Thursday, February 21, 2019

Living Slow

I find it funny as I go back now and read my last post almost three years ago that it was vaguely on reclaiming the concept of "living slow" and growth in myself. Now that I live in Missouri, and have almost completely detoxed from city living, I can guarantee I was never "living slow" in Chicago. Though I may not have been the busiest of my friends, that is not saying much, as I spent on average 5/7 nights active and social. I served, constantly. If I wasn't working at my social worker job, which I loved, I was helping at my church, a non profit event, hanging around people who were planning something like that, I was involved, My God, I was not living slow. I'm sure there are people who relax into a slow, family life in big cities, but it is not as easy; you have to muster up courage just to get out the door, and once you're out - there is so much to do and see. That energy they describe, particularly in New York, is not made up.

Maybe it's just who I am. I loved Chicago. Still do. We would have moved to Chicago. But my sweet step-daughter keeps us rooted in Missouri. And after almost a year, I've adjusted to Missouri. I've heard stories from a few people here that had children move to the city, live for 6 months, and move immediately back. The first 6 months are rocky....and then it gets better. If something is not keeping you there, you might not make it. Transitions are hard. Spring time will be lovely here.

One thing that has become very clear in the past month is that when I first got here, I had had so many goodbyes to say, including some goodbyes to myself, that it was achingly hard to say hello to the beautiful life that I was entering. I knew I had a beautiful life before me, but my heart grieved. Honestly, something that has helped me shape this story into reality and heal me (besides allowing Jesus to permeate my daily life) is watching the show Call the Midwife the past month. It's like I needed some sisters, some women to help me along the journey here with me, and the show is full of them, my soul sisters, women just like me, living out a calling I know very well. Each episode full of love, faith, loss, marriage, pain, birth, truth, friendship. Almost every episode lets you know "life hurts, but it's full of love, and you can bear it, with faith". And I needed that. I needed to see women doing that, because women are amazing (not that men aren't...) but I miss the women in my life. So, Call the Midwife comforts me and shows me the way, it's the  voice I needed to hear, to guide me back to who I am here.

To all the women who have ever meant something to me, I cherish you.

I am truly living slowly here in Missouri.  I am truly growing. (slowly).

I am watching too much Call the Midwife.

Love, Emma

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Great Novels are Not Page Turners. Neither is your Life.

664 pages. Done. It has been a very long time since I have read a fiction book. One of the main characters is a therapist, so, a slight link into my personal interests there. It was long and drawn out and poetic and felt like some of it was going on and on like fiction does. Because I am out of the habit of reading it. Within fiction the stories can be long and seem boring, and I am not the great reader that I was. Yes, I was a great reader when I was a child, but trust me I was never a great math-er. And my English was really bad compared to many who love to read. Sentence structure, meh. I genuinely had a hard time learning the rules of grammar and never cared for them much. That would be my greatest struggle if I were to ever write at length. I would need a mean editor to yell at me and tell me how every sentence I write is awfully composed, because I do not know how to do it. I would also like a second editor who would be nice to me and compliment my thoughts and ideas.

I was reminded of something while reading this long book that I liked but wasn't sure I loved. I was reminded of living. Parts of it were incredibly satisfying, but others, I was tempted to skip over or at least skim. I tried to not do it. I really respect this author and hidden within paragraph after paragraph of seemingly boring text there would be a beautiful sentence, a phrase that was captivating and night-altering. This was not the kind of book that I had to stay up through the night to finish because I needed to know the end.  From what I remember, that is not what the original "Greats" are trying to accomplish in their writing. They are helping you become, not getting you somewhere, fast. It wasn't until almost the end of the book that I realized that I really did like this book... yet I am so out of the practice of reading a great novel, I can hardly recognize it anymore. It is an absolute worthwhile read.

Pat Conroy (the late, RIP) was imparting a slow, lovely message to me in The Prince of Tides. I've got some work to do, some character to build, or perhaps rebuild, a better person I can still be, and maybe a few more slow novels to read. To remember what it is like to really live slow again. To read and read and read, knowing the words will come eventually.

