in such an unappreciative manner. And even though it was not my fault that these children went hungry, and even though there would have been – at that time – no feasible way for me to remedy their situation, I felt badly. I almost felt responsible. In her effort to get me to appreciate my situation more, my grandmother had succeeded only in reinforcing my Catholic guilt, as well as getting me beyond my “scrawny” phase, neither of which I am altogether thrilled with as I sit here typing!

And it got me thinking… Why do we constantly feel the need to compare our situations to those of others? Does it make us feel better to know that we are unable to properly deal with our mundane problems when there are others out there with “real” issues struggling to survive? Perhaps it would if we realized that we are not ultimately in control of - though we are surely responsible for - our own lives. All too often, we are so busy worrying that things could not possibly get worse (as I did for far too many months before things turned around) that we forget that with God, all things are possible. We let our own doubts put limits on our God whose powers are limitless, and in the end we only limit ourselves, eventually trapping ourselves in self-defeating circular logic that ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Rather than looking at the devastation and destruction in other people’s lives and feeling more helpless and hopeless, perhaps we should look at our own lives. What terrible times have you gotten through that you thought would surely be the end of you? Instead of comparing your life to the lives of others (lives that will surely range from far better or worse, depending on perspective), reflect on where you were then and where you are now. In this, God’s faithfulness is truly demonstrated. And if God can get us through the “unsolvable” problems – self-imposed or not – that become such heavy burdens for us to bear, then how much more will He move to help those who seem beyond help, all the starving children of the world that don’t ever benefit from our cleaning our plates for grandma?

A little perspective goes a long way.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

To My Friends...

“I’ve been feeling very alone in the world,” I typed into the body of the email form before clicking send. It’s been over a month since I’ve seen any of my friends from back home in Brooklyn and in NOVA. Surely, we’ve all been very busy and I’ve allowed myself to become overly pre-occupied with work. I’m sure they have as well. But every now and then, I try to take the time to remind those people in my life how grateful I am for them. I fear that I haven’t done a very good job as of late…

As I scanned over the 700+ emails that filled my inbox – emails that I still haven’t gotten around to checking since I’ve gotten out of the hospital – I realized just how many people I’ve been fortunate enough to call friends over the years. Some, I haven’t seen in months. Others, I haven’t seen in years. Nevertheless, in spite of how many days stretch between us, I’ve continued to hold them in high esteem. I’ve never stopped to consider whether or not the friendship remains in the long silences between our communications. For me, it always has.

And it got me thinking. What is a friend? By definition, it’s someone you can turn to, who can shed light on dark areas in your life, who is there for you in your time of need, and who knows your heart. But I also think it’s someone you can go weeks or months or even years without speaking to and still retain a deep enough level of friendship that you can just pick up again at a moment’s notice. I hope I’m not mistaken. I probably haven’t been the best friend these days… but I haven’t given up.

Today I thanked God for you. I thought I’d tell you that. I hope this hasn’t come too late...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Life and Liberty are not enough!

This is far from my usual post... but I've been working on this so much today, I feel compelled to put this out there... Please humor me!

As any basic history course teaches, our Founding Fathers identified three things to be the most intrinsic human rights: Life, Liberty, and Property. Yet, the US government has continuously undermined property rights under the guise of necesassary "takings." This is especially true with regards to the Endangered Species Act. If I asked you, on the face, whether or not you supported the ESA, you would undoubtedly say yes. Who wouldn't? Endangered species need protection, right? Being the lover of all things furry (or on all fours), I would have been inclined to give the same answer a few days ago. This is because few people know just how unsuccessful the Act actually is, (it has a 1% success rate!) and the high economic costs that are associated with it - particularly the punishment of private property owners.

Because ESA punishes landowners who are found to have rare or endangered wildlife on their property, it creates a perverse incentive for them to harm the very species ESA is designed to protect. Under ESA, landowners have lost millions of dollars worth of property because of the discovery of a single sand fly or rare snail! If you owned millions of dollars of property and knew that such a creature had set up a "habitat" on it, would you run and tell the government -- or would you squash it and hope you never get caught? What if the government were to compensate you for the lost use of your property? Or if you would be given funding from the government for protecting the species on your land and allowing it to remain? Would you at least be a LITTLE more inclined to let the creature live? This would surely be an incentive to landowners that would benefit species.

Sadly, ESA has made landowners the enemy of endangered wildlife and failed to provide incentives for their participation in conservation efforts. The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, which was recently passed by the US House is a step in the right direction -- but it doesn't do enough to protect property owners.

