Sunday, April 26, 2015

Scholar's Day and Twelve Years as a Wife and Christian

I went to stub out my stick of Dragon's Blood incense, and stopped in front of the mirror for a moment. The smoke wreathed around me, circled my head like a halo, curled over my shoulder, dissipated in the still air of my closed bedroom. I was up early. Not because I needed to practice my presentation again, but to center myself...somehow calm the terrible beast of fear that had been throwing cars and stomping on pedestrians and toppling condominiums in my stomach all week. I woke at 5:00 and circled the neighborhood in my parka as the sun rose, then it was back to my room for Tibetan meditation music and yoga...visualizing myself standing in front of a room full of people, confident instead of vulnerable, calm and smooth instead of stumbling. I convinced myself that I had information that they needed. That my research was going to break something open for them, or at least teach them something they hadn't known. I stared at my reflection. This woman. Able, terrified, but willing. I had a vivid flashback to 9 years ago at this time. I was stunned.

I was sitting in our living room in sweats, exhausted from another night of up twice with the baby. The chubby cherub played on the floor nearby while I watched daytime television dazedly. I thought vaguely about making dinner later, about the laundry that I should fold. I did not think about what I should have been thinking about. About how my life was wall to wall nothing. A blank. I had a beautiful daughter. A painful marriage. A nice home. Not much else. I had one friend in the world, and she didn't like me too much since I had become Christian, gotten married. I couldn't blame her. I didn't like me either.

I hadn't read a book in 2 years. Nor written a word that wasn't in my prayer journal. "Isn't God great?" (He is. But. Come on.) I didn't challenge my body. Or sing. Or create. Or listen to the music. I didn't do anything besides wifeandmother. I didn't know who I was anymore. At occasional social gatherings, I had become a stepford. I swapped recipes, and told lies about how great my husband was with all the other nice ladies. We smiled serenely at them from across the room. I listened to worship music because everything else was poison. When I felt the pressure build up...to revisit myself, to let her out of prison, I prayed her away. Here's how it went: I got saved. I got married. All in the matter of 3 months. Somehow what God wanted and what my husband wanted all got twisted up together. My husband was god. God was God. And what they told me in the church and in the books and on the radio was that I had to be. Be. Be. Blameless. Spotless. Better. Careful. That I had to stop it. Cleanse my eyes, my ears, my environment, my soul. Crucify the old. Or God can't be pleased. My husband can't be pleased. The church will not be pleased. And so. I killed her. But my reflection this morning told else-wise: my strong body and mind, obscured by smoke, ready to conquer - like a super hero. No. She didn't die. She was merely gone for a time. She took an extended break. She's back.

It started with the first step I ran. It started the first time I said "No, you can't" or "I won't" or "That's not right". It started with the first book I read (it was about giant pumpkin growing). It started when I went to church and instead of nodding along, said "But...?" It started when I walked out of a prayer group and decided I'd never spend another Wednesday evening lying through my teeth and eating brownies again. It started when I pulled out a Tori Amos album, that wicked atheist, and sang my heart out...waiting for lightning to strike me, and not really caring anymore if it did. It started when I accepted invitations...to volunteer, to create relationships, to write again. I didn't burst out of my tomb...I crawled, shifting one speck of dirt at a time. It took 12 years. And I stood there unearthed this morning: exuberant in my fear, living on the edge of my ability, barely remembering what it felt like to be so trapped, so terrified, so very very dead and empty inside. I'd say restored, but I am not. I am better.

My presentation was about a miraculous journey. And I delivered it better than I had any right to. It was an amazing morning. I feel like I have been on my own miraculous journey as well. It was twelve years ago this month that I reconnected with God, and married both he and my husband. My understanding of, and relationship to God is no longer confining...suffocating, but joyous and open. And my marriage has mercifully almost reached it's end. Sometimes I have to pinch myself . I am utterly stunned that I get to live life as I was. Say and be what I want without fear of retribution. It feels like an impossible gift. Each day that I get up and think independent thoughts, that are free from the fear of judgement - God or man's, is an incredible day. The captive has been set free.

Hallelujah.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Certainty of Uncertainty

The girls are outside playing with their neighbor friends in the sunshine, while I study for a test coming up this week. I took a break, looked around my room for a moment and wondered if I hadn't better start thinking about packing? Maybe, less like thinking about it, and more like actually doing it? But pack what? And when will it be moved? And where will it go?

