Here In Your Pain

7 May

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Years ago I went through a breakup.

I should say, years ago I went through many breakups with the same person, a sort of Groundhog Day nightmare I feel lucky to have made it out of partly intact.

But heartbreak it was.

On one of these occasions I showed up at my friend’s house. I had told her what happened and when I arrived she stood at the door with a notebook.

She handed me a pen.

Would you like to talk? was written on the first page.

I checked the box for NO

Would you like food?

I checked the box for YES

And down the flow chart we went. Without saying a word I communicated what I needed right then. We got food. We were there together.

I don’t know what else we did. But I’ll always remember that flow chart. That notebook. That response.

I’m here.

I’m here in your pain.

In the book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle says

We think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often–because we all have the wrong job description for love. What my friends didn’t know about me and I didn’t know about Amma is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

A couple of months ago my grandfather passed away.

It was sudden and shocking and a very difficult for me. For my family.

The day before my grandfather’s funeral, a friend texted me. “Hey, me and B are coming to the funeral. We’ll watch any young kids so people can be there for the service.”

I didn’t ask them to do this. I didn’t even know they planned on it. They got babysitters for their own kids. They took their personal days off of work for a man they met only briefly.

They did it for me.

After the service I stood with them among wooden blocks and plastic trucks and let some of it out and they listened and they said

No problem

Of course

I’m here in your pain.

I’ve been working on inviting my pain to the table. Witnessing it, if you will.

When I feel something uncomfortable I slow down.

Hello there anger

Sadness

Jealousy

Fear

Shame

Regret

Come on in. Here’s a seat. What kind of tea would you like?

Would you like to talk? Check for YES

I’m here

I’m here in your pain.

(I’ve learned from the best.)

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Instead (A Post About Depression)

26 Apr

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I wanted this to be a slightly smug, self-congratulatory post.

Hello everyone. Have you gotten your physical recently?

I did, and let me tell you what. It changed my life. It solved all my problems.

I wanted it to solve all my problems.

Instead.

Well, instead.

I got a physical a few months ago. My therapist suggested it, as I’ve been struggling with fatigue and she wanted to make sure there was no physical component to it.

I doubted there was. I have depression. Depression and fatigue go hand-in-hand.

But I went to the doctor.

Several tests, several strange results later I ended up in a specialist’s office. From everything I’d read about this highly unusual condition I had, fatigue was a large component. All I needed to do was get the thing removed, a quick surgery here, a quick medication there, and bing, bang, boom.

New lease on life.

New woman.

Problems solved.

Instead.

Well, instead.

The specialist told me that I was totally fine.

Yay! My friends said.

That’s great news, my family said.

Oh no, I said.

You see, somewhere in those few months I had let myself hope. Let myself hope that maybe there was something bigger at play here. There was a reason! something tangible! for the way I was (am). There was an easy fix. Soon I would be accomplishing things with the best of them.

With the “normal” people.

Instead.

Well, instead I’m here. Writing the opposite of a smug post.

It turns out that this condition I have, this depression and fatigue I live with every day, yeah, it’s exactly what I thought it was.

That can be incredibly daunting.

Depression, for me at least, doesn’t have an end date. I can medicate it, but I can’t eradicate it. I can put things in place, set my life up to manage it, and yet, it can breeze into town and destroy everything without thought.

In my lowest moments I wonder how I’m going to do it. How I’m going to live day-in and day-out with this darkness, this pressure, this sadness.

It’s overwhelming.

There’s not a lot of light or hope in it.

I wanted the easy out.

The easy out felt so good.

Instead.

Well, instead.

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Book Club

22 Apr

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My house is so squeaky clean right now that I actually took off my shoes and put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

You know that place where everything is tidy and cozy and you commit to making it this way for the rest of your life?

I’ve been there for the past few hours.

Thank you, book club.

I started a book club (again).

My last one, RIP, ended due to schedules and distance and then the pesky problem of 2/4 members eventually leaving the Los Angeles area.