While I am far from a tree-hugging liberal, I am as concerned about the extinction of species as the next person. Rather than encouraging destruction through regulatory efforts and increased beaurocratic hurdles, the government should concentrate on creating better incentives... then it will reach its goal of protecting endangered species.

For further reading, see the 5th Amendment!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'll Never Be a Walking Hanger

The organization that I work for just hired a new Research Assistant who sits across from me. She is nearly 6 feet tall and looks as though she just walked off the cover of a fashion magazine. Actually, in some sense, she did. As she proudly noted on the day she first arrived, she just got back from modeling in Italy. This has been great for my self-esteem! Now as I hide in my cubicle, fearful that I’ll be spotted – “unskinny” and unfashionable as I am -wearing the same tired outfit I wore last week, I look upon a bookshelf lined with an array of designer shoes. Yes… she has practically turned her cubicle into a private backstage dressing room and I am fortunate enough to get a fashion preview – and taken down a peg - each and every day.

As I stumble in early every morning on my too-high Steve Madden high heels, I am greeted by the Manolo Blahnik’s that stare me down making me all too aware of my lack of style and my inability to afford it, by these standards. It would be easy to despise her if it weren’t for the fact that she is not only beautiful, but brilliant. She is 6 feet of libertarian ideology, which blends all too well with my conservative mindset, and all the day long I hear her engaging in drawn out conversations about her deeply held economic convictions. I assure you that the men in the office at which I work are all too eager to engage her in conversation, and who wouldn’t be? Beauty and brains make for a winning combination in this profession, and any, I would assume. Except modeling, perhaps, where brains are not necessarily mandatory…

Nevertheless, all of this has led me to question what our perception of beauty really is. Does beauty necessarily have to come prepackaged in a wiry 100lb frame? Does it have to fit a standard “type” as illustrated by the multitude of fashion magazines telling us how a woman should look? What is beautiful to me may be repulsive to another and vice versa, right? So why are we so hung up on Kate Moss’ cocaine addiction and why are the newest Gucci fashions still being paraded around on the runway by models akin to walking hangers? I can’t help but wonder… will the tides ever change? Or will I constantly feel the pressure to compare myself to images that I’ll never duplicate (without converting whole-heartedly to the pro-anna, red-string wearing, self-sacrificing, starvation movement).

Fortunately for me, my validation comes from one place alone, and that is neither my coworkers nor my bathroom mirror. God made me this way and like it or not (and I often don't), this is what I look like. Still, I see the room for improvement. (We are always hoping to improve ourselves though, aren’t we?) I suppose I can always ask the new RA to take me shopping with her… at least we can discuss econ as I try on clothes 10 times her clothing size! There is hope yet.

I may never be a walking hanger, but that doesn't mean I can't hold my head up when I walk, in however tired my attire may be...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fight this Fight

Anxiety comes creeping in again, and I can hardly keep at bay the tides that sweep me up in such confusion, and I can hardly swallow down the pain that rises in my throat till I am barely breathing. And there is no escape from this.

Spent so many hours counting down the clock. It's time to go, but I can't move. I'm paralyzed by this dissension, this overwhelming sense of desperation. So much without a reason. And there is no relief for me.

And I can't find the words to put it into. Can't bear to speak at all. Can hardly write. Can't help but to withdraw. Won't reach out now. I only want to be alone. For now. Just let me ride this out on my own.

Just let me fight this fight the only way I've ever done before. It's the only way I know. It's the only way, the only choice I'll ever choose. I am on my own again now, so let me fight this fight.

It's not your battle to lose.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Better Day

This too shall pass. How many times was this saying repeated to me over the past three months? Enough… and today, after what seemed like a lifetime of rainy days, the sun finally came out. I was more than content. I felt happy. It was a little scary.

As I sat over lunch with two of my best girlfriends this afternoon and listened to one of them speak on the event in her life that gives her the most hope, I realized that I had not really identified one for myself, though there are so many that have. During those dark days, it would have helped to remind myself about the times when God showed himself to be so faithful, though I was probably too stubborn then to have acknowledged them. I guess we all need a reminder every now and then!

Today, for the first time in a long time, my eyes and ears were really open. It rushed over me so quickly that I felt lightheaded. I am really blessed for the amazing people that have been brought into my life, people that I’ve known for years, people that I’ve only known for a few months, and people that I’ve yet to meet (like so many of you on here who bring a smile to my face with your comments and emails everyday).

When it rains, it does pour, but eventually the storm ceases… Now comes the calm... and I am grateful for the rain...