Happy Becoming,


"He thought he understood the American soul and learned that he could not even sound the depths of his own." - Luke, The Prince of Tides

Thursday, December 31, 2015

This year...

Of all of the things I learned this year, more on forgiveness was one of them. I don't know why. I think because I was cracked open and vulnerable. At the beginning of this year I was a shooed dog, sick, scared, almost out of my mind and a little afraid of each new day. Once I started getting better, stopped counting the days as "this month I didn't have a seizure" month. And just started having months. Started living rather than survival mode again. Started talking to people that didn't even know that Emma. That was scary, too. When do you tell someone? Do you? But, anyway.

Strong people don't necessarily feel like they have to forgive. We get to be right and push others out of our way for our benefit. Maybe we say sorry, but we don't really mean it. It is just a means to an end. Not an active conversation. Not humility. Well, both my parents did teach me about forgiveness when I was a kid. A LOT. I had to do it. But I grew up and I got mentally strong and I started thinking I was pretty much right all of the time.

Then I got weak and scared. I got cracked open. And when I got better, this time, I was ready, strong enough to be forgiving, when I wasn't being too stupid. Strong, and forgiving people are the kind of strong people we actually need in this world, I think. We don't need strong, cocky. We don't need strong, mean. We don't need strong, pretentious. We don't need strong, gym rat. We don't need strong, scared.

We need strong people who have empathy. And who know how to forgive.

"Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You're done. It doesn't necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with that person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare." - Anne Lamott

Honestly, it's a bit selfish when you figure out how to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness. Do you know how good it feels to admit you're wrong and apologize and ask for forgiveness? For that to be the end of the conversation that you never bring up again because you were an idiot? Cause then you're done! Or maybe a longstanding resentment you've got on someone. Let. That. Go. These things hurt us and prevent us from real relationships with people in our lives now. We're all busted up walking around until we learn how to forgive, actually. Get on it, so you can love well. Please. Please.

It is hard. It is our life work. I'm sure Anne Lamott has said that in everyone of her books, three times. She's the best.

My personal New Years Resolution is 1. to give back what was given to me and 2. to live an unafraid year in 2016, yet reminding myself of how precious the life I have been given is to me and those who love me. The one I will yell at everyone at a party tonight is that I want to learn how to sail a sailboat. It might actually happen this year.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Strangers on a Bus

I read a story of a young man who calmed another man under some stress by holding his hand and letting him lean in on him on a bus in Canada yesterday. It got blasted through the internet as photos do these days, a stranger snapped the picture, posted it, even the family of this man found the photo online and thanked the guy for treating their family member kindly. I think we are shocked by kindness these days because the news is awful, bad news is all we hear about. Really bad things are happening all the time and we have the access to hear and know about them. Really good things are happening all the time, too, but we don't focus on that as much. The quiet heroes live their lives day after day after day. After day. Without recognition,  unless someone takes a photo and posts it on Facebook, I suppose. Or someone remembers to throw them a party every once in a while or bring them flowers. Those are wonderful people, those people that are good at remembering to celebrate those that do not seek recognition for their lifelong good work.

We all know people who are quiet heroes. I happen to know a lot, the business I have been in the past several years, many people are. When I became someone who needed help instead of a helper I learned who the quiet heroes were more than ever. One person comes to mind I used to work with who baffled me by their goodness. He didn't believe in heaven and I told him I didn't care, if there was one, he was going. He could be guarding the gates of freaking heaven, honestly, but he wouldn't want the job which is the ironic point, right? Isn't life just so flipped upside-down? When I woke up on the floor from a seizure he was one of the many people there, looking at me... and I remember thinking later, what lucky people to be counseled by him. The empathy in his eyes was piercing. Much of my experience of having seizures was the muddled memory of the waking up after them, since they were convulsive, and I would be temporarily unconscious.

