The Waiting Place


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

–Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”

The red chairs sat and waited. They waited for the crowds to come. They waited for the children with their sand toys to jump on them, dirtying them with their sticky fingers. They waited for the women in bikinis to lounge across them, after first setting the chair back at just the right angle to create a smooth body silhouette. They waited for men in swimsuits too large or too small to heave themselves into the chair before pulling out their smartphone to catch up on emails or read the latest headlines.

The red chairs sat and waited for the sweaty backs, the hairy chests, the cleavage, the lumpy asses, and the sandy toes. They waited for the laughter, the sighs, and the easy conversations. They waited to be put to use. They waited for their purpose.

The red chairs sat and waited. They waited like the eager kindergartener waits for the first day of school. They waited like the teenager waits with dramatic angst to be rid of teachers, midterms, curfews, and parental controls.

They waited like the young women in love waits for her down-on-one-knee proposal. They waited like the betrothed then waits for the Big Day.

They waited like an expectant mother waits for the first labor pains and then waits for the pain to –please God! – be over. They waited like sleep-deprived new parents desperately wait for just a few hours of sweet slumber.

They waited like a college graduate waits for a job interview, an internship, anything to pay the bills. They waited like a disgruntled worker waits for a new boss, a new job, or retirement.

The red chairs sat and waited. They waited for praise and appreciation, for purpose and utility. They waited, like we all wait, telling ourselves that once we achieve this or obtain that, then we will be happy. Then we will have it all. Then…then…then…

The red chairs sat and waited. They waited under umbrellas that offered just the right mixture of sun and shade. The red chairs sat and waited, never realizing that, right here and right now, they had the best seats in the house to one of nature’s greatest artistic displays. Never realizing that, even without the crowds of beach-goers, they had a purpose.

The red chairs sat and waited, never realizing that, alongside the other idle red chairs, they were not alone. Never realizing that, right here and right now, they were happy. Never realizing that, right here and right now, they already had it all.

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

Posted in Happiness, Photo Inspiration Challenge, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Enough


Photo Credit: Tony Hall via Flickr

These words have an uncertain future. The letters that are arranged to form the words, that are separated by punctuation in accordance with grammatical rules, have high hopes of becoming representations of thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities.

But will these letters and words, commas and periods, hyphens and semicolons earn their rightful place on the virtual page with one click of the “publish” button? Or will a decision to hit “delete” instead erase their dreams of immortality, tossing the sentiments into oblivion?

Will the ideas represented by this collection of nouns and verbs, adverbs and adjectives, prepositions and participles be for my eyes alone? Or will these vulnerabilities disguised in questions and hypotheticals, sarcasm and criticism survive to face the possible rejection that comes when they open themselves up to external review?

As I type, I wonder at the fate of these words. Will they remain locked inside a cerebral vault, hidden from prying eyes? Or will this assortment of words take the ultimate leap and submit themselves to an online writing competition, accepting the risk of judgment and rejection that comes along with any contest?

The fear of rejection has a tight grip over me. It always has. The taunting face of rejection stares back at me from my mental mirror. It stands guard over my words, quieting the ideas that yearn to be shared. It holds court over my choices, favoring the guaranteed successes to uncertain risks. It steps on my self-esteem, after first kicking it in the gut.

I sense rejection’s mocking, jeering presence and I wonder how I will respond. Will the fear of rejection keep me from participating in the contest, thereby removing the possibility that rejection can heckle me with its nasty chant of “you’re not good enough?” Or is it my turn to stand up to the fear of rejection, recognizing that competition provides motivation for improvement and the opportunity for constructive feedback?

I am inclined to hide these words and shelter myself from potential rejection and any accompanying blows to my confidence.

But I’m sick of cowering in the corner wondering what might be. I am tired of letting fear’s handcuffs shackle me to inaction and the status quo. I have grown weary of the spitefully diabolical voices of rejection, doubt, criticism, and judgment.

Enough, I say. Enough.

This time the fear of rejection will not win. This time I win, if only because I chose to play.

 I am linking up with Yeah Write again this week. Each week a number of talented writers link up to read and be read. I am proud to have earned an honorable mention last week for my post “Hands and a Song.” It is truly an honor. Check out this week’s entries. You can vote for your favorites from Wednesday night to Thursday night. 