Monday, September 19, 2005

It's Not Easy Being Green

After carrying on a three-day love affair with my sofa while I was sick this past weekend, I was finally well enough to leave the house. On route to church, M and I stopped off at Starbucks. I couldn’t wait to step up to the counter and in one breath rattle off “tall green tea cream frap no whip” - which I can now say 10 times fast without biting my tongue having ordered it so many times - But M ordered it before I had the chance. “I’m sorry, we don’t have that anymore,” said the voice from behind the counter. “What?” I said frantically, “What do you mean you don’t have it anymore? You mean like… ever?” I started to panic. “It may be back next spring,” the barista said with little sympathy. “Next spring?! Are you serious?” My eyes got a little misty. “Yes, I’m sorry,” she said, still holding the empty cup and pressing the black marker to it impatiently, “what would you like?” “Then I don’t want anything,” I said in a low and defeated voice, much like a 5 year old who didn’t get that pony she asked for, for Christmas.

M was unsympathetic to my dismay. “It tastes like they took all of the flowers from the garden in front of Starbucks and grinded it up into a drink,” he once told me after I forced him to sample my favorite green beverage. I almost didn’t forgive him for that… especially after the time he told me that it tasted like spinach, and I, as a result, tasted nothing but spinach until I got to the bottom of my clear plastic cup. Among other insults to my dearly departed, was that it tasted like GRASS. No it did not! It tasted like heaven… and now it’s sadly gone. Fall is officially here. I’ll have to wait another year before enjoying my favorite drink again and warding off discriminatory comments.

Kermit the frog had a point.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I haven't forgotten.

“So, how is your boyfriend?”

The question was bound to be asked. “You mean from 4th of July?” I answered back, my voice dropping at the same speed at which my heart sunk. “Oh,” he said, in a voice close to a whisper, “I see.” “Yeah,” I said dryly, a little surprised and relieved that no tears had sprung to well up in my eyes, “We broke up four days later.” “You two seemed pretty in love,” he said not looking up at me as he spoke, perhaps waiting in case the tears did come. “We were.” “Then why did you break up with him?” he asked. “Actually, he left me,” I said, each word going through me like thread through a needle stitching me with the coarse thick thread of the reality I didn’t want to speak. “Wow, but, he seemed so smitten with you. You two seemed so happy.”

How long ago was July 4th that the memory of it is so far from me? As my coworker put it, this was the summer that never was for me, the summer that I once thought would be the best summer of my life. And yet, it never happened. At least not in the way I expected.

“I never want to see another firework again,” I said with a trace of sarcasm that vainly concealed my bitterness, and then laughed. “Yeah,” he said, “I hear you. I’m still in love with my first girlfriend.” I paused. “You can’t say that,” I reprimanded, “You’re married!” “Yes,” he replied, “but I never got over her.” “Bet your stomach would drop if you saw her enter a room then?” I asked, feeling as though I was conducting my own research separate from our organization. “Oh yeah, you never forget when you love someone like that.” I knew too well what he said was true. That’s when I decided I was doomed, and that the fact that my friendly coworker - who had scarce seen me since my final summer night with N - had helped me move my desk away from the window was a blessing because I wouldn’t be able to think about jumping out of it after that conversation as I surely might have.

Of course I’m only kidding. If anything, I felt OK after that exchange. I didn’t fall to pieces. I didn’t do the “girl-thing” and cry or get misty eyed reminiscing about times past. I didn’t even let myself remember. How much life can change in a couple of days, weeks, months, years, and yet not change at all.

When my coworker left, I settled in at my desk, facing the wall and the inside of the office. There on the desk, the same infamous post-it note I’d posted to make myself smile at any given moment back in May, “Remember to Cntrl+Click.”

I haven’t forgotten.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Looking Forward; Moving On

If there was a way to go back into the past, there are so many things I’d change. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Would I go all the way back to the beginning? Maybe even back to before it started – if I could…

Sadly, there is no changing the past. Yet, all too often, we torment ourselves with thoughts of what should have/could have/might have been had we not gotten in our own way. Sadly, it’s too late; we already have. Sadly, the consequences will continue to play themselves out before us and there is no reversing them, though improvement is always a possibility if we are willing to work hard.

The past is little more than an abundant source of lessons, but we are slow to learn and when we realize our mistakes our inclination is to want to go back in time to correct ourselves – but we know we cannot. All we can do is try to set ourselves on better footing for the future and hope we will not trip ourselves up again. We probably will. The scars we’ll carry will be reminders. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s better not to forget. If we forget, then we fall back into patterns that lead to the same end point. There's little use in repeating ourselves, but it's useful in some small way if we can see it that way.

