It’s Like I Love Them or Something

I woke in the middle of the night with an image from the movie Captain Fantastic in my head. In one scene, Viggo Mortensen (who was nominated for a best actor Oscar) looks at his son through the rear view mirror of their live-in bus. His son has just shaved off his long brown locks, and Mortensen’s character has just shaved his beard. Both were done as an outward sign of an internal change of direction: a tangible demonstration of their respective rites of passage. Father sees son, a look of acknowledgment crosses his face – a look of respect for his son’s this-is-me statementHe runs his hand across his head. The son looks back, slight smile, head tilted up, and runs his hand across his jaw. I think it’s my favorite moment in the film (of which there are many to choose). It communicates a paragraph’s worth of words in two motions and one long look.

I love words. I like to read them, say them, hear them, even invent them sometimes. I talk A LOT, and I write, and I read my writing aloud before I post it. I even talk to our bunny to have an excuse to say words out loud when no humans are available to listen. But I think often the most significant form of communication is silence. Either for good or for evil.

When my husband

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I Hear You. I See You.

Here’s what I learned from the Women’s March:

1. Everyone has a story to tell.

2. We should listen.

I went to the women’s march in little ol’ Topeka, KS, last Saturday, along with over 3,000 men, women and children. We were a small portion of the total Women’s March attendees worldwide, but we were there. As I scanned the signs in the crowd I got a sense of each person’s motivation for attending. Some people were clearly angry. Some were more sad. Some were there to support a specific cause or people group. And surely some were all three. I was conflicted about going, not because I was against the march, but because I didn’t think this type of event fit me. I am hyper conscious about keeping my word – letting my yes be yes and my no be no. In the things I promise and the things I merely say. And a lot is said by one’s actions. By showing up, or not.

In going to the march, was I

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May They Dream Big

Today feels heavy. Like this scarf I’m wearing is full of bricks. But I refuse to let that feeling win.

I say today is a day for dreamers. As our new President is inaugurated, I am choosing hope over fear. Because I must. I want to scream, and maybe I will for a bit, inside my house, as a lamentation of what we have become. But then I will take several deep breaths, let my blood pressure drop a notch, and remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Today is a wrenching disappointment for many, but it is not the end.

I say bring on the dreamers.

We had a family double feature last weekend consisting of La La Land and Selma. Two disparate films, but with one important commonality.

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Finally, Hopefully, Eventually

My brother’s dear friend, who he’s known since he was a child, died this weekend. He was 38 years old.

That sort of thing makes you stop and ask some big questions. It makes you sad and mad and confused and thankful, in waves. Like a spotlight, it reveals all that’s good and bad in glaring, brilliant relief. And for me, it makes Christmas, surrounded by family and pointing to a man who loved in total sacrifice, an even more welcome celebration of hope.

This fall I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in a Bible study. And let me be real here: I’ve been confused. I’ve read the Bible before (yep, the whole thing, more than once), but this year I’m looking at it through a more questioning lens. There are many reasons for this, but one is the simple belief that if my faith can’t stand up to questioning, to a deep, thoughtful wrestling match, it’s not very strong at all. I’m not interested in faith that ignores the mess of life. That puts up a wall against uncomfortable uncertainties. I want to meet those questions head-on.

As I’ve read this telling of the God of the Hebrews and pushed and pulled with my understanding of it, I’ve had to throw some things into the simmering pot of pondering.

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Thanksgiving Do-Over

This Thanksgiving I forgot to be thankful. I spent a lot of time cooking, prepping the table, planning logistics of when to put the rolls in the oven, take them out, and warm rest of the food before the rolls cooled. Hosting family and friends on Thanksgiving day, more than a typical get-together, is a hit-the-ground-running affair. But since I didn’t schedule actually pondering my own, and our communal, thankfulness, it didn’t happen. I forgot, and it made me sad.

Two years ago when we hosted Thanksgiving, I made an effort to recognize what exactly we were celebrating. Of pointing everyone’s attention toward gratitude and of listening to each person’s thankful heart. It was memorable. It was bonding. It was what Thanksgiving should be. This year I failed as the ring-leader of gratitude. I made some rockin’ brussels sprouts (yes, that’s possible) but I didn’t host the bigger idea of the occasion, which I think is even more important.

I’m certainly not saying

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The Wounds That Bind

I wanted to write about anything other than the election this week. Maybe my kids. My marriage. A fabulous song I want to share. The change of seasons. Anything but the elephant in the room.

