Irisis

-I rarely post my own poetry because, let’s be honest, it’s more difficult to write, if you want to write it well. I’m sure I could revise it endlessly, but I’m happy enough with it to share it, especially since it relates to my feelings about Easter and why it’s always been my favorite holiday. Enjoy.

Irises

Ashes silently sway like snowflakes
all the long, hard winter
through dark, bitter nights.

I sit and burn
alone. Smoke and stars mingle
overhead. A lone coyote cries.

He creeps through broken
brush and limbs, hoping for fate
to fill his emptiness.

I know spring will come.
Not soon enough.

Maybe Mary felt this way,
too, her rotting brother Lazarus
wasting away for four days’ worth
of eternity.

She waited and wept and lost
hope.

011This Easter, the tightly wrapped
tips of the irises planted
decades ago in my flower bed,

Purple tips like paintbrushes
dipped in royal blood

Wait

Ready to color the whole world,

To unfurl themselves,
to live again.

–Bethany Wallace

 

Red lights

red lightI’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl in the back of my mom’s banana-colored Cutlass Supreme, I remember the 30-second daydreams at every red light.

When our car came to a halt, along with countless other cars at the four corners at every intersection with a traffic light, I glanced around at the other cars—not because I am fascinated with automobiles, but because I am fascinated with people.

What did that woman with curly blonde hair, sunglasses, and a cigarette think about at night when she went to bed? Did she have children at home, or was she living the single life? Did she lie on her couch and eat bon bons and watch soap operas all day long while wearing pink mumus? Did she work in a factory, or did she teach elementary school?

And what about the old man in the big blue pick-up truck? Did he have any grandchildren? Did they come visit him, or after his morning paper and coffee and chat with his former farmer friends at the café, did he return home to an empty, quiet house and sip sweet tea on the porch with his basset hound? Was he cold-hearted, and as a result, had no contact with his family? Or was he loving and affectionate, giving them gifts and sharing his war stories and teaching them how to fish?

It might have been my creative side preparing itself to write in the future. It might have been my tendency to stick my nose in other people’s business rearing its unattractive head. It might have been my big fat heart protruding itself through the pane glass of the car window, wondering and wandering at the vast amount of life at every street corner every day.

Sitting on our front porch, my husband and I often watch the sunset together with our daughter in the evening. This spring, the insects reappeared and began buzzing and hovering and clouding the horizon. Being the anti-bug advocate in the family, I reached for the repellant and fly swatter. Being the wildlife biologist in the family, my husband sat and gazed at the swarm of gnats illuminated by the sunlight.

Sunset view from our front porch, June 2013

Sunset view from our front porch, June 2013

“There’s a lot of life right there. A lot of life.”

I may not be able to muster up a similar sense of wonder regarding the flies on our porch, but I still find myself fascinated by the human lives around me today. Only it’s amplified now. After having my daughter, I don’t just gaze around in curiosity. I feel a crushing awareness in my heart that each of the people surrounding me, everywhere I go, have souls. They all have eternity ahead of them, either with or without Christ. They are all who they are today because of who the people in their lives were way back when.

This unavoidable awareness makes me less likely to judge people at red lights, people on the sidewalk, people at the health office, or people in Wal-Mart. They all have lives. Complicated, painful, tumultuous lives. They all have multiple relationships, and their choices affect other people every day. They might be in excellent health, or they might be a few days from taking their last breaths. They might be in touch with their families and feel loved and appreciated. Or they might be alone in the world with no one to call and no one to hold. They might be using drugs, or they might be sober. They might have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and running water to call home. Or they might sleep under the bridge near Polk Bayou. They might have been abused and mistreated their whole lives, or they might have the simplest, most pain-free lives imaginable.

My precious baby, June 2013

My precious baby, June 2013. Photo by Jessie Covington.

Regardless, all the people I encounter were once just tiny babies. They were innocent, small, helpless, dependent babies. They all made adorable facial expressions, learned to clap for the first time, cried for their mamas when they were tired and cranky, and laughed at the amazing new world around them.  Just like my little girl, they were bursting with hope, promise, and potential.