I am supposed to be divorced next month. Should be. Ought to be. Finally. Or so they tell me, but we'll see. You know how these things go. I'll believe it when they slide the papers in front of me and I am scrawling my name. I have gotten a lot of questions in the last year - like how we can stand to live together, and when are things going to change and what will they change into and how can I, in light of the history and the current situation, not be quite ready to be admitted to the psychiatric ward?

Living with uncertainty is hard, but doing it when you are just a tiny bit of a hysterical control freak feels impossible. Except it's not. It only felt that way before I did it, then once I started doing it, I kind of became an expert at it. It is the ultimate exercise in mindfulness - there is nothing but this present moment. There can't be. There is no room for the future in my mind, unless I want to succumb to levels of anxiety that threaten sleep, health, mental acuity, physical well being, and the safety of everyone within a 1 block radius.

The girls and I have nowhere to live when this is over. Nor anything to drive. And it'll likely end quite suddenly. I don't know what I will materially or financially have to work with. I don't know if I will be able to stay in school and if all my hard work has been a giant waste of time. I don't know if my kids will be happy or adjust right or if their little futures are as good as garbage. I don't know if we will settle in 2 weeks, have it settled in court for us in 5, or if the judge will postpone us for months. I don't know how my future-exhusband and I will work out childcare and co-parenting. And, we don't need to mention those other larger uncertainties of: will I achieve my goals, be able to travel and retire someday, be found by a kind man who doesn't make me crazy that I don't make crazy either?

My life right now is one giant question mark. But yours are too, if you think about it. Really. We sort of have this unspoken agreement with the universe don't we? "Let's pretend that I am in charge of my own life and that all of my precious little plans are going to go just like they do in my daydreams." Hahahaha. Aren't we cute? Ask the woman who's child died suddenly, or the athlete who got some rare cancer out of the blue, or the person with the indestructible career who has been laid off for 2 years. We don't know. You can make promises to yourself, your mate, your kids, your boss but you don't know for certain that you will keep a goddang one of them. If we get through the day, and the biggest surprise is being 10 minutes late for work due to a traffic jam, or that you can't make the soup you'd planned to because someone ate the chicken, consider yourself lucky. Really lucky. Tomorrow, you may not be so lucky.

I get to manage all this right now. Good learning taking place over here. Good trust and surrender. Good living in and for the present. What I do is think exclusively about today, or maybe a few hours of tomorrow. But that's it. I'm reminded of an object lesson I learned backpacking in the Alleghenies. Lost, and then alone for 10 hours, not having seen another soul, and without a cell signal - I was forced to trust in what hikers call "trail magic". Something would come up. Help is provided somehow when you least expect it. I went through a few hours of panic and praying, before I realized all I could do was to keep walking in the direction I thought was the right, and hope the way out is clear. As night was falling and I was facing a second 40 degree night of exposed camping, I came to an abandoned dirt road crossing and saw a car. Of course they gave me a ride 40 miles to my car, because of course they were heading that way, and of course they were just about to drive away when I came stumbling out of the woods in the growing dusk. Of course. Of course. On the way back to my car, I pondered the likelihood of running into them. If I had stopped for a 5 minute break to adjust my shoes or eat a snack during my 35 mile wandering, I would have missed them. I'd have survived; I had enough gear and skills to make it, certainly. But I wanted out, and out I was ferried. It was then that I realized that "trail magic" is real. But it's not trail magic. It is life magic. Serendipity. Benevolence. A way will be provided. Here's how it goes: when you are done learning, the proctor takes your test, gives you an "A" and buys you dinner. Do you see that? I know you have experienced it.

If you are living in uncertainty now, comrade, I salute you. We can do this. If you are not, good for you, but don't get cocky because you will be soon. Maybe you'll never be as deep in the water as I am now and treading for dear life, and in that case you are lucky. This lesson is extra-special: tailor made for a planner and worrier like me. And when the growth experience is over, I am eagerly expecting that dose of benevolence in reward for my patience. Of course it was supposed to work out this way. Of course. All I had to do, is trust and wait.

Godspeed.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

At Hospice on Easter, She Snaps Open Her Wings and Floats Away

She is lying on her side. She affirmed her comfort from the drawn sunkeness of her toothless and slack mouth, though it barely seems possible as her bones are covered only with skin, the padding of muscle and fat burned up for her body's survival. She is 97. Sometimes, it is hard here..when the patients are in their 40s or 50s, in fear or bad humor...out of it, their minds as wasted as their bodies. When it is good is when there is happiness and lightness and passive anticipation of the imminent river crossing.