I sometimes wish it didn’t take learning the hard way for me to actually learn, but it’s the hardest lessons that we remember most and what we derive from those darkest places that makes us that much more grateful when we again find ourselves in the light. I'm reaching for it this time. I'm looking forward. I'm moving on.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I am hurting; I am grateful.

Words, lyrics, poems, pour out of me like music lately, and yet, I feel as though I can barely carry a tune on my own. Gone to me are the days when I sang for the worship team for the church across the street. Now it is little more than a brick wall that faces my apartment in the same way so many brick walls both real and imagined now stand in my way. Now, I'm just one of the 2,000 voices at McLean Bible's Frontline, and yet, it's in my time of despair, when I feel so anonymous, that I seem to hear my own voice so clearly. Why has there always been so much creativity in suffering for me?

I believe I've blogged on this before.

When I was younger, I remember the sounds of screaming - dogs barking, walls banging, dishes sometimes breaking - and I remember how I drowned it out only with the words I poured out on the pages of my notebook. Waves of creativity washed over me so often, it was a wonder that I was first published at age 10 and that the story that won my admission to Duke University's Creative Writing program at age 15 was entitled, "These Walls."

In this, my suffering is a blessing, even though it brings me back to such dark and deep places. I no longer feel numb. I no longer feel devoid of creativity. I am hurting.

I am grateful.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Couldn't Sleep...

Don't usually like to post two poems in a row, but I woke up and had to jot this down... (freewritten again)

In The Wake of This
I wake and it's not to your face
though in vain I search the darkness
with slow heavy eyes
though I feel through the black of night
with numb unsteady hands
I will never reach you again, will I?
Your smile will never again wait
for me to wake
And in the wake of this
my heart beats like a funeral march
And I am dead without you
though you live and life goes on
for you so cruelly
I'm burried by the memories
heaped upon my shoulders
like so many handfuls of dirt
6 feet under, barely breathing
in this dark place I cannot sleep
If dreams could bring you back again
If the night could just take on your shape
and wrap around me like your loving arms
once did
I swear, I'd stay in darkness
I swear, I'd wish to never wake...

Friday, August 26, 2005

I Go On... (freewritten)

Excuse me while I backslide
but you don't pardon me
from the images that haunt my dreams
and fill up my nights endlessly
the empty spaces in between the days
once occupied by you
Aside from stay awake, what can I do?

Told me I was too destroyed
still, I'm moving steps ahead
after every leap back,
after every misstep,
after everything you never said.
And I'll get there if I try
was never one to give up anyway
was I?

Forgive me for caring too much
for wanting more for you than I did me
sorry my foolish love was not enough
I gave you my heart carelessly
And though you hold it in your grasp
everyday your face, your voice, disappear for me
a little more
each day brings you closer towards
the past for me
I'm already yours.

Excuse me while I move on
you may think it's just pretend
someday you'll realize what you gave up
though I'm now lost, it's you that loses in the end.
And though the loss is all I feel
there's much more to believe in
Just give me some more time to work it out
I'll get past this point of grieving

My heart doesn't hear but my head knows
you're already too far gone
and I'm backsliding constantly... yet, somehow,
I go on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Back to Life

I lost the month of July. August is nearly gone to me. The summer that once promised to be the best summer ever never was. I saw none of it. It passed me by. And though I was content to escape the DC summer heat, I lost precious months that I can't ever get back. Fortunately though, I can move forward. And I have.

Somehow, I've managed to claw my way up out of that dark place I found in July and fell so deeply into in August. Though the healing comes slowly, it comes, and that's all that seems to matter. What a difference a little bit of hope can make. I guess the saying is true - that it only takes a little spark to start a fire. And even when the pain flares up and the tears fall - as they surely will again - it will not be extinguished.

The scars I've gained along the way may never be gone, and I may always be haunted by the memory of certain things, but I'm living; I'm breathing. Life goes on, and though it went on without me for a little while, I take comfort in knowing that while I've lost so much, I've also gained, and now I'm part of it again. And while that may seem minimal at best, it's something to hold on to.

And I do.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Wrong Lesson, Nancy

“So what lesson did you learn from all of this?” he asked, pressing his fingertips together and leaning forward as though to pray.
“Not to ever let anyone get close to me again?” I shot back without looking in his general direction.
“Wrong lesson, Nancy.”

