Colorado Smokehouse

While on our grand adventure to California earlier this summer, we had some wonderful conversations in the dining car of the Amtrak train. Because space is limited, you are required to sit with other people if your party is less than four — and it’s a fantastic tradition. I’m one of the most socially awkward people I’ve ever met (though I’m still getting to know myself), but I still found this aspect of the trip to be one of the most positive.

One day for lunch, a retired couple from Colorado sat across from us. Mrs. Colorado was quite cheerful and outgoing, while Mr. Colorado had a dry wit and reserved most of his remarks for when it could be put to good use.

We had absolutely nothing in common with these people, but I found them inexplicably charming. Mrs. C seemed content to chatter away about her children and grandchildren, which kept the lulls to a minimum. We explained that we are vegetarians, and Mrs. C said enthusiastically, “Me too!” which I thought gave us something to talk about until she ordered a veggie burger with a side of bacon. Mr. C was determined to involve my husband in a spirited discussion of sports, which was a lost cause. Our only saving grace was having just been to a Giants came while in San Francisco.

They were obviously conservative, while we are as far left as you can get without going off the deep end. Mrs. C had her curly hair coiffed just so, and wore a cutesy sweatshirt adorned with animals, while Mr. C had on a Broncos shirt and a cap indicating he was fond of hunting. So you can imagine our surprise and amusement when they suddenly expressed their support of the legalization of marijuana. As it happens, they are quite happy with their state’s new laws and the benefits they are seeing as a result of the tax dollars coming in.

Mr. C leaned forward in a conspiratorial tone and said in a voice that still managed to project across the dining car, “Yeah, you know, I like to smoke my own meats, so I got a smokehouse. Used-ta be, I’d say to my buddies, ‘Hey, come over this weekend and we’ll smoke.’ Well, can’t say that no more!”

Then Mrs. C giggled as she told us of how they thought they’d try “the marijuana” for Mr. C’s knee pain. Not wanting to smoke it or eat it, they chopped it up and added it a cream to be applied topically. “Well, that didn’t work at all,” said Mrs. C. “Yeah, what a waste of a hundred dollars!” exclaimed Mr. C.

The whole lunch was delightful and unexpected. This is what I love about long-distance train travel, and I can’t advocate for it enough. For someone like me, who loves to observe people, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.

 

 

The eyes have it.

It’s our eyes that keep us connected. The visits have ceased except when I look into a mirror.

Conversation was what kept us apart. We connected in the silences, the pauses, the words we never spoke. Death has given us a chance to speak in our own language, secrets unfolding from the time we lost. Inside the DNA are the inaudible whispers that teach us what we always knew.

They are windows into the journey of the soul, if not the soul itself. The infinite immersion in the universe, resonating in what organic material remains: mine.

These glimpses are a trail I follow, a course with no grade. With my eyes shut, I see them more clearly, the images in the pupils that guide me. Inside the window is the path to knowledge; blazes on the trees illuminate the text of our heart.

It’s true that we have only to look within to find our way. But when we take time to read our bodies in silence, we hear a message of which path to travel.

Well, why not?

In 35 years, I’ve lived in two countries, nine states, twelve cities/towns, and have had twenty-three addresses if I’m counting correctly.

No, I’m not military. Yes, my dad was military but that wasn’t why we moved.

I’ve traveled across most of the continental United States, and it’s easier for me to tell you which states I haven’t been to rather than the ones I have. My early life was spent traveling and performing, an opportunity most people think is spectacular and glamorous but it generally involved sleeping in the car at rest areas and more anxiety than any child should have. So I hate to burst your bubble, but no.

I have been to many places and have had an opportunity to be familiar with a lot of different cultures, which was always the most enjoyable part of my early life.

When my husband and I decided to move from The South back to the Mason-Dixon line proper, I was ready to settle down. (To be fair, I’ve been ready to settle down for the past 10 years, it just never ended up happening.) In January, we started looking at houses to buy, and were quickly horrified by what our budget would get us when it came to single family homes in the area. But we did settle on a nice town-home style condo, and signed papers authorizing a mortgage company to scrutinize our every move for six months while the place was being built.

But in the first week of March this year, we sat at home during yet another snowstorm. As always happens with me when it comes to big life decisions, a switch was flipped that was never going to be switched back.