I have come here as often as time allows, which is not much when you are in the honors program of a science heavy degree, the mother of two kids, operating a charity..a house and dog and life to tend to. But, it turns out that with nothing to do on the holidays with absentee family and the kids with their father, that this is as good a place as any to come. Maybe, a better place. First for Thanksgiving, when a patient's life partner cooked a beautiful chicken and stuffing. Then for Christmas, when an affectionate, involved and gregarious family took the place over and stuffed me with cookies. And today on Easter. The family made a ham, offered us some, and I brought my extra Easter basket chocolate for the volunteers so I wouldn't eat myself into diabetes this week. I do my homework and listen like a hawk for the sounds of regular breathing coming from both rooms: in-out. No one has died on my watch yet. It will happen someday. My worst thought is not that it will, but that I'd miss it. That a patient would die alone, with me five feet away.

I don't know what's wrong with me. Why do I come here? People ask how I can handle it, all the time they ask, but I have no answer. It's how I was made. I think if you are made for this you know. And you are sort of obligated to do it. I am not from here. Neither are they. It is a privelege to wait on them as they prepare to return home. I have a lot of beliefs. One of them is: gentle in, gentle out. And this place is gentle; there is an ease in transitioning to the invisible, shedding the human shell. The ghosts of the hundreds of souls who've passed through here, out of here, are not stuck. If they are, I can't feel them. This place is a waiting room. A tunnel of light. I like to think that we are like doormen: holding the door open, bowing low, averting our eyes as they choose to walk through. It is, despite the impossiblity, quite a happy place to be.

I wonder what difference does it make to change diapers and dispense pills and pat hands. But I know it's everything. If it were me there, lying and waiting, it'd be everything. A human who doesn't belong to me, who could have just put my socks on my feet, but took the time to massage them with rich lotion first. If that's not a spiritual act, I don't know what the hell is.

It is free to be here. Did you know that? The residents don't pay. Niether does insurance. We have cable and internet and a fully stocked fridge, guest beds, every feasible comfort and neccesity. And it all runs on the "we hope there'll be enough donations this year" program. Nineteen years, somehow there has always been enough. It is good insurance companies aren't involved, that we can be off the grid, that we can be humans caring for humans. But I cannot imagine the stress of the brave women in charge. What do they need more - caretakers or cash? The answer is different every week.

The patients have stories, that go beyond the medical. And we get to hear them. Look at pictures of grandchildren, talk about a love of birds, a special blanket, a late spouse they are anxious to be renited with. Sometimes they cry quietly. Sometimes there is an undercurrent of fear in their voices. Sometimes they want to pretend they are just on holiday. And we meet them in their truth or their delusion and agree. Agree with all of it. You would like a milkshake from McDonalds for dinner? Yes. Yes, you may. We will go get you one. A martini with your morphine? Point me towards the vermouth. This is their show, they direct and star. We are merely stagehands and ushers.

What I have learned about death from taking care of the dying is that it comes too fast and too damn slow. That it hurts and it is painless. That it is terrifying and peaceful. That there is nothing nothing nothing nothing that can stop it. It is an out of control freight train, and we are all tied to the tracks. I could tell you to get right with God but it doesn't matter, because you'll die anyway. And I am quite certain he'll be happy to see you when you do.

What strikes me is how, even for the very old, they will tell you life went by in a blink. We can measure our days out in the events: the weddings and births, losses, crisis, moves and shifts and it sounds like so much. So so much is happening, has happened, will change. So many stories that we could write hefty novels. But it's really just a nothing. A little bit of a nothing, a drop of time in the cosmic expanse of it all. But in the moment, its everything. And in the end, it's all we had.

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Monday, March 9, 2015

A letter to my younger self

Dear 20 year old Shel,

I have a secret to tell you. It doesn't get easier...actually it gets worse. I know that's scary because it feels like you are drowning now. But though circumstances will get tougher, YOU will get stronger. The pain ahead hardens you like forged steel, and softens you like a flower. You'll learn to adsorb punches. Not like a heavy bag that sways with each blow, but like a boulder on the beach, taking the crushing waves placidly and with resigned determination. You'll learn to surrender to life, and find refinement in the pain.

I know you are afraid to leave the house and lonely. Longing to try things but unable to move off the couch. I know right now you are waiting for your miracle. But that will change. In the future you'll realize that the miracle doesn't come. That YOU are the miracle. You stop playing dead. You stop settling for survival. You find out that you're steering the ship, and make it go where you want. Because God's on Team Shel, and even if you aren't sure, nothing scares you anymore except wasting time.

