looking through me

fierce

Framing my desk is a wall of poetry and three quotes—one from a friend, one from a book and one from Shakespeare. They’re words that stretch my field of vision on cloudy days.

But the Shakespeare one has been nagging at me lately. Is it true? Should it be true? Would I want it to be true of me?

My answer used to be automatic. Yes. Absolutely, let it be said of me: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

It conjures an image of strength and feistiness. A scrappy soul.

And that seemed like a good thing. A resilient, little fighter.

But . . . when did life devolve to battling, to winning, to success being reduced to not failing?

The language started chafing when my grandma was journeying her final nineteen months. Why was she pushed to “beat” pneumonia? Why was a “fighting spirit” the highest praise? It rubbed me wrong that instead of celebrating her nine decades of grace and humor we championed a war against aging.

And as countless people I love—and people loved by people I love—are diagnosed with cancer or face other progressive challenges, the language is instantly one of battle. But isn’t life more than fighting death?

The line ran through my head again this morning as a friend prepares for a double mastectomy and another friend’s dad is imprisoned overseas and my own dad is confined to a hospital bed. No, I thought, I don’t want to be boiled down to ferocity. Unless the sentence continues.

May I be fiercely truthful, fiercely compassionate, fiercely loyal.
May I be fiercely present.
May I be fiercely hopeful and fiercely prayerful.
May I be fiercely courageous in locking arms with my people in the good and the hard.

And though I be but little, may I be fierce . . . in love.

 

 

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bruising season

The sunrise was gorgeous. The clouds, the shadows, the lights, the vibrancy of the colors. A sight that takes my breath away and sends me searching for words, so I don’t lose the scene.

Today? Not so much.

I looked at it. I acknowledged its beauty. And I kept going. There was no pause, no fear of forgetting . . . no awe. As though it wasn’t enough.

For days my mind’s been spinning and getting nowhere, but being outside tends to settle it. So as the morning waned, I took a walk.

The clouds were still impressive. A Monarch butterfly floated by on the song of unseen birds. The breeze was lovely. It was the perfect fall mix of cool air and warm sun. I looked for, but didn’t see, the great blue heron that’s been hanging out by the creek this week. I crunched through dry sycamore leaves.

I saw it all. I heard it. I felt it.

But I didn’t.

Instead, a sensation rippled across my shoulders and pounded on the inside of my rib cage as though my skin couldn’t contain me.

My focus is fragmented. My breathing is shallow. Tears threaten.

Why? What is different about today? What knocked my soul off center and took the rest of me with it?

Nothing. And everything.

I’m just not okay. All the things—Dad’s cancer, friends’ struggles, disturbing headlines—assault me. They use my mind as a trampoline and my heart as a punching bag.

It’s little surprise that some days the most stunning sunrise can’t loose the vise holding my lungs. And sometimes the perfect walk can’t perfect the day.

So in this bruising season, I press into the tender places and let the twinges remind me that okay—and not okay—comes in many shades.

The internal hues of today are a little darker than the external ones. I feel out of place in my own skin, in my own life. But admitting the disconnect helps balance the colors. The saturation point of my soul shifts.

My “not okay” is okay enough for today.

 


Note: I don’t post in real time, so this was written on Friday, November 3. That was two days before my dad’s symptoms returned with a vengeance. After four nights in the hospital and five nights (and counting) in a skilled nursing facility doing rehab, the colors of “okay” and “not okay” are more blurred than ever. Many questions and unknowns remain in this season. And still, God is good today and every day.  

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