Eventually, being key to that part of the story.

But I am telling this story. And this is how I’m telling it:

This year when I was looking at what I wanted to accomplish I wrote down a few things.

Read The Brothers Karamazov

Approach social media with intention

Join a book club

Join a book club.

Invest in friendships near, rather than always far.

Join a book club

And so, because I am forever a Kristy, I sent out a few texts.

I chose a book sure to be rich for discussion.

Bing. Bang. Boom.

French toast!

START a book club

(I should have known myself.)

We had French toast today. And bacon. (We ate the whole pound, hello ladies.) And eggs. And fizzy fruity drinks and Diet Cokes and we talked about the book some, yes. About what the book made us think about. About where we lack compassion. We talked about creativity. Religion. Politics.

We listened to Dolly Parton.

We admired Dolly Purrton. (From afar.)

I provided fuzzy socks for those in need.

And nearly four hours after it began I said goodbye to the last member.

I said goodbye and I turned on the sink and got out the soap.

Squeak squeak.

Hear that?

I’m committing to be in this place the rest of my life.

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My Protected Writing Time

11 Apr

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I’ve been sick for four months.

I’ve been sick for four months not in a chronic, (or) real, (or) life-threaning way, but in that awful way where you’re blowing nose on everything and you’re losing your voice and people are like maybe you should be at home? And you’re like, listen if I were to be at home every time I felt like this I would be at home every day, SIR.

I’ve been sick for four months.

It’s a bum start to the year.

2018 is that very pretty vintage car that looks so nice, but every time you try to get it going it kind of begins and putters out. Begins and putters out. And you spend all your time in the shop thinking, wow this is it?

This is what’s happening?

I’ve been sick for four months.

Apparently I’m not alone. A girl I follow on Instagram keeps giving updates to her own illness.

stillsick.com she says on her beautifully lit photo of a green plant

stillsick.net I say.

I’ve been sick for four months.

At one point I thought I would do a library blog. I even own the space.

jillianlibrarian.com

It sounds so great, right? I want to do that!

I want to be that librarian! That person!

I could do a post on National Poetry Month! On my book spine poetry lesson! And my magnetic poetry boards! The blackout poetry interactive station!

I want to write about that.

And I want to do so much else. I want to do it all and there’s no time and I’m at a place in my life where I have the most time I’ll ever have and there’s no time for jillianlibrarian.

And so I sit here writing nonsense on jillianlorraine.com in my 35 minutes of protected writing time. My 35 minutes set on a timer.

And so I sit here and waste the timer time on this time. Timer.

I’m watching Home Town. Now that Chip and Joanna are gone I have to do something to fill the achy brrakey void. I have to emotionally attach to strangers.

Rob refuses to be the HGTV couple with me.

It’s not that hard, I say. We’ll just move to a small town in the South. Restore it home by home. You’ll have to pick up some carpentry, maybe construction skills. I’ll use my natural design eye I’ll soon acquire.

It will be a hit! I’ll be a maximalist who loves color, a unicorn in the white-everything world!

We’ll buy homes for $30k!

Does it depress anyone else to watch people buy homes for 30K? Like what? What is happening? That is a decent rent for a year, fools.

I am the fool for living here.

We are all fools.

I have 16 minutes left on that writing timer I told you about. I could be working on the two books that I’ve begun in the last year. Or my wedding stuff that I keep avoiding. Or maybe a deep personal essay that I could send somewhere.

But here I am talking about Missisippi real estate.

Here I am, being me.

I did begin my wedding writing. It goes like this:

It has been over seven months since that day in Cape Cod.

Seven months in Santa Monica.

Seven months of meal planning (seven months more than ever before).

(Seven months of marriage.)

In those seven months, I’ve consistently had on my to do list, “write about the wedding.”

I know it’s some of the most important writing I’ll ever do. Writing that I’ll want to look back on again and again.