I smirked. Something about the sour look that stretched across his face when I said this made it seem all the more amusing to me, though on some level, I was entirely serious. Perhaps, I’m becoming cynical, or maybe I just choose to see things as they present themselves to me. And why shouldn’t I?

Why do people always assume that there is only one lesson to be learned from any given situation? Doesn’t perspective factor in anywhere into the assessment of an issue or experience? When did we start taking the value of our own unique perception for granted?

Perhaps, on some subjective level, he was right. Maybe that wasn’t the primary lesson or immediate response I should have given, but if it was my ultimate conclusion was it necessarily wrong simply because it differed from his? Wrong or right, some things are true whether you choose to believe them or not. Even so, can anyone ever really convince you of your own mind? (They can surely shed a little light.)

As I struggle to let go of the past, it keeps its hold on me. Who can tell me to forget it and move on before I’m ready? (Many have.) Yet, because my response has not been an immediate abandonment of all I’m feeling ("OK, I'm over it - Thanks!"), I’ve been perceived to be “dwelling.” I’m simply dealing. I’m simply recovering in the only way that I know how – as best as I can. And while I've been fortunate to have so many people looking out for me, in the end, it can only happen when I'm ready. (As I've been told.)

Shaken as I may be, I’m still aware of my own strength; I still have faith – that hasn’t changed, though the reminders have been helpful. I’m still the same girl and I still know my own mind (however crazy I may be at times). It’s my perspective that needs changing, and I know that time – and God - has quite a way of taking care of that. Eventually the tears will stop, the pain will subside, and the lesson – whatever and however many there may be – will have been learned. In the meantime, I’ll be learning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Logic of "I Love You; I'm Leaving"

"I love you. I just can't be with you." How many times have these words been uttered, and how many poor heartbroken souls have grappled with them? But to what frequency or degree of honesty has their logic really been questioned or considered?

What kind of Love allows the option of leaving? The answer came to me suddenly this morning as I lay in my bed wondering whether N was equally disturbed by the loud noises coming from outside our building. Knowing his morning routine so well, I knew he was undoubtedly awake, though no longer here with me. There is only One form of love that provides an Exit Option, and it's the form that people are often most comfortable with: Love of Self. In many ways and for many reasons, this can be chalked up to Self-Preservation.
"I love you, but I can't take this anymore," which can be broken down logically to:

Desire to avoid conflict/Desire to ignore painful issues > Love for the beloved


Desire to protect self from getting hurt > Potential that beloved will be hurt

But is that true Love, when we know that love is not supposed to seek its own? What good is Love that is "unending" if the end result is that we leave behind the people who love us most to their own devices? Is that Tough Love or is it Counterfeit?

Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of pain one must take upon themself in administering any brand of Tough love, and where Self Love trumps Love of Another, a hedonistic approach will ultimately be preferred - one in which pain is minimized for the Absent lover and consequently maximized for the lover left behind. The equation - and results - becomes tougher on all parties involved. But how do you really quantify Love?

"I know he still loves me, even though he left me," I said as I gripped my knees with both hands and looked into his eyes as though I had all the confidence in the world in what I was saying.

"I don't know that you know what you think you know," he said.

This was Thinkspeak, undoubtedly designed to rob me of my conviction in the matter or to force me to question my own assumptions, however ill-conceived or comforting they might be to me. I just stared coldly back. I did not realize then that he was only applying cold logic to what I'd said. I decided to revise my statement, "I know he loved me as much as he was capable of loving another person." He seemed satisfied with that -- though I'm sure it's only because in the end he got me to admit on some small level that N's love was tainted or that I had been deceived. (A hollow victory, if you ask me.) Still, his words followed me long after our time together had ended and gnawed at my vainly concealed discontent throughout the night.

Why did I need to believe that N had loved me or might love me still? What purpose could it serve any longer? Was it a matter of a pride -- needing to be reassured that I had not been deceived? Was it a matter of having something from the past to hold on to -- a time to look back on and say "I was really loved?" (Surely for me, that is no small matter.) Or was it just a means of avoiding the unalterable truth: that in the end, whatever the logical breakdown or equation, N left me. Logically speaking, given the end result, saying he still loved me was little more than a parting gift. Maybe that's what I've been avoiding. Has my faith in his love become a poor justification for my own love? In any case, the further I break it down, the more I realize, that justified or not - and whether or not I ever have it "all figured out" - nothing changes. If all I have left is the Love in my heart, I have something, and what have I to lose by clinging to it? Peace of mind maybe? But that's a whole other equation... and I'm weary of logic this morning...

