In Bed with Doris Grumbach

I had no idea what to expect from the book the moment I picked it up. All the title read was “Fifty Days of Solitude” and could mean any number of things with a title like that.

The cover was beautifully minimalistic. A predominantly white image with only hints at a forest of snow in the background. The clean style lead me to believe there must be some kind of beauty within those pages if such beauty was cause to be on the outside. I often attribute the taste of the author in deciding a book cover artists or work, to be directly in correlation to their taste in writing style. If they have good taste in visual, then they must be good writers after all. Isn’t writing also a kind of visual art, capturing the imagination and influencing it to visualize more than just an image, but a tone and feel as well?

That was not my only reason for picking up the book. As much as my design degree wants me to think I purely buy books for their covers, I am not soulfully visual. I bought it because it was 25 cents at our local thrift store. Cheap, and if it did end up sucking, it was worth its price for the look and feel it gave my bookshelf, which isn’t much, considering it is a crappy piece of plywood construct covered in a fake wood sticker. Something I picked up in high school to make up for the fact that I was sick of keeping books in boxes and felt the need to pay for it in funds and crappy construction.

When I got the book home it sat on the shelf for a while. I was working my way through Lois Lowery’s “The Giver” series, and had been dragging my feet through the final book “Son” which had taken me far too long to finish. I have a fear of finishing a series of books. It means things are over. I don’t like them to end. Thankfully I had been able to complete the series and find my emotions in tact. But, directly afterward I found myself reading the book “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, a recommendation from my boyfriend, who tends to be very picky about his literature.

After complete both “Son” and “The Outsiders” I found my heart desperate for something a little less heavy. A book with the term “solitude” in it’s title might be something to be cautious of. Then again, I was so emotionally exhausted by those books I wondered if it would matter so much to be exhausted again by just one more. What was the harm? It was just a book. Like all the other books before I had emotionally recovered from. I gave myself about a week of nothing to read but magazine articles and the blog posts I wrote myself.

The writing style of this particular work is interesting, because the author talks about writing another work, giving the names of the characters, and the imaginary conversations she has had with those characters in her solitude. I like when authors write about writing. I feel as though it gives me a kind of affirmation that it’s normal to go through the feelings and internal dialog that I go through writing journal entries and the fictional short stories I put down on occasion. I also like that she can describe those moments as she struggles and embraces her combination of Loneliness and Solitude (which have very different meanings to her and the many authors she quotes as she discovers this new situation).

She romanticizes her Solitude (I sue a capital “S” because she seems to give it a sense of more than just alone time). She speaks of it with a great sense of accomplishment and discipline. She wonders about the effect it has on herself and others. She worries a great deal. She feels a great deal. She reminisces here and there, but more importantly, she finds herself (or perhaps only perceives herself) being improved as an author by the experience she is having. Proud that she is taking this step after she learns that what many authors have said about Solitude as a means to self improvement.

This is not the first time I have heard this about any artists really. Most artists are very introspective, and therefore, spend a great deal of time alone with their thoughts. Or they are easily distracted and need to be kept away from all things shiny or sharp. I myself close the door to my room so as to take time to understand who I am, and often to understand what that means for any design project or blog post/writing I happen to be working on at the time. It clears away the noise of the world, and helps me get to the message within.

As I read I wonder the same of her. Is she seeking the message within herself? Trying to understand why she is doing what she is doing? It is my understanding that she is not young. She could be 60 or older judging by the back cover images she had put by her biography. She speak about writing letters instead of phone calls, and perhaps as a writer she simply chooses to write letters because her passion is writing. I cannot say. I do not know her. But I wonder if I do know her? Am I not reading the very personal thoughts written daily as she discovers new things about such Solitude as the kind she has found? OR do I kid myself? Do I believe in a fiction written as a biography? Does she do nothing but tell stories as too many writers do? Does she merely look to make a book, and not to actually experience what she is doing?

All I do know is there is a great sense within me that desire to take some time away for myself. To do more than just close the door of my room and be left alone, but to leave the very confines of my own space for a place much more tranquil than this. I want to take a summer away. An entire season. From the last snow fall to the first snow fall. Or from the First snow fall to the last snowfall. I cannot decide. I just imagine I want there to be snow where I go, so the excuse to hide within the wall of a place that is unfamiliar and uninteresting and have it seem socially acceptable to not go anywhere.