The first time I woke up like this was on a bus, on the floor, and a stranger helped me. Her name was Tana. I have the texts from a year ago saved on my phone from her that she sent to me. Tana told me to stay calm. That I would be OK. She told me everything was going to be all right, and that she was the one that had helped me when no one knew what to do with me, when I was scary to everyone around me. Because mine are scary, I have been told. I told Tana I was scared and thank you. I told her that night that the tests came back OK and that we didn't know what was wrong, that maybe it was just one time.

I don't know if she really knew what she was doing or if she just decided to jump in and help. Tana didn't get a photo on Facebook and an article written up about her, but I am so glad she was there for me. Maybe she is the kind of person who does this kind of thing all of the time, and if she is, I hope someone throws her a party soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A not-done-with-the-book review

Kathy B suggested a few times that I read Expecting Adam by Martha Beck over the past several I finally bought it off of Amazon for $4 big ones and brought it with me on my trip to Florida.

I read a good chunk of it in a four hour flurry and only dog earred one page that has a Chinese Philosophy quote so I have no quotes to share. However, it would sound almost like quoting myself. Except, OK, I don't have a PhD from Harvard and several published, best-selling books. So we're not exactly alike in that she is a genius but the subject matter of her book, at the heart of what she is really getting at, well... I relate. The things she talks about I have said and I didn't even know I said them. It's a little freaky to read your thoughts about angels and kindness and magic and vulnerability in someone else's story. How they chose the same words even before you had your own.

 I read 200 pages of this book sitting in the middle seat of two Southwest flights on my trip to and from Tampa, mostly choking back either sobs or laughter depending on the story she was telling. Mostly tears. Not necessarily because every story is so absolutely sad, but because everything resonates so deeply. On the flight there it was two men I was between, both of them on their computers, one drinking beers and the other.... a diet coke? I don't know, I was trying not to crying, and they were trying not to notice.  They most certainly did. Obviously they weren't reading the same book I was that applauds getting past the shame we cast on public tears.

Departing the plane and anxiously waiting for my checked bag, I finally actually cried, hugged my friend who had arrived to pick me up, and thoroughly confused her since this was a trip to hang out and care for HER, not poor baby Emma. Sigh. Life is different now. Until I started falling down and waking up to concerned faces in public, though, I wasn't fully committed to that icky, icky word vulnerability. I hate that word. I really do. I would rather just use something more like weak. wounded. needy. I used to think, I get it. I get we all need some help, sometimes. We all need friends and family and community and, uh, to be real with people.

Completely reliant upon another is a state we are supposed to move past after being a baby. And right. We are. If we can, if we got all the "right" stuff. But sometimes....sometimes... we need each other that much still. But we all were most likely taught to think we were supposed to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and just get over it already. That's what this book is about, her and her husband both with PhD's from Harvard. That's where they invented the phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" among others, I'm pretty sure.

Since I haven't finished the book I don't know for sure, but I think she might be saying that she wants your world to be flipped upside down somehow. That the bad things can be good. That there is so much joy in what we once thought was terrible and scary.

I can't say for sure but I think I agree.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


All I can write about is being grateful. I'm going to keep hammering away at this topic until I am done with it, then I can move forward with something more interesting, I promise.  Right now, it is all that's in me, when I come here to speak, it is all that comes out. Snooooooooooooze fest. I know.

One of my favorite humans I do not know (YET), Stephen Colbert, just did an interview for GQ, and he wrote this:

"He lifted his arms as if to take in the office, the people working and laughing outside his door, the city and the sky, all of it. “And the world,” he said. “It's so…lovely. I'm very grateful to be alive, even though I know a lot of dead people.” The urge to be grateful, he said, is not a function of his faith. It's not “the Gospel tells us” and therefore we give thanks. It is what he has always felt: grateful to be alive."

One of the things we talk about in psychology is that it takes a while for us to process what happens to us. Things hit us later. Sometimes much, much later. Years later you're wondering why in the world did you react to a situation in such a bizarre way? Where did that come from? Some people never care to find out. On the other hand I am kind of obsessed with finding out. Right now every feeling I have has culminated into feeling so extremely joyful that even when I get pissed off it is in the proper way, I think.