Sometimes, there is no sense to be made. Sometimes the only logical choice is to hold on to what is real for us even when there is no justification -- until we better grasp the truth. Eventually, we'll lose our crutches, and hopefully when that happens we won't be crushed by the weight of them when we fall... we undoubtedly will again. At least I'll do so knowing that I fought to hold on -- as illogical as that will surely sound to anyone who hasn't loved with utter disregard for their own heart. The love I have, unrequited as it may surely be, is still my own. There's strength in that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Everyone Leaves

Everyone leaves, even the tears run
down my face, tracing the paths your fingers once made
leaving no retribution, they wash nothing away.

And yesterday's words pale to emptied intentions
poured out in pages you've crumbled or lost
and your withheld confessions and misplaced affections
are depriving no one but you...

(And these lines that cut so deep,
these scars that are clinging to me,
are the only thing honest
And I'm not afraid of the truth.)

Don't need to drown you down, or search for peace of mind
at the bottom of every empty bottle
not even in the shattered glass is there salvation to be found
though I can't remember the taste of you now...

Soon I'll forget your face,
the touch of your skin, your pale green eyes
and the words that you whisper again in my head
will all be replaced
by broken memories, by unkept promises,
the lessons derived from your poisoned truths,
the unintended lies

Poured myself out for you to see
can't say you don't know what you left behind
Sorry I was too broken for you,
and too content to drag you down with me,
too weak, but too willing to make your demons mine

And after all of this...

And after all is said and done...

Nobody stays,
that's what I told you once
(you were mistaken)
Everyone leaves...
Even the tears run.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Way It Is

If I’ve learned anything in my 23 years of life, it’s to never be surprised. When you let your guard down to the point that something another person can say or do can shock you, you know that you’ve missed a step somewhere along the way. How often do we project our rationale onto other people and expect that their thinking follows the same operating principals we live by only to wake up and realize that we’ve had it wrong the entire time? We rack our brain over and over again trying to figure out “how” someone could do something they’ve done because “we would never” do it, but we fail to realize that their abilities in this area might differ from our own. How often have we been thrown by the actions of others because our feelings clouded our ability to really perceive them or our hoping against hope has led us to the delusion that we can really “change” another person? I guess the frequency of incident isn’t as relevant as whether or not we’ve learned from them.

You cannot ever expect to get an orange from an apple tree. That is what I told my mother today as she went off on another long and drawn out tirade regarding my father about how “shocked” she was by his recent behavior. I wasn’t shocked at all. Sadly, I’ve come to expect certain things and it appalls me that after 20+ years, she has not accepted the way he is. (She is still reaching for oranges.) Instead, she chooses to tear herself up, wondering “how” and “why,” while all the while it’s been clear that whatever the reasons are, that’s the way it is. (This is why I chose to forgive him today.) There are certain things in life that we won’t like – certain things that will tear us up regardless of whether or not we accept them willingly – but the important thing is to make peace with those things, to realize that we are in no position to argue with “the way things are,” and to resign ourselves to making better choices.

Choices are that which we have control over and it’s those very choices that define – or destroy – our lives, if we let them. Choosing to accept is not always the easy choice – nor is choosing to forgive that which we cannot understand – but it’s in our hands, and it has the potential to set us free from the chains we place upon ourselves and give us a peace we would not otherwise find.

To love another person you need to really see them. To accept someone for what they are you need to really know what they are. Yet, at the same time, you can’t take anything for granted, because – as I’ve learned – things in life can come along to blind us or distract us from certain truths. I’ve accepted certain things; I have hope in my heart. There is peace in that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Lesson Upon Waking

The rain was crashing down again outside the window, but the world outside would never be the same. I’d been given new eyes, and the nightmare that so abruptly, and almost accurately, materialized, took shape in everything surrounding me, to the point where there was nothing in me, nothing in my life, that it didn’t touch.

When I got home from the hospital on Saturday night and saw the blog that I’d last posted, it sent a cold chill down my spine. I’d never imagined when I wrote that Friday morning - a week and a day before - that by that night, before I could even close my eyes to sleep, the world would change in such a similar fashion - only this time, I wouldn’t have the red blanket to draw near to - though I found myself reaching for it so many times in the night over the course of my stay. Something about that color, that blanket, that reminded me of the full red moon I witnessed unlike any we had ever seen before, that recalled for me how cold my skin had been against the chair up on the roof and how soft it felt against my legs. In one instance, those nights were lost to me, and even though I couldn’t see the sky for so many days, I knew it would never be the same sky again, that nothing would ever again seem as beautiful, and the fact that I was unable to get outside did not matter as much as the fact that the world I knew had disappeared, much like a dream upon waking, in spite of what a wonderful dream it had been.