And like all babies, they grew up. Some of them might have been as lucky as my little girl, having two parents living in the same house who love each other and love her unconditionally. But I know that some of them weren’t as lucky. Some of them cried themselves to sleep too many times. Some of them weren’t held and carried but were hit and ignored or abandoned. When I look into the eyes of people I meet and see nothing but pain, emptiness, or rage, I know that something must have gone terribly wrong at some point. Maybe they were hurt by others. Maybe they’ve hurt others, too.

I will never know the stories of all the grown-up babies I encounter. But when I see them, I remind myself that just as God loves me as His child, and sees me as His precious creation even though I have repeatedly screwed up, He sees all the grown-up babies as His children. Some of them know Him as their Daddy. Some of them don’t. But He loves them all anyway.

And that’s what He’s asked me to do. Just love His babies.

Drowning the crocodile

peterpan66gm1I feel like Captain Hook every day.

I hear the tick tock of an invisible clock, and at times, it’s nearly audible. When I’m nursing my baby, and she decides to turn meal time into play time, I hear the ticking, telling me that there are three people waiting for me to return their calls and emails. When I’m checking my newsfeed on Facebook and take a moment to “like” my friend’s photo of her adorable, chunky toddler playing with his new tractor, I hear the clock ticking, tying strings to the index fingers of my mind, reminding me of the stack of homework and bills atop my desk.  When I’m reading poems by T.S. Eliot (which, by the way, I’m still proposing be removed from the list of American classics), I hear the clock ticking, reminding me of the stack of laundry waiting to be folded.

The clock is always ticking. It never stops. At times, I worry that I’ll just jump ship like Captain Hook, right into that crafty crocodile’s open mouth, giving up on the idea of even halfway managing to get anything done.

Nothing against crocodiles, but I’d honestly like to slit that crocodile’s throat, yank out the ticking clock, and smash it on the plank into millions of tiny, unrecognizable pieces.

But time doesn’t work that way. And neither does my mind.

I’ve always had a keen–probably overly keen–awareness of time. I’ve even written about it before. At times, it serves a beneficial purpose in my life. It keeps me on track. It helps me accomplish tasks. It motivates me to arrive promptly and finish work ahead of schedule. It reminds me of the great chasm between our tiny little lives on earth and eternity.

But every asset can be a defect if I let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. And after having a baby, I have noticed the tick tock growing louder and louder and louder. I have allowed the pendulum to swing way too far in the direction of defective for me.

My very wise mentor reminded me last week that God will never give me more than I can handle, but that I will give myself more than I can handle every single time.

That wasn’t the touchy feely, fairy godmother type of reminder I was hoping to receive, but it was the truth.

All I’ve been given each day is one day. In fact, I don’t even know for certain that I will live past 10:09 a.m., March 21, 2013. All I know is that I’m here, right now. My daughter is here, right now, sleeping peacefully in her crib during her nap (which hopefully lasts until I finish writing this post). My husband is here, quietly crunching numbers on his computer and drinking his coffee.

Listening to the clock and attempting to hold way too many things in my hands at one time. FAIL :).

Listening to the clock ticking and attempting to hold way too many things in my hands while using tissue to stop my nose from running. FAIL :).

Yes, there are crumbs on my marble counter tops. Yes, there is an embarrassing collection of bark, leaves, and clods of dirt in my living room floor, thanks to our wood-burning stove. Yes, my collection of literature for my upcoming comprehensive exam for my Master’s degree lies next to me, waiting to be opened and reviewed (again). And yes, post-it notes reminding me of things to order, bills to pay, dates to prepare for, and topics to write about are slowly taking over my once-tidy bulletin board, having spread from a smidgen of hot pink to a blinding mass of fluorescent mess.

Yesterday, as my daughter performed a cacophony of coos and impressive wrestling and gymnastics moves while halfheartedly nursing, the clock ticked.

And I heard a Still Small Voice.

“Just enjoy her.”

So I did.

I remembered a note stuck to my bulletin board (still visible despite the mess of bright pink post-its). On it are two phrases, both phrases whispered to me during a meditation exercise at a women’s conference a few years ago.

020One of the phrases reads, “Time enjoyed is not time wasted.”