You are going to know grief. Real grief. You think you have stories now? Just wait, you'll have better ones. You'll suppress and squash and cram yourself into a closet for a good...oh, 13 years. But no matter how you try to run from it, you'll still be you. Yea, you'll be locked up for a long time...but eventually, you get back out..blinking hard in the light of day. And then - peace.

You'll still curse your lot sometimes: your body, your nervous nature, the tendency to rush and panic. But you learn to appreciate it for what it can do: carry you on adventures, calculate risks, get shit done. You'll stop shaking your head and denying it when someone pays you a compliment...most of the time. The tapes that play on repeat in your head, the ones that say: "You can't, you shouldn't, you aren't worth it"? You'll learn to silence them mostly. Instead you'll hear things like "why not?" and "just try" and "I'm valuable". That was hard...you worked hard for that. So be proud. And don't quit.

You learn to stop saying everything that's on your mind every damn second. That having a big mouth is power, and you'll mostly use your powers for good. Except when you forget, because that happens too. But you learn grace for yourself when you do. You have amazing children who make demands of you that you feel inadequate to meet. But they'll be okay. And you'll reassure yourself that they'll work it out in therapy in their 20s. You'll accept yourself for doing your best. And others for doing theirs. Most of the time.

You'll have everything you ever thought you wanted. And be miserable for most every second of it. But then you'll find new things to dream for, and that's so much better. You feel mostly alone here now, but in the future you aren't. The Universe is going to bring you people...giiiirl! I can't even tell you the characters He has lined up for you! It's all the proof you need that He's watching and He cares. You are going to have such fun, like you never dreamed. Really. Never. Because right now you don't have the courage to even acknowledge what you could have. But buckle up, because you're going to get it. See and do and be what you could have never imagined. And be grateful. And maybe even a little proud.

There is so so much to look forward to. First you have to go through that bad stuff. Then some more bad stuff. Then you'll get here: living with joy and freedom in between the bad stuff that's sure to descend again, and realize that its actually the bad stuff that made it so damn good. Godspeed.
Love,
Future Shel

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Faith of Yes.

"Not only the thirsty seek the water, the water seeks the thirsty."
Rumi


Hi. My name is Shel, and I am a recovered fundamentalist Christian. This is my first meeting, so I'll tell you some things.

My faith is the faith of YES. I praise Jesus, read mystic poets and burn incense to clear bad energy. I believe that in many circumstances, casting your eyes towards the ceiling constitutes a good enough prayer. I believe in the good. The REAL good - not the man, not the building, not the doctrine, not the corporation meeting, not the building fund, not the coffee bar, or the rules. But the good in you, in me. That's the Good News - it's available and we are capable. I believe that friendship is better than church. I think religious people spend too much time thinking about how things ought to be, and not enough time making them that way. I took my heart out of a community obsessed with shame. I heard 'em preach grace grace grace, but the real message was: you aren't. You aren't righteous enough, praising enough, reading enough, striving enough, serving enough, giving enough, doing enough, sharing enough, being enough. And by implication: He is displeased with you. And, I. Was. Exhausted. You can't call faith freedom, when it leads to self loathing. That ain't free, baby. It's jail.

It's also not true. They lied. He is neither pleased nor displeased. He just IS. Where is he? Every-freaking-where. But the most important place is right beside you, around you, and in you. You want the crux of my faith? I'll give it to you: you're enough for Him. Are you trying your best? Good, that's enough. Sometimes your best looks like you in your sweats, with the covers pulled up to your chin, marathons of Cheers, piles of undone work and neglected kids. Or hungover. Or chewing Xanax like Pez. Or doing something repulsive to ease your loneliness. Or smoking when you should be walking. Or eating when you should be praying. Or lying when you should be truthing. But, if that's all you have today, that's okay. Maybe you'll have more tomorrow. As long as your eye is on try and believe, eventually you'll get there.

Where? Where are we getting? We are getting into Heaven, baby. That's right. Me and you. And it starts right now. It starts with you recognizing that you've got something good and then opening your hands, and sharing it with the person next to you. The person in the hole, in the pit of despair, in the belly of the beast. Because you know the way out, so lead on.