 

Posted in Perfectionism, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

Alive


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Every once in a while we are granted a rare opportunity to escape the reality of our everyday. This past weekend I left the world of laundry and tantrums, carpools and playdates, and obligations and schedules. I stepped back into the carefree days of another lifetime – days of after-hour bars and loud music, sleeping late and wasting time, self-indulgence and irresponsibility.

For the second year in a row, my husband and I attended the Pitchfork Music Festival. After enjoying a long lunch and a few cocktails, we arrived fashionably late for Saturday’s lineup.

Later that afternoon, we anxiously waited to see Sleigh Bells, one of our favorite bands, perform. Armed with spiked Vitamin Water, we stood among the mass of other indie music aficionados. We talked about the other bands we planned to see that day. We marveled at the unexpectedly amazing poetry reading we had stumbled upon as we wasted time between acts (us at a poetry reading – what?!?), and my husband gushed about the cute pixie singer for the Cults (one of the earlier bands).

We waited and waited and waited as the sun blazed, burning away the last cloudy remnants of the earlier rainstorms. Suddenly, the sound of a screeching guitar was heard slightly off stage. The lead singer walked out in a leather motorcycle jacket, cut-off denim shorts, and ripped fishnets, clutching the microphone close to her mouth as she welcomed the throngs of fans. Energized screams cut through the summer air.

Before I knew it, bodies were crushed against me. The crowd of excited fans moved as a singular unit, like a wave quickly washing forward to the stage and then slowly falling back away. Within minutes, my body was dripping with my own sweat, the sweat of others, and water that sprayed down from open bottles of Dasani launched in the air.

I clutched my husband’s hand as he helped move us ever closer to the stage with each surge of the crowd. Soon enough, we were so close that I could see the small bruise above the lead singer’s left knee. The band played on – True Shred Guitar, You Lost Me, Comeback Kid – and, with each surge of the crowd, my Havaianas slipped further into the sludgy earth. I prayed I wouldn’t fall.

Personal boundaries were nonexistent. The leg of a stranger was inadvertently pressed intimately close to my own. I clutched my husband’s hand tighter, even though there were other bodies now separating us.

For forty-five minutes, my face burned, my body ached, and I feared I would be swallowed by the swelling throng of eager fans.

For forty-five minutes, my throat grew hoarse as I sang along with the crowd.

For forty-five minutes, my feet screamed as they were stepped on and crushed under the weight of other bodies.

For forty-five minutes, I laughed, I screamed, I sweat more than I think I ever have before.

For forty-five minutes, I lost all control of my own body, and was at the mercy of the movements of those around me.

For forty-five minutes, I felt energized, a little scared, and deliriously happy.

For forty-five minutes, I felt completely and utterly alive.

And that night, when I returned home to our house in the suburbs, scrubbed the caked mud from my feet, and crawled under the soft, familiar covers of my bed, I thanked God that I would have a whole year to enjoy my quiet everyday reality and prepare myself for that mayhem again.

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

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Hands and a Song


Photo Credit: ladyvee9 via Flickr

Inside the church, the air was hot, like a weight pressing down on the building and the congregants in it. Summer in Chicago will do that.

The service was nearing its end. My husband and I sat shoulder to shoulder, lost in our own thoughts. Mine shifted between prayer, reflection, daydreams, and ideas about where we might go for lunch following the service.

As the ceiling fans whirred on, circulating warm air around our tiny Unitarian church, the congregation stood to sing the concluding song. A few congregants moved to the front of the church, making up the modest choir. I glanced at the program and read that we would be singing “Lean on Me,” by Bill Withers.

The song began soft and low. I made it through the first few lines of the song before my voice cracked. I stopped singing, determined to maintain my poised facade. But like a facial brings the impurities of the skin to the surface, this song seemed to bring the troubles of my soul to the surface. Thoughts of the miscarriages, financial setbacks, career uncertainties, family moves, and personal insecurities all bubbled to the surface and threatened to spill out.

I braced myself, determined to maintain my steely resolve. I would not cry. I would not let myself feel.

I gathered myself and resumed singing, softly and quietly, with my head down and pushed the troubling thoughts from my head. The volume increased as more congregants joined in and the pianist played with increased animation.

… For no one can fill
Those of your needs
That you won’t let show…

I felt the hand of the person next to me wrap around mine. I looked up. Throughout the church, other congregants were clasping hands. I timidly grabbed my husband’s hand and laced my fingers within his.