That’s probably why I’m avoiding it.

(Definitely.)

Because it feels so Important.

This writing will live on. Long after the memories have faded, long after those who karaoked forget exactly what they sang, my words will exist, telling people what it was like. Informing our children, and our children’s children.

Oh gosh, I’ve spiraled.

It always comes back to that maybe.

This is what I get for having a mother who is big on family history. I see how words live on. How an obituary is what we remember of a person. How a poem about an absent father informs how I see a great grandmother.

Words are powerful and they are something I have to offer and so I sit here paralyzed.

There are 13 minutes left on my timer.

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Two Ways To Talk To Yourself

9 Apr

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ONE OPTION:

  1. You’re on spring break
  2. You’re surrounded by people who love you
  3. You should not be upset about anything right now, cut it out

 

ANOTHER OPTION:

In the past month:

  1. Your grandfather unexpectedly passed away
  2. Your family dynamics shifted (and keep shifting)
  3. You don’t live by your family and feel unable to help. But you really want to help!
  4. You got strange medical news
  5. You defended your thesis
  6. You presented at a church conference
  7. You had a sad conversation you’re still thinking about
  8. Your feelings are totally valid, of course you’re stressed. This is a crazy time and it won’t always be this crazy. Give yourself a break. Seek help if you need it.
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Five Group Texts That Work In My Life

28 Mar

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1. The Family Text

Group name: n/a

Used for: Confirming family dinners, spreading unflattering photos

2. The Writing Group

Group name: FAC (First Authors Club)

Used for: Talking about writing, complaining about writing, discussing writing projects, dreaming

3. The Political Chain

Group name: Stronger Together

Used for: Sharing political articles and ideas, venting, wondering what on earth is wrong with Utah

4. The Friend Group

Group name: Important Things

Used for: Daily texts about all that is going right, daily conversations about all that is going wrong

5. Caitlin + Rob + Me

Group name: n/a

Used for: Cat pictures. Tweets. Pop culture. Laughs.

 

What group texts work in your life?

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Ways In Which Dolly Purrton And I Are The Same Individual Residing In Two Separate Bodies

27 Feb

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We both have:

  1. A large amount of fluffy hair
  2. An uncanny ability to find a hot water bottle in a large bed, immediately

We are both:

  1. Clumsy
  2. Talkative
  3.  Expressive
  4. Attention seeking

Neither of us like to:

  1. Leave bed

Neither of us respond to:

  1. Cat nip
  2. Being picked up

Both of us love:

  1. Fixer Upper
  2. (Naps)

We are both:

  1. Rescues with tumultuous pasts

Both of us rescued ourselves with a little help from:

  1. Robert

Because yes, yes, no one can rescue you, that’s an inside job ETC but aren’t we all rescues a little bit? Isn’t that part of the human experience?

Meow.

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Dolly Purrton

26 Feb

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I’m sitting here with a curled up model of a cat right next to me. She is beauty, she is grace.

She is Miss United States.

And

Things were not always this easy.

Before we got Dolly Purrton, a few people had given general warnings that it takes cats a while to get used to their new surroundings.

I listened and nodded like OK. That’s nice. I read some articles on the topic and had Vivaldi’s Four Seasons ready on the record player.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played before every storytime my mother took me to and to this day that music brings out warm, fuzzy feelings in me. I couldn’t tell you a book we read, but I can tell you it was Spring! It was Summer!

I am now a librarian!

But Dolly.

She didn’t know Vivaldi was warm and fuzzy. She didn’t know that Rob and I were here to love her more than she had ever been loved in her life.

All she knew is that she was a new place. Her fourth home in three years. That she was scared.

That she was Miss United States.

Within the hour, Dolly had found her way into the bottom of our oven.

Rob and I left to run an errand and give Dolly some time to calm down. She was hiding under the couch at this point, perfectly normal. Vivaldi!

When we came back she was no longer there.

No big deal.

We started looking for her. “Dolly!”