We often can’t control our dreams, but when we sense that we are dreaming and anticipate that we’ll be woken, we cling to the images, we try to stay longer (as I did this morning), and it’s seldom our fault when we wake and the dream is lost and we cannot remember. Sadly, in life, there are choices we make; we can choose, whether it’s our intention or not, to shatter the very dreams we build, if we try to hold on too hard. I wish that I had believed those words when I first heard them, and while wishing does precious little to turn back time, I learn from them what I can now, I carry them with me; I don’t forget.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Is it EVER Really "Different?"

When does the past cease to be a lesson? The correct answer is never, but all to often, we forget to remember that. Why do we feel the need to define every relationship as being "different," anyway? How many times have we used this as the end-all excuse in trying to explain away our feelings or justify feeling a way that others may not understand? "I'm telling you, I can't explain it, but THIS time, it's DIFFERENT." Who are we kidding anyway?

I suppose that if I knew the answers, I wouldn't be writing this blog. Most likely, I'd be richer than Oprah and selling more self-help books than Dr. Phil, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren put together. But although we don't profess to know all the answers -- well, most of us don't, but this is Washington and there are many people here who firmly believe that they fully grasp the truth -- does that mean we shouldn't ask the questions?

How many times have we really taken the time to examine the pieces of our shattered pasts? Have we really considered the causes or extracted the necessary lessons we should have learned? Or have we been content to repeat them, believing that eventually we'd learn our lessons, resigning ourselves to the notion that we really only learn the hard way anyway?

Sad to say, but true, this is often the case, and it is often this willingness to forgo deep "dwelling" over the past that safeguards us from becoming cynical in the face of new possibilities. "This time it really WILL be different." But has there been change? Have we really come away from the past with anything of substance to aid us in the present or possibly carry us through to the future? Or have we accepted the vicious circle that our lives have become, throwing ourselves without caution into relationship after relationship in the hope that eventually the madness will end?

I'm learning daily that love is a rollercoaster with downs as intense as ups, and that, no, it does not get any easier. Whether we accept how clueless we are, or are convinced that we have it all figured out, we are still being educated. Only now, we risk being proven wrong or foolish -- but do so in favor of extracting all the joy we can from the moment, because the moment may be all we've got and is the precious little we can really hold on to.

Why do we - who've healed after having been hurt - continue to play Russian Roulette with our hearts? Probably because the pay-off is so great -- and the game is so exciting.

Isn't that what it's all about anyway?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Moo-ving up In My Career

Just when it seemed that my professional creativity was going the way of the dinosaur, along comes a project that not only re-energizes me but allows me to do what I love to do more than anything – write, more specifically, blog! – in a professional manner. And, better yet, it involves moo cows, which anyone who knows me knows I LOVE!

While the issues surrounding energy, the environment, telecom, and regulation may not be entertainment to everyone, I’ve certainly found it amusing to some degree. In what other job have I had the opportunity to sit and ponder jokes about barn-yard animals that might make for a witty analysis of “milk order marketing mandates?” Wasn’t that fun to say? Say it with me now…

So today - unlike the family farmers who stand to be crushed by this regulatory burden - it was very easy for me to see the glass as being half-full -- especially now, as I await the posting of my very first blog to the organization’s website! You know you want to read it… I mean… what could be more exciting than USDA regulation concerning regional pooling and pricing provisions? For me – only having the opportunity to employ an abundance of milk and cow-related puns – and “publicly” call government rule-making “stupid!”

On days like this, I love my job.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

iPod in Pain

After waiting one month for it to arrive, I have finally joined the cult of NOVA yuppies who ride the Metro and wander DC fashioning the tell-tale white earbuds that fill their heads with streaming music. I am now a proud iPod owner, and aside from the fact that my ears are clearly too small to accommodate these earbuds (clearly made for giants only), and the fact that listening to music is not only a source of constant entertainment, but physical pain for me, I am very pleased.

It goes without saying that at this time, I am very much regretting having pierced my tragus a year ago. For those of you who do not know what a tragus is, calm down, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m referring to my inner ear - the cartilage that extends from your face to where your ear begins – supposedly, the most painful part of your body to pierce. (It has continued to hurt ever since I got it.) If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it, or better yet, squeeze your finger nails gently into both sides of the cartilage and see how much of that you can tolerate. I kid you not. In any case – I clearly digress – given this, you can only imagine how uncomfortable it has been for me to jam these super-human-giant-sized earbuds into my ear every five seconds when they fall out. In fact, my tragus – which is now nearly purple from the abuse it’s put up with since I got my iPod - has been the cause of many a conversation with random strangers on the Metro who’ve inquired about how I manage to comfortably use earbuds given my obtrusive piercing. Obviously, I don’t manage. It’s horrible.