I looked at the faces around me. I saw the faces of new friends, good friends. Friends who, if it weren’t for our spiritual connection at this tiny Unitarian church, I would never know. Friends who were facing unbearable struggles – divorce, layoffs, illness, and death. Friends who knew that I wanted more and wanted to be more. Friends who, nonetheless, respected me for the me that I was now.

…Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…

I felt hands clasped tightly around my own hands, supporting me, lifting me up, and cradling me. As I looked at the people around me, I considered the souls hidden behind the faces and the private struggles we were all enduring.

To hell with my holding it in, I thought. To hell with putting up a brave front. To hell with pretending. I resumed singing, louder now, and let the tears flow freely down my face. I surrendered. And just then, a cool breeze drifted through the window next to me, carrying away the sultry heaviness of heat and sadness – for a few moments at least.

This week I’m linking up with Yeah Write.

Posted in Friends, Spirituality and Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments

What is Marriage?


Marriage in America comes in all shapes and sizes.  The desire to be committed and attached to another person – like that which comes through matrimony – cuts to the very fabric of the human experience. As a happily married woman, I find the subject of marriage to be fascinating and I was pleased to have the opportunity to provide a series of posts at Urban Times over the past several weeks on the changing state of marriage in America. Below are excerpts of each of the posts, along with links to the full post.

The first post discussed the reasons why Americans are delaying marriage:

“June is the proverbial month of weddings. For many, images of a young bride draped in a billowing cloud of white, on the arm of a dapper gentlemen, come to mind. But weddings and the resulting marriages are changing in all respects, not the least of which is the age at which couples are marrying. Gone are the days of a young couple marrying fresh out of high school, or perhaps college, before starting a family. Nowadays, more and more couples are waiting to tie the knot, choosing instead to cohabitate, obtain additional education, or focus on their career.” [Read full post.]

The second post examined reasons for the declining marriage rate:

“Marriage is so passé. At least, that’s what the statistics will tell you. According to the latest Pew Research Center analysis, released in December 2011, only 51 percent of all adults who are 18 and older are married – a sharp decline from the 57 percent who were married in 2000 and an even sharper contrast to the previous generation when the marriage rate stood at 72 percent in 1960.” [Read full post.]

The third post discussed the increase in number and acceptance of interracial couples:

“Love is blind, or so the poets and philosophers say. Whether the age-old adage has any practical merit or not, it does seem that love is increasingly becoming colorblind. According to the 2010 Census data released earlier this year, more Americans than ever are marrying or cohabitating with someone of a different race.” [Read full post.]

The final and most recent post is a criticism of the lack of marriage equality in America and the hope that this will change with time:

“Not only is marriage is a basic human right, but it is a significant personal commitment that deserves the respect of one’s family, friends, and society. Marriage is about bringing individuals together, creating families, and sharing love – all of which benefit society…When I think about the fact that some states are spending significant time and resources to pass laws and constitutional amendments to deny certain individuals a basic human right – one that promotes love and harms no one – I am in dismay. I am confused, angry, and sad.” [Read full post.]

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Hidden Wonders


Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unless you haven’t listened to the news, opened a newspaper, or surfed the web in the past week, you probably heard that there was an astonishing new scientific development when scientists confirmed the existence of something called the Higgs boson. What the heck is the Higgs Boson?, you might ask. I asked the same very thing when my husband told me the news last week. Intrigued by the hullabaloo surrounding the discovery, I set out to learn more about this thing called the Higgs boson and the implications of its discovery.

After some cursory research, most of which caused my eyes to glaze over, I learned that the Higgs bosom is basically a mass-less subatomic particle that connects all particles to give them mass. Huh?

Everything in the universe is composed of atoms that are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, which are further composed of quarks and other subatomic particles. Until now, scientists have been stumped about how these subatomic particles acquire mass, for without mass there would be nothing to hold the particles together. About 50 years ago, Peter Higgs and other top scientists proposed a theory that a yet-to-be-discovered particle must be holding the quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons, and other subatomic particles together.

Until now, the theory of the Higgs boson as a mass-less adhesive force remained just that – a theory. In other words, before the discovery of the Higgs boson, scientists were unable to explain why anything – atoms, molecules, cells, and basically anything in the universe – has mass. With its detection, however, the door to a plethora of physics theories, equations, and fundamentals has been opened.