Let me silence the clock today. Let me drown that crocodile (or slit its throat–whatever works) that keeps lurking around, encircling my mind.

Let me look at my daughter’s ever-changing face as I hold her in my hands.

Let me listen closely to what matters–the steady, quiet ticking of her tiny, growing heart.

 

Tick tock

A friend recently asked me if I felt like life was passing me by or that time was ticking by faster and faster. He and I are both in our early 30s, childless, and in monogamous dating relationships but not married.

I responded to his email, and said, “In a nutshell, yes. But let me write a longer response, too.”

I’d have to be blind to not notice the barrage of Facebook posts related to births of friends’ babies, little cuties dressed up for Halloween, or conversations regarding pregnancy and its pros and cons. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t also viewed countless photos of weddings, 10-year anniversary trips, and perfect-looking family pictures.

Thanks to my own experiences in life, I know that things aren’t always as perfect as they appear.

I was married (twice), and in both relationships, things probably looked adorable, affectionate, and admirable to outsiders, including close friends and family. There were good moments, but there was obviously more bad than good, or I wouldn’t be writing about it all in the past tense. 

It’s easy to convince people I’m happy even when I’m not. I did it for years.  

The difference now, in addition to the fact that I don’t pretend to feel things I don’t feel and fake appearances, is that I’m actually happy. I’m truly content. I’m at peace with my place in the world, with the pertinent relationships in my life, and with my Perfect Love, who persistently proves to me that He Is Who He Says He Is. Have there been times when I was miserable? More than you know. But I don’t have to be miserable. It’s a choice, and I’ve chosen to change what I can. Just because each circumstance doesn’t suit my taste doesn’t mean it has to ruin my day. Just because things need improvement doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the progress I see today. So, dear friend, in response to your question, yes and no.

Yes, I’m aware that most of my friends who are in my age group are having babies or raising children. I’m aware that almost all of them are married (happily or unhappily, but married nonetheless). I’m aware that several fellow alumni now hone graduate degrees.

But no, I don’t feel that life is passing me by. I feel very much in the center of time, of right now. I find joy every day in what I do, whether it’s advising a student at my very wonderful part-time job, folding countless pairs of work jeans for James, or hiking in my own picturesque and gigantic backyard. I’m right where I’m supposed to be right now doing just what I’m supposed to be doing. I know this because I just try to do the next right thing, and I’m doing the best I can do, and between God and me, everything’s kosher.

I don’t want anyone else’s life, and I don’t want what I do not have. By a miracle, I presume, my Higher Power has opened my eyes to see that everything is what it is. I am who I am and where I am today. I am not just accepting reality. I’m giving thanks for it, rejoicing in it, and immersing my soul in every precious second of it as it comes. Because it won’t come again.

Infinitely in the moment

There’s nothing more touching–or flattering, let’s be honest–than someone writing about you. Recently, a friend of mine had an assignment to write about an “infinite person.” He was able to define the term in his own words, and basically broke it down to mean someone who expresses himself openly, explores the ideas/thoughts of others without passing judgment, welcomes the ideas and feelings of others with an open heart and mind, and has a good soul.

I felt really honored to be defined in these terms. I saved the email (which contained the body of the paper) so that I could reflect on it during times when I don’t feel so infinite or good because–let’s face it–we all have days like those.

Lately, through a lot of self-reflection, personal trials and circumstances, and interactions with others and relationships I’ve formed, God seems to be bringing me back around to the theme of living in the moment over and over again. I know why. I haven’t always been capable of living this way. In the past, I either lived in the past (beating myself up over things I’d done the wrong way and would’ve done differently) or lived in the future (worrying about things that might never even come to fruition).

One of the great ironies I’ve discovered lately is that the more I am able to stay in the moment, the more I’m able to transcend the little irritations and bugs and ticks of life. Forget the bugs and ticks–I’m able to transcend the monumental mountainous hurdles that seem impossible to overcome as well. I’m able to appreciate today, this second, and realize that in due time, in most cases, everything will resolve itself without me doing a single thing about it. Ultimately, the more I’m in the present, the more infinite I feel.

Yesterday I was with someone I admire who closed his eyes and didn’t say a word. I asked him what he was thinking. “Nothing really,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Me too.