I do make way too many jokes though. I read and watch and consume so much comedic material I believe I AM a writer on SNL. It's annoying to all of my friends. I am sorry.

Last night I was eating dinner at my neighbors' new apartment and she teared up over how, well, grateful, she is to have the friends she has. We've teared up around twenty times together in the past year, and straight up cried on several occasions. Mostly it has been me needing her. Somehow, somehow, through me needing her, I think that opened things up. Opened up some vulnerable line where she needs me too. Where we all need each other. Where shit got real. Because when you're in the midst of it, you do not feel grateful. You feel out of your mind. Thank God we feel grateful and not insane now.

If there is a better consistent feeling than gratefulness than I haven't felt it, yet. Except as I said, I tear up way too much. I am starting to appear as if I wear contacts or have a dry eye problem around my loved ones and it is an issue. There are other heights to feel, and lows that will be felt.... but grateful. It is a good place to be. Get here if you can.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why Elle Woods is my Idol

Confession: I have watched Legally Blonde three times in the past month. Last night it was on an HD screen, and Reese Witherspoon looks like perfection even in high definition. I was in awe. After determining that Steel Magnolia's is no longer on Netflix, Legally Blonde was my other suggestion for a lighthearted film. For those that haven't seen Steel Magnolia's thirty-seven times it isn't as lighthearted, I suppose, so Legally Blonde was a good choice. Also, aside from Mindy Kaling there is no other woman I am obsessed with more at this current moment than Elle Woods. And Mindy is real. Elle is made up. Mindy might be the even more awesome Indian version of Elle in real life... If she ever read that someday I hope she would take it as a compliment. Because I have determined Elle Woods to be the kindest, most bad ass, and... yes... blondest law student out there. And I love her. Here's why:

She is kind. She treats everyone as her equal and doesn't talk about anyone behind their back. Elle is pre-judged for how she looks but does not do the same to others, ever. She gives people second, third, fourth chances. She stands up for the little guy. She holds strongly to her beliefs and values and doesn't give up. The girl is a vegetarian due to animal rights (props - I could only do it for nine months). Her kindness extends to all without agenda, like, totally and completely.

She is a bad ass. There are tons of moments in the movie when Elle is shown revealing how smart she really is, before and after she gets to Harvard.  Elle gets a 179 on the LSAT's. That is so hard. I know we're talking about a fictitious character but they made up the story and I'm saying I love this fictitious character. She uses logic constantly to prove her point and to help friends out, to express her opinion, to not get taken advantage of.  Ultimately, she realizes one or two pricks can not hold her back and applies herself even more. Which is a sad but often true realization of the culture we still live in. Thankfully instead of Grease - which is one of the WORST movie endings for feminism ever - Elle Woods doesn't change who she is - she becomes MORE herself throughout Legally Blonde. Yes, I'm taking this movie that seriously. So sue me. Ha, ha.

Elle Woods is a blonde bombshell. "You're breaking up with me because I'm too blonde? Because my boobs are too big?" Her application video to Harvard is 90% in a sparkling bikini and she wins her final cross examination by knowing the hair care rules of perms. Does this diminish all of the above? Uh, no. Why would it? Why do we think that? Can we stop? It should not be surprising when beautiful people are good, or kind, or bad asses. Obviously being beautiful is not the most important thing, I know we get that wrong. But we get so many things wrong at this point, why listen to anything anyone has to say - except for celebrities - they know everything - amiright. Maybe that is why we do not believe beautiful people when they are good - it is just too profoundly shocking. To be honest, to get through life and actually accomplish being Elle Woods is a out of this world, probably impossible. And that's why she is my Idol.

Elle Woods for President! She is kind and smart and beautiful and a leader and inspiring! And Mindy, you can be Vice President in this made up-fantasy-wonderful world of mine.
Cheers, I know you would be psyched.