The media has latched on to its nickname as the “God particle,” but scientists are quick to point out that this trendy moniker holds no real significance. In fact, the Nobel Laureate who is credited with introducing the “God particle,” admitted that he originally referred to the Higgs boson as the “goddamn particle” due to its elusiveness.

The existence of subatomic particles, let alone mass-less subatomic particles, is something that my mind has considerable difficulties grasping. In fact, I still don’t fully understand the Higgs boson or its scientific implications. My mind just cannot grasp the miniscule nature of its existence, its mass-less nature, or the profoundly technical methods scientists used to discover it.

As you might expect, a discovery of this magnitude is not without controversy. In fact, some scientists question the discovery of the Higgs bosom and, instead, suspect that a mix of particles that may include the Higgs boson in different forms – “a generic Higgs doublet or triplet imposter” – was actually discovered. Religious groups are using the discovery of the “God particle,” or a mass-less energy force that ties the universe together, as support for the existence of God. Atheists, on the other hand, argue that the discovery supports a conclusion that the universe was created solely as a result of scientific principles at work, and not by God.

Now I don’t know whether the discovery “God particle” does much to prove or disprove the existence of God. What I do know, however, is that the existence of the Higgs boson is something that until recently had eluded even the most renowned scientific minds. Moreover, much of what we now know about the nature of the universe has eluded us for much of humanity’s existence simply because we lacked the technology or the intelligence or “the eye” to see it. Until half a century ago, we had lacked the technology to explore the moon and now astronauts regularly visit the moon and the Hubble Space Telescope is able to see galaxies that are several light years away.

Truth be told, there is much that lies beyond what our eyes can see and there always will be. Just think of the possibilities that we can’t “see” right now – other galaxies, other universes, or maybe even other mass-less energy fields similar to the Higgs boson. Does the fact that we can’t yet “see” them mean that they don’t exist? Our universe (and any others?) is full of existences and actualities that are, as yet, undetected. And isn’t there something wondrous, magical, and – dare I say – divine in the mystery of the unknowns lurking within and among us?

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

Posted in Photo Inspiration Challenge, Spirituality and Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lost and Found


I crouch down and peer into the dark caverns under the couch. I find a missing ball, plenty of dust bunnies, and 36 cents, but the missing object is not there. I look behind the chair, under the couch cushions, and in the closet. No luck.

It’s getting late. I guess we’ll just have to keep looking tomorrow,” I say with equal parts feigned calmness, defiant irritation, and helpless panic. But we all continue to search.

My husband takes the second floor, looking in bedroom closets, under beds, in dresser drawers, and even in the bathroom garbage can. I take the main floor, searching the toy bins, inside the fridge, and behind the television. Our pajama-clad sons stand by trying to help but largely exacerbating the problem with their pleas, whines, and forlorn faces.

My mind backtracks through the events of the evening. Did we leave it outside? Could it have gotten thrown down the laundry chute? Could one of the kids have put it in the garbage and it is now sitting outside among a festering bag of refuse?

“Any luck?” I call up to my husband. I receive a negative grunt in response.

I tear open the kitchen cabinets. I look in the plants. I scan the backyard. Flushed, angry, and more scared than I care to admit, I stare out the front window. Dammit, where the f— is it? WHERE THE F— IS IT?

Then I see it. Crumpled in a tiny ball of blue and brown, it sits in the far corner of the room, camouflaged against the floor boards and wall paint.

“I found it!” I call victoriously to my husband and sons. My son runs to me with a beaming grin and pulls his beloved Blankie close to him.

“Thanks, Mama,” he says as he snuggles his best buddy.

“You’re welcome,” I respond, tousling his hair. “Now brush your teeth and get into bed.”

The mayhem dies down and the order of our bedtime routine is restored. My son contentedly climbs into bed after saying goodnight to his younger brother.

As my husband and I kiss him goodnight, I say a silent prayer of gratitude that tonight will not be the night that my son is separated from his much-loved Blankie. That tonight will not be a night filled with tears. That tonight will not be the night that my son is forced to say goodbye to his best friend of the past five and a half years. That tonight will be a night of peaceful slumber with dreams of knights and pirates and spaceships and unicorns.

I say a silent prayer of thanks that tonight, while my son falls asleep snuggling his dear Blankie, I can forget that my son is growing up too fast. That tonight I can hold on to childhood for a little bit longer. That tonight the bittersweet passage of time is a little heavier on saccharine innocence than tart reality.

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