Nevertheless, I love my little turquoise iPod -- little and compact, just like me. Every so often, I spot another iPodder who gives me a nod or a smile and I wonder how I managed to get by before becoming a member of this digital music fraternity. Every so often, I spot some poor misguided soul, still stuck in the past, wearing huge earmuff style headphones and holding a 5lb CD player in their hand, and wonder when they too will be enlightened. As I wander through the streets of Arlington, Virginia, blasting The Used or listening to the lead singer of My Chemical Romance scream his freakin head off into my ear, I am content to have a soundtrack to my life.

I’ll be more content, however, when my new (midget-sized) earphones come in next week. Hopefully, before my tragus falls off! Either way, as long as the song remains the same, I’m sure I’ll be content…


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Loster than Lost... AGAIN

As anyone who knows me knows, if I were to walk outside of my apartment, close my eyes, and spin around three times, I would probably not be able to find my way back to the door. For these and other reasons, I've often considered investing in a portable GPS tracking system, and have taken heart in the fact that I don't now, and never will, drive.

God knows that I've been on many adventures that involved being lost. (I wasn't nicknamed "Lassie" for nothing!) I mean... who could forget "trekking cross-country" from New York to DC (I'm not too good with maps either!) with Re a couple of years ago? It's still hard for me to not to laugh when I think about how many times we accidentally found the same ditch somewhere in Virginia (I'm still not sure where) 3 times! Or how we stopped 5 cars and asked for directions, each time getting more hopelessly and irevocably lost. My favorite instance, however, had to be on the morning we headed back.

Re and I had been lost for some time by this point, and being that I don't drive, I was content to go through a Pottery Barn catalog (imagining I could afford anything in there) while she tried to figure out where we were going. We stopped a couple of strangers who actually had great directions. Re spoke to them -- she seemeed to know what they were talking about by the way she was nodding her head in between her intermittent giggles that she is seldom able to control when she's nervous -- so I just continued circling and checking off items in my catalog. When the couple left, Re rolled up the window and drove off before turning to me and asking, "Where do we have to go?" I, of course, had no idea, and must have been so preoccupied that I didn't realize how bad what I'd say next would sound. "Didn't you write it down?" she asked frantically. "Write it down? What do I look like?" I blurted out. Fortunately, after being "on the road again" for so many days (being lost in the same 5 mile radius of our Crystal City hotel), Re was prepared for this from me and instead of fighting, we laughed and mused neurotically until we found another couple to give us directions, that we ultimately used... to get more lost.

The memories from this trip were not far from my mind on Tuesday when, much in the same fashion, my inability to drive or pay attention to directions, caused me and my best friend Em to get loster than lost -- ironically, in the same 5 mile radius of Crystal City that Re and I spent 3 days navigating.

Em and I were on our way to a cookout. Em was starting to get cranky as she always does when she is unbearably hungry, and I, of course, had no clue where we even were. After driving through the winding and inexplicable maze that is Crystal City, we gave up and decided to go home before it got dark. Little did we know that on the way home we'd somehow end up in Prince George's County (famous for having the highest murder rates in DC), North Capitol, and almost in Anacostia (another stellar area). Nor could we have imagined that we'd finally find our way back to Arlington, only to miss our exit and end up in Springfield, Virginia. Unfortunately, Em was not as amused by my directional/attentional deficiences as Re was, but that did not stop me from laughing about everything from the way in which Em locked the doors everytime a car with six people pulled up alongside us blasting gangsta rap, to the blinding lights in the tunnel which caused me to put my sunglasses on in the middle of the night. No, sadly, Em was not amused, and as we drove deeper and deeper into the ghetto, suddenly my sense of humor started to wane as well -- up until our car was filled with toxic fumes from the gas leaking out of a beat up, stripped down chevorlet riding along side us, when I announced that we should look on the bright side, noting that we hadn't spontaneously combusted.. yet.

Fortunately, we escaped unscathed, with no bullet holes or muggings to mention. Sadly, Em never got her hamburger or beer that night, but what she did get was a lesson: NEVER EVER EVER assume that Nan has the faintest clue as to where she is... EVER.

Perhaps investing in that GPS tracking system isn't such a bad idea afterall...