But here I am. In bed with Doris. Door closed. House quiet. Just us in our own versions of Solitude.

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Wedding Wonders

“Will you be my maid of honor?”

“Yes, yes, YES!” I practically yelled throwing my arms around her a second time nearly crying. I was so happy for her. We sat in her kitchen eating pizza and drinking tea, looking at Pinterest for wedding ideas. Her fiancé joined us around 8pm and watching the two of them interact helped to melt my fears away. Read more

Ministry

He started at me as he spoke, and within me a fired burned from embers into a furnace. I knew why he asked it, I saw his intentions, and I wanted to rebell against them and remain silent. But apparently I was unable to hold in such a deep truth. So as the words rolled out of his mouth: “Do you guys agree we live in an authentic church?” I immediately shook my head and replied “No.”

I regretted the moment I uttered the words. Not because I didn’t want others to know how I felt. I thought quite strongly that they did need to know the opinion of one who had become ashamed of being in the kind of church that felt fake. I regretted, because the first rule of trying to fly under the radar in a church is you never tell a pastor the truth. You smile and nod keeping your feeling deep inside, and only speak of them anonymously in blog posts, journals, and of course to God.

But the words had been uttered, and I knew from the smirk that came across his face that I was in for a treat. “Im glad you say that. Stay for a little while after group. I want to chat about that.” I knew what I was in for. I had been approached before about such things. I had been spoken to about my feelings…and they all resulted in the words I was so incredibly afraid of.

“I think you need to start a ministry.”

“I know.”

I said it because I knew it. This wasn’t the first time I had been told that. Several times I had been told I needed to start a ministry by at least 4 other people, even prior to coming to this church. He nodded and asked me to contact him so we could set up a meeting. I told him I would, and I had every intention of doing so….but I dragged my feet.

A week went by, and I thought about it a ton. I thought about it until I couldn’t stand it, but still I couldn’t bring myself to text him. Another week went by, and I found my sleep becoming more restless and my heart heavy. I wanted to ignore it. I didn’t want to respond to the call. I wanted to let it all disappear. To let it all go. To forget he had said anything. I wasn’t qualified. I swear too much. I work too much. I wasn’t built for ministry.

What if I failed?

The week after I found a text from him on my phone. He had asked to finally set up a meeting. All my foot dragging had come to an end. This was it. This was affirmation that this wouldn’t go away…which meant that this was probably meant to be. We set up a later afternoon appointment a couple weeks from that day.

In our meeting he had told me. “I never do that. I don’t just call or text people I want to put in leadership. I usually just let them choose what they want to do and let God work. This time…this time I did it because I had to. God wouldn’t let me rest until I did. I had been looking for someone like you…and suddenly there you were.” I didn’t know what to say. It isn’t often someone tells you that they felt God leading them to you, especially for a leadership position. I laid out my story. I laid out my personal life. I told him my excitement combined with fear and doubt. He soothed those. We prayed. We talked a bit more about what kind of ministry I wanted to begin. He offered some resources. Just like that it was all over.

Afterward I went out for a late lunch of Fish and Chips at one of my favorite local diners. As I waited for my food, I began writing a list of what I wanted and didn’t want in this ministry. My goals list. Something to help me build a direction. A ministry was just an abstract design. First figure out your goals. After that, figure out your competition…your enemy/ your list of don’ts. Next figure out your name, look, and feel.

I began realizing how intense this was going to be. How much I would change. How much I would hurt. How much I wanted to bail out. The normal feelings one goes through when dealing with inner conflict. I was going to have to read my Bible more, which was going to be easier said than done. I was going to have to find a devotional or some kind of curriculum to begin our study with, which would take a lot of time, and a lot of reading. I was going to have to emotionally prepare myself for a ton, like people getting angry about something I did or said…from outside and inside the church.

It was going to be painful…but it was going to be worth it.