“Dolly!”

15 minutes later I was seated in the corner of the room having a panic attack. Through deep breaths I was making bold promises to God about what I would do if we found Dolly.

I was certain somehow, some way she had gotten out of the house. Maybe our cupboards had a hole?

We Had Heard A Cricket Once!

It was Rob who found her under the stove.

(I was in the corner not coping, remember?)

Just a flash of fur. The poor thing so scared.

It took a week to the day.

We adopted her on a Saturday morning and the following Saturday morning I crept out into the living room before Rob woke up. I settled onto our yellow couch and let Dolly smell me. She smelled and she circled and she tail swished and when she finally rubbed her head against my leg I knew I had her.

Rob woke up to the two of us cuddling in the living room.

He eagerly joined in.

That first week wasn’t easy, and I guess I want to record that. That after Dolly left the oven we had to board it up, a protection that is still in place and still using my biggest cookie sheet.

That we got her a box and put Rob’s shirt in it so she’d learn to love the scent. And that we didn’t see her come out of her box for a long time. That we had to inspect the litter to make sure baby was being baby.

That for the first night she completely ignored her food.

That for the first week she wanted nothing to do with us, would not get near us. Rob would take pictures of her sometimes, late at night, when she was out in the house. He sat still and made no sounds. She needed to know we were safe.

That we wouldn’t disturb her in her safe space.

That we woudn’t disturb her at all.

And now here she is. A bundle of joy and warmth and the softest, most impossible cloud-like fluff you can imagine.

She is a dream.

I love her.

And

If you’re in your first week of cat ownership

I hear you.

I feel you.

Have you tried some Vivaldi?

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Me Too

21 Feb

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A few months ago I sold my gold bookshelves on Craigslist.

The way it all worked out, I was home alone the night my buyer could pick them up. I did the things I know how to do instinctively.

I gave several people information about where I was, who I was meeting, and when to worry.

I turned on all the lights in my apartment.

I pulled out my mace and had it in my hands when I opened the door.

I was greeted by a woman, about my age, holding the exact same pink breast cancer foundation mace I have.

We looked at each other and our ready mace and laughed.

“Mace!”

“You have mace!”

“I have mace!”

Our relief was so palpable we hugged.

By the end of the transaction I’d helped this new sister strap the bookshelves on her car. Learned about her relationship with her grandma. Laughed again.

We were friends. We were safe.

I’ve thought about that moment a few times since. How I prepared myself for the worst-case scenario. How another woman felt the same way. How we live our lives prepared for the worst when it comes to our safety as women.

I haven’t written about the Me Too movement. I don’t write about a lot of political things here and then I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.

A podcast I listened to shortly after the election quoted something along the lines of, thank goodness Anne Frank didn’t write about trees.

And while I know I am not even remotely at all ever in any way in the same situation as Anne Frank, I’ve wondered about what I write. Am I avoiding the important stuff? Am I only writing about trees?

And feel-good television?

And spring cleaning?

I think about this mainly when I imagine my future children. Young girls asking me about this particular moment in history.

What was it like when women started to speak their truths? How did it feel?

How does it feel to be a woman in this political climate in general?

The important questions.

And so.

I guess I’m here to begin in some small way.

To say Me Too.

Me Too in countless ways for countless reasons big and small.

Me Too like every woman I have ever met.

Me, me, me, Me Too.

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Sounds During My Evening Meditation

29 Jan

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The Celtics game two rooms over

Cheers, male voices, sneakers?

Chicken sizzling on the stove

My own breath, struggling through a stuffy nose

A siren

Cars

General breeze things

A bird?

Running water

The garbage disposal

The opening of a trashcan

More cheers

A sneeze

Chopping on the cutting board

That garbage can again

A Diet Coke next to me, lazily going flat

Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice, urging me forward

My stomach, growling, ready for what’s next

 

 PS: When I started meditationa year into meditation, and how I use meditation

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