But my heart still feels a bit raw more than a week after the election. I thought that once the actual voting was finished we would feel a collective, national release of tension, but obviously that was wishful thinking. It seems blaringly clear now that whoever won, it would have been a difficult transition for our country, since half of us feel one way and half feel another. A drastic split down the middle – at least according to those of us who voted. Sadly, we’ll never know what the rest of our countrymen/women wanted. We’re left with the reality of a jagged tear in the fabric of our country. Not a clean cut, even, but a fraying, ragged mess of threads that must somehow be patched together if we want it to be one nation again.

The first step to healing is what is always the first step:

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A Nobler Task

I voted this morning after dropping my girls off at school, and it felt fabulous to tangibly help this election cycle be over. The long slog of this combative race has worn me out, along with the entire nation. Like the yellowed leaves outside my window today, we have withered. You can see it on the faces of anyone who doesn’t love arguing for the sake of arguing; everyone is ready to move on. We, as a collection of Republicans and Democrats, Green Party members, Libertarians and independents now have to start the harder process of getting along. Ranting about them is easy. Getting along with all the thems is a much harder, and nobler, task.

A giant chunk of our population will be upset tomorrow. And a giant chunk will be happy, or at least relieved. Either way things fall, this is true. And we will all still be living in the same country, with the need to plow ahead. Wounds will need binding. Not gloating poured over them like salt.

A friend just emailed me with an election story.

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Them Becomes We

 

Seventeen people were shot and killed in Chicago over the weekend, making it the deadliest weekend of the year, in the deadliest year since the 1990s. I was there. But my experience was markedly different. I spent Friday night riding on the El to a concert by one of my favorite singer-songwriters and back again with hundreds of Cubs fans. Besides the mini-dream-come-true of seeing Foy Vance live, the night left me with some significant reminders about humanity, completely contrasting the record-breaking violence.

The World Series happened to be occurring in the same city as did the friends we were visiting.  In the same part of Chicago in which we attended the concert. And we just happened to miss our stop on the train. We got off next to Wrigley Field to wait for the return and saw the light flooding out of the baseball field, the dozens of police in yellow vests on the street below, and heard the crowd roar. That roaring crowd, the hordes of fans dressed in blue and red, the general excitement running through the air, all reminded me how in-this-together we are. It was electric, full of possibility. And I don’t even care about baseball.

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Layover

I’m sitting in the Denver airport waiting for a flight. On the very edge of this particular terminal, before an entire wall of windows. Looking out into a view of clouds and an expanse of plains. Cars inch along a road in the distance, tiny against the slice of land and the broad swath of sky. Airplanes taxi across runways to my left and right, as if in slow motion. It’s growing dark, the sun easing its way down in the west, the east getting sleepy.

My flight is not for another hour and only a few passengers have made their way to the gate. It is quiet, save the intermittent instructions over the intercom -the quietest experience I’ve had in an airport for years. I’m thankful for this calm descent of day. I’ve had time to sit and think and look out of large windows – one of my favorite past times.

I watched a bunny hop through a construction area and find a home for the night beneath a stack of green fencing. Dozens of workmen labored on the pavement to it’s left, hundreds of passengers, pilots and airport employees walked these terminal halls, and no one saw it but me. This was my experience alone. Insignificant to the world, but significant to myself. The way I love to watch a single cardinal pecking it’s way across my yard. Or a bee visiting each flower in a patch of liriope blooms. Quietly witnessing something so tiny happening at the same time that wars and Wall Street and LA traffic rage on. It’s centering and humbling and enormously pleasant.

I need this. When I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 23

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For Every One Of Us

The significance of delight. Our right to make things simply because we are alive. The creativity that lurks, no, waits to explode, within us if we will just let it out.

These are a few of my takeaways from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I often listen to her podcast by the same name and continue to chew on many of the things she dishes out in both. I’ve copied down several quotes that have inspired or challenged me, and I’ve wanted to share them all. But in order to keep my post from being as long as her book I’ve narrowed it down to three heavy hitters.

So here are some of the best bits, in no particular order…

Actually, I lied. This is kind of the very best bit, and it’s a quote from someone else. I’ve adopted it as a personal belief statement. Of how I view the world and the base from which I intend to jump my whole life long:

“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

                                                                                      -Jack Gilbert

Hallelujah that someone said it and said it so well. To claim gladness as a worthwhile, even essential, point of view. Something to hold on to amidst the mess of the world around us. To find the light in the darkness, the glimmer of a gem within the muck, the cool breeze inside the ruthless furnace. If you’ve read my writing before,

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About Me

I am a writer of truth, at least for this site. I write fiction as well, but you won't find it here. The truth is my jam, people. jbhavener at yahoo.com (yep, I'm old-school)

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