A man I barely know opened his mouth and spoke prayer over me so good, so righteous, so real and free the other day that it made me remember that God is too big for our prescriptions and our stupid god-sized boxes we try to cram him into. And I am tired of pretending I don't know it. God is the secular and the sacred. God is in everything - including the big S's: Science and Sex. God is respect and tolerance, dancing and singing. God is knowledge, courage, peace, mercy, acceptance, friendship, patience, kindness, and love. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Big juicy love that tastes like the chocolate cheesecake and looks like a cherry blossom after an endless winter and feels like the arms of a long lost friend wrapped around your grieving body. God loves art. God loves honesty. God loves you.

And Heaven starts here. We start now, by looking out and looking up. And every day we look out and up, we are a step closer to Nirvana, Transcendence, Heaven. Floating through the mountain pass to get that work started here, finished there. Are you thirsty? Good news: the water is seeking you. It's calling your name: come, lay down your arms, I have made a place for you. Rest here. Everyone is welcome.

Godspeed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Love Wins

A sweet friend, who is having a really hard time lately (Okay, really hard time is an understatement. This kind of hard time is the kind when you question whether the sky above you can stand the weight of itself, and may just crash down and crush you with it. The kind of hard time you have in your  twenties when you don't have the perspective of surviving a decade or two of ugly shit and turmoil under your belt. The kind of hard time you have when you question if you can continue being alive.) asked me how I was. Me. How am I? What a brave thing to do - to care about someone else when your world has narrowed to a pinprick of pain.

I didn't really know how to answer her. I obviously have a lot going on - intense classes, divorce, motherhood, uncertain future, so many intersections and choices. Not necessarily in that order of importance - but maybe in that order of brain space. What I answered wasn't really much of an answer. But I found someway to answer it, in my circular non-answer way:

"It is not important how I am, just what I believe. What I believe is peace, victory, and choice. Love wins. That's what I believe. Life is unpredictable, painful, traumatic. But love wins."

It made me wonder. I believe that - but is that what is universally true? Sure, true in the truest sense - that in the Universe, the big G, the big Guy, the all loving and all knowing, wins. But in your life - in mine - does love win? And when will we know the score? At the end, just before our eyes close the final time? That hardly seems fair. To live with the uncertainty of the balance, and finally see the scales tip in favor of good at the last moment. Wouldn't it be better to know in advance? Or at least anticipate that the weight of your life added up to more love than not-love.


Some say that the only assurance in life, is death. And that's true. But I think there can be more. While we can't be sure to live gently to age 85 in good health, and die a king's death peacefully in our sleep, with loved ones gathered to capacity at our funeral. Or life long love. Or contentment and plenty. Or. Or. Or. We can be assured of what we choose to believe. Belief is a gift (for those who are lucky) but also a choice, for those who aren't. Which is most of us. So for those without the gift of faith - you get to choose. Does love win? Despite pain, and loss and tremendous difficulty, the focus of your attention and your life can be on one of two things: fear or love. Because, contrary to our first instinct - hate is not the opposite of love. Fear is. When we fear what we can't control, whom we can't know, what we haven't experienced ourselves, and all that we are afraid will harm us - we hate. So what then do you focus on - the fear, or the love?

There is choice each day. More than whether you should get the candy bar or the bag of pretzels on your lunch break, or whether to flip off the guy who nearly side-swiped you or give him a wave of understanding. You have the gift to decide each morning what you'll put into the world, and what you'll take in return. The sum of all those decisions is the answer to the question "does love win?" Every time you turn your focus to the good, the brave, the positive, the hopeful - love is winning.

Maybe you don't have romantic love. Maybe, as Anne Lamott is famous for saying , you are romantically loved by an Asshat. Maybe your children or parents have abandoned you, or never existed. Maybe you worked so hard at your career, you forgot to make the time to say hello in elevators, or go to church and shake hands, or smile at the nice person you always see at the dog park, and love feels as close to you as Jupiter is to Earth. And you'd be in good company. You can choose that definition for yourself - that you were maimed, or unlucky, and love is not for you. Not in this life. Or you can choose different. Because love is choice and freedom. Your heart can be full, if you'd take the lid off it.

You start by believing it. Even though you don't believe it, that is where the belief seed is planted - in the lie. "Love wins". You say it enough times, and it takes root, no matter how bitter you are. When you're convinced, action follows. Kindness, gentleness, empathy. Eyes facing outside you, instead of in. You can't force it, and you don't have to try - it just does. And pretty soon you might get some love back. Unless you don't. Not directly. Or it takes time. Or lessons need learning. You keep loving anyway, because you can't help it. Even when it isn't returned - love still wins.

Because it won you.

Godspeed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Mama, will you tell me a story..?"