A Small Girl’s Photo

I didn’t know her. By now no one must. The tiny square of the black and white image fell into my hand from the pages of the book. It was a treasure beyond treasures. A nameless face. A school photo with “1952” written on the back. Who was she? Why was her photo in my hand? How did it get from her home…or someone’s home…to the book I had just paid for at the thrifts store? I put it in my pocket for safe keeping until I could look at the little face once more.

I was in Illinois visiting a dear friend of mine when I found her. Hundreds of miles from home. How far was she? I got a deep sense that she was also very far from home.

She had big eyes. Must not have been older than maybe 7 or so. A kindergarten photo maybe? Perhaps blond hair? It’s hard to tell in black and white photos. I put her on my mirror and wondered stories surrounding her life. What if this was a child given away, and this photo was the only photo her biological mother or father had of her from the adopted parents? What if she was an orphan and had no parents at all? Was she alive? Was this her last photo ever taken and a parent or sibling used it as a book mark and looked at it every day they read, which was often? Maybe she was an avid reader herself? Maybe this book had once been hers and she just needed a bookmark and her old school photo was around?

I could go on. The tales only become more bizarre from there.

This is why I buy from thrift stores. To buy books that have had a history of love. It gives them a vibe. A kind of innocent kind of feeling even when you read tragedy. I especially love books that engross you in such deep thought and contemplation that you walk away from it a few times to make sure you comprehend the depth of it. The books don’t mind. They want to be understood, because the authors made them with that desire.

Perhaps I personify books too much? I don’t care. It’s how I feel.

I just hadn’t been expecting a mystery with my novel. Weird.

Feeling Small in California

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I woke to the sound of the rooster crowing. The sun had not yet risen, but my eyes no longer wanted to stay closed. I picked up my phone. The time was 5:29am. Back home it was 7:29am. I wondered if dad was already up and watching the Today show. Mom would have taken her thyroid pills by now and gone back to bed. I pulled the comforter around me attempting to sleep again. My body sunk into the pillow top mattress. The rooster didn’t crow anymore, but my eyes were open.

I didn’t have to wake up for work. Mind blowing.

I could hear him snore. The wall between us muffling the sound. It was a pleasant hum. Knowing he was alive and breathing. My mind twirled around the excitement of the day before. The flight. All those I encountered. I wondered about the woman in the pastel pink hoodie. She had been so kind and helpful. What was her name again? It had started with an L. Linda? No that wasn’t it. Laurie? Yes. That sounded right. I had hoped she had made her connecting flight in time, and was currently resting in her daughters guest room in Honolulu. She would have been there by 3am. Two hours ago. No. She was running on Central time like I was. That would have been four hours ago. Pacific time was really messing me up.

I recalled seeing the hills greet me, and watching them hold the fog off San Francisco as my plane landed. It may have been the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I closed my eyes again, listening to the wildlife outside my window. Cozy and comfortable. My neck and shoulders no longer hurt from the flight. He had rubbed them for me before I went to bed. It felt so nice, not just the relief he had caused me from my achy neck and shoulders, but feeling him there again. His presence in the house. Knowing he was in the same house.

I had missed him so much, and hadn’t known it until I saw him at the bottom of the escalator waiting for me. It felt wonderful. Awkward. We cracked jokes about the luggage as it passed by us, and tried to determine what belonged to whom, just on the condition of the luggage alone. We had gotten pretty good at it by the time mine spit out onto the Baggage Claim conveyor. On the way home we had to remember the most comfortable way to hold hands so that my wrist didn’t get stiff like it used to. It took a couple of tries. We kissed when traffic came to a halt as we left the city. The sun was setting. The bay was shimmering. The hills loomed in the dark as we drove. I couldn’t wait to see them in daylight. I had only seen them from above. They would be much more impressive on the ground in daylight.

We were going to see the Redwoods tomorrow. No, today. Ugh, time zone change. Ugh, darkness. I had a feeling it would take me the rest of the two weeks to figure out how to adjust to the time. I also had a feeling that between his 6′ height, the rolling high standing hills, and the Redwood trees, I was going to feel very small here in California.

I’m about to drive to the airport, get on a plane that weighs several tons. That hunk of metal is then going to fly me 2000 mi away several thousand feet, in the air.

I love modern engineering.