Heroin

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death last week brought heroin abuse to the forefront of American conversation. Today I write about the drug’s devastating effects on mothers and, by necessity, their children.

You can find today’s post here.

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This is a Day For

knee-falling, anything-pleading, pressure-relieving.

intercession, supplication, massage, and Tylenol.

good quietly appearing, a breadcrumb trail for morning, when heading home becomes all
you’ve got.

cheap pizza, letting your three-year-old paint your face, hoping your rain jacket catches
the drips.

finding your just-clothed baby, puddle-naked, pride-giggling

and happy.

watching her bent head analyze the paint, realizing how the spot between her hairline and her eyebrows is exactly right, and just how much she has your hair

and that your oldest needs you, even more than he knows.

breaking the rule
you created yesterday
about how much TV the kids can watch.

meeting a long blond woman gone platinum. Ankle-length skirt—denim—gold cross, and orthopedics, who asks you, unbidden,

if all four of yours are living,
because hers are not. And before you can answer, she says she can tell just by looking
that they are, and judging by the one at her feet,
that they are all
doing well.

realizing it’s all a metaphor, but refusing
to point it out.

 

 

 

Sometimes they’ll call me a whore.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fortunate to be part of a fierce group of women faith writers. A few of these lovely ladies live near me, and we meet together every six weeks or so to lift up and encourage one another, as well as do some old school workshopping.

We tend to leave these gatherings full of new energy, a renewed since of purpose, and overflowing with words waiting to be put to paper.

After our most recent meeting, one afterglow email read:

“My soul was full after today’s lunch. So grateful for this handful of preciousness that God has given us, it filled a hole I didn’t even know was there until suddenly it wasn’t empty anymore.”

A Facebook post happily reported:

“The NorCal Buds met today. [One member] shared a retreat recap and we ate [another member’s] homemade bread while chatting about tribe and platform and which paragraphs I need to cut out of my manuscript. All this while five kiddos napped or watched Sesame Street in other rooms. Power to the mamas, right?!”

Right.

But earlier that day, as I relaxed into easy mama friendships and felt my perfected defenses soften, I realized I was harboring an insecurity I’d thought I’d lost years ago. This thought consumed me and, unlike my peers, I left feeling not emboldened, but instead like I’d been punched in the stomach.

My husband tells me I’m the most confident person he’s ever met. On a confidence scale of one to ten, I’d say I’m an eight. Don’t get me wrong—I often come home bemoaning a possible misunderstanding with a friend and needing my husband to talk me down from the did-I-say-something-offensive-without-meaning-to ledge. I’m not comfortable in short shorts or a bikini, and I refuse to go out without makeup. But all in all, I’m at peace with myself.

Then, after a few years’ hiatus, I started writing again. And not just writing, but faith writing.

And all of the sudden, I’m back in junior high: searching for affirmation, hoping to prove I’m “real,” and asking my lady friends the writer’s equivalent of “does this dress make me look fat?”

So why the current crisis of confidence?

Because soul baring is hard.

Because my heart and faith and politics are all on my sleeve, and sometimes people will call me a moron, and sometimes they’ll call me a whore.

And sometimes I’ll even lose friends.

After an especially inspiring sermon a few weeks ago, my husband wrote on our kitchen chalkboard:

¤ Brave?

¤ Safe?

This is a reminder to us that each day when we wake up, we have to decide how we will live out that day. As the guy who gave the sermon said, our grandkids will remember us no matter what, but the way they remember us will be very different depending on which option we choose.

I want my grandkids to remember me as a woman without fear.

But how will they know that I go to bed most nights thinking, “I can’t do this anymore. After years of being in comfortable skin, I can’t handle this,” but that I wake up and do it anyway?

The only way they’ll know is if I write it down.

After our last manuscript meeting, I drove home with my friend, Cara, and related a small bit of how I was feeling to her. She said, “This is a no apologies relationship, friend.” The freedom in those words is astounding: No apologies for who I am, or how I feel or think. Where can fear survive in the face of that freedom?

The truth is, it can. Our fears are not always unfounded, but it is always up to us how we handle them.

I think back to the words I first dog-eared in a now-soft worn book almost two decades ago, and I promise myself this—this—is how my grandkids will know me:

I’ll make sure she always carries a pen
so she can take down the evidence.
If she has no paper, I’ll teach her to
write everything down on her tongue,
write it on her thighs.

I’ll help her see that she will not find God
or salvation in a dark brick building
built by dead men.

I’ll explain to her that it’s better to regret the things
she has done than the things she hasn’t.
I’ll teach her to write manifestos
on cocktail napkins.

[…]

I’ll tell her that when the words finally flow too fast
and she has no use for a pen
that she must quit her job
run out of the house in her bathrobe,
leaving the door open.
I’ll teach her to follow the words.

Happy Birthday, Worm Lips

Worm Lips

That little boy at soccer:
I stare so much his mother pulls him closer to her side.
His hair is on fire.  The wind stirs the flames,
and I am blinded by ashes I try to blink away.
It looks like smog in a sunset
before the final light of day fades to dark.

Your smile suggested petals in spring,
lips new as a rose in bloom.
They looked like gummy worms:
stretched and lined with dry skin.
Worm lips don’t sound like much,
but sometimes they’re all I have.

Your skin was soft and white, at times translucent.
You were my burning Irish boy.
The day I took you fishing, your legs
stuck out from under your overalls,
turned red in less than an hour.
Had you grown older, freckles would have covered your nose.

The blue of your bright eyes stunned me
until I probed and found only gray.

The box lowered was enormously small,
stark against glittering rocks
almost as pale as the morning I found you,
swamp cooler humming and hiding my cries
made faint by cinder block walls.

This soccer-child climbs onto my lap.
I hold my arms loose around his slender boy-waist,
too afraid to hug any tighter.  His hair tickles my nose,
wafts Cherry Blast scent, and I struggle against this smell,
so clean and alive.

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