For the last year or so, my nine year old has requested that I tell her a bedtime story. This exercise involves me making a fictional tale up on the spot, off the cuff, for her consumption. Sometimes it is the only thing that will relax her into sleep. Frequently if she has trouble drifting away and gets out of her bed multiple times to share her plight, we can trace the trouble back to a rushed bedtime...that included no story. Maya doesn't ask for stories, only Lily. Sometimes, to wriggle out of it, I ask Lily if she will tell me a story instead, or "perhaps we could collaborate"? Both suggestions are always met with whining. I despise authoring fiction. It is pretty much the only thing I don't write - struggling to suppress the fear of inadequacy, the creativity gets stifled in my throat. But she forces me to. I hate that she demands this of me, because it is bed time, and it has been a long day, and...reasons. But I love that she demands it of me, because it is something special just for us. And she likes me, and is still innocent enough to appreciate a story about a family of bunnies or a shelf fungus growing in the woods. My regret (besides all the nights I have tried to worm out of it or quickly dashed off a story about a ladybug who wanted to be friends with her), is that I have written now, probably a couple hundred stories, and cannot remember one of them. She can easily rattle off her favorites, or even tell me all about a series I created around a magical hat that grants wishes to the wearer. But to me they are lost. How many fairy tales or family yarns were told to each of us as children that we remember implicitly? They became part of us...the fabric of our childhood, creating strong images that we can revisit with ease, recalling the emotion of that time, the feeling of being small and full of wonder and simple. She will remember. I will not. I love that she is the repository of my stories, yet I hate that our only shared memory is of the two of us lying on her bed in the dark, while I cast my eyes about her room, praying for inspiration. I want to remember the stories too. Better, I wish I could experience them through her child sized consciousness.

I have been very busy with school work lately, and sadly she is aware of it, and trying to put her needs second. Thus she has started asking me for stories less often - a mixed point of jubilation and sadness, because I am certain that one day I will long for her desire to listen to me. Tonight, however, as I crawled into her bed she said those familiar words again: "Mama, will you tell me a story?". This isn't her only refrain though, because the same set of words always follows "The end". No matter how dismal my efforts, she always emits a contented sigh of, "I liked that story." How do I approach this bear of  task? My inspiration is taken from the animals on her bed sheet, a book title on the nearby shelf, an article of her clothing, or sometimes, our own real lives. The stories are not involved or eloquent. Sometimes there are life lessons. Frequently they feature animals, bugs, forests, and friendship. When I am rushed and desperate, they are silly and pointless. But no matter what, they are always hopeful, because that is something that my Lily and I have in common. So here, for posterity's sake, tonight's story. Perhaps if you tell it to your own child, he or she will find the magic in it. A magic so simple, it is lost on my adult brain.

The Little Bird
       Once there was a little bird who lived happily and peacefully in a gentle forest. Each day the little bird did the same things: flew to the same places, collected the food she liked best, and at evening time, took wing back home. Her nest was a very nice nest. It was warm and comfortable, perched high in a stable and safe tree. Her life was pleasant, and the little bird was content.
      One day as she was out flying her usual route, she came across a bird she had never seen before. This bird was the same size and type of bird as she, but his feathers were more colorful and there was something different about the way he swooped and twittered. Because the little bird was trusting and brave, she flew to him and they sang to each other. They easily became friends and he invited her to spend the day exploring with him. He took her to all of his favorite places, which were very far from the safe woods. She saw new sights and tasted new seeds she'd never had, and they flew through dangerous and exciting places as he led her to his tree so she could see where he lived. His nest was perched precariously on a high branch in a tree that was clinging to a cliff's ledge.When she landed on the branch, she gazed down into a chasm, that was frighteningly deep, with a rushing turquoise river at the bottom. In every direction she looked, she saw mountains and wild flowers and the most beautiful, exciting, terrifying things she could have imagined.
      After having a wonderful day, the friends bid each other a sad goodbye, and the little bird flew home. She loved her comfortable nest in her safe tree, but when she landed and snuggled in for the night, she felt somehow that she loved it a bit less. Now that she knew what else there was. Over the next weeks and months, the bird kept to her regular routine, but she grew restless with her familiar things. So one morning, after her usual quiet night of sleep, and after finishing the same breakfast she ate each day, she decided she'd had enough. She flew as fast as she could through the terrifying places to the edge of the cliff, to find her friend. When she arrived, he happily welcomed her, and the two of them set to work making her a new nest, and she spent the rest of her life having wonderful adventures. The end.