My husband is in the tech industry, having jumped from the constant struggle and stress of classical music to the stability and innovation of programming/design. Of course, he has said for the past two years that being in the San Francisco Bay Area would grant him so many more opportunities for career development. Even before that, he had interest in some cities on the West Coast, and I was having none of it. The one and only time I had any say in his career as a musician (despite the popular belief that I’ve made all his decisions for him — geez, just because I speak my opinions for everyone to hear doesn’t mean he doesn’t have stronger ones that simply aren’t aired out to the general public!) was when he wanted to audition for an orchestra in Oregon. While I would never tell him “You can’t do such-and-such,” I did refuse to consider it as a possibility for myself. Since we were already sharing a life and home together, he decided to not risk losing me and did not pursue that particular opportunity.

So when we were already married and he switched careers, his desire to go out to California to seek employment has been repeatedly shot down by me.

I’m not a West Coast person. I have nothing against the West Coast, it was just generally always seen as this gigantic blob of weird, earthquake-y, laid-back mess I wanted nothing to do with. I still think of myself as a New York type of girl, even though I haven’t lived there in over ten years. I’m an East Coast person, despite having been born and raised in Texas. I like the mentality here. I like that people are rude because they are too busy to give a shit about you. I like that there are seasons, and that there is intense culture, with the museums and the neuroses fueling creative types into public tirades and performance art involving bodily fluids. This level of ambition, drive, and expectation of success appeals to me and I find comfort in it. There is routine here, with everyone waking up earlier than the sun, huffing it out at the gym before racing to be the first one on the train for their long, two-hour commute into the city to their job in politics, government, higher education, or medical science. They come home at the end of a long day to these suburbs, eat dinner, watch the news, and go to bed early to begin all over again.

It’s comforting to me because I grew up with it. My father was born in 1928 and had the same work ethic in D.C. that he had on the dairy farm in Wisconsin during his childhood. Of course this was the perfect area for him to live in, because it made sense to his brain and he fit in so well with the rigidity. My mother loves it because this is her home, and when you have lived somewhere consistently for decades, why would you want to go anywhere else?

And that’s why I have to leave before that happens to me. Because I am not my parents. I have deep respect for them both, but I am an entirely different species. I do not like mornings. I hate mornings. I hate anyone who ever gets up in the mornings. I hate anyone who is alive in the mornings. I hate routine. I smash routine to smithereens because I can. I hate schedules and can never get any work done within one because my GOD there’s a time limit, what the hell am I going to do with a time limit? My brain wars with itself, having liberal and equal doses of logic from my father and creativity from my mother, causing incessant cranial implosions of frustration. Give me a quiet day with no schedule, no time limit, and I will produce some extraordinary work that most people take weeks to parallel. But put me on a schedule and I cannot accomplish a damned thing. The logic side of me demands the structure of the freedom my creative side would asphyxiate without.

After growing up in Texas, snow became a rare and precious commodity that has been treasured since moving at the age of eleven to areas offering regular dumps from the sky. While I was madly in love with our last location (South Carolina), I found that I sorely missed the cold snap in the air when autumn arrives, the trees turning vivid shades of orange and yellow (colors I otherwise hate), and that unmistakable smell of home when the holidays roll around.

So we moved back, hoping to forge a family and be closer to the ones from which we originated. It was all such a romantic idea that it hurts the heart to even think about it. Everything about the idea was quaint and perfect — two things no one could ever use to describe either of us.

We came back in January last year, and froze to death until June. Then we boiled until September. Then we went back to freezing. I spent this past winter pressed up against my space heater, drying my skin into indoor snowflakes, causing miserable cracks and rashes. Nothing helped me stay warm. My husband was similarly miserable. We both suffer from seasonal affective disorder and are only now beginning to feel more like ourselves as spring has slightly warmed things back up. I hibernated from October through March, refusing to go anywhere unless absolutely necessary because goddamnit, it was too freaking COLD.

It was easily the twelfth big snowstorm that first week of March a couple of months ago when I joked that maybe my husband’s idea of moving to California wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Then suddenly, it wasn’t a joke. Just like that, a switch flipped in my brain, and I started to wonder why I have been so averse to this idea for so long.

Truly, I lumped everything out there into one big smoggy Los Angeles bump that surely will some day fall into the ocean. I have a long-time blogging friend who lives right in the heart of San Francisco, tells the most wonderful stories of his life there, and it never registered in my brain that it was its own beautiful place with no affiliation what-so-ever with the cesspool of L.A. My apologies to anyone from Los Angeles reading this taking offense, but then again, I have no idea why you would be reading this to begin with so screw you.

Oregon and Washington seemed like nice ideas to scope out some time — in fact, I fantasized about moving to Seattle when I moved back to the States from Australia, but took one look at the rent prices and skipped that idea — but it was all that big lump out there. Out There. The West Coast.

Then I looked out at the disgusting dirty, icy, snowy, freezing cold and wondered, “What’s out there beyond this crap?”

Personally, I’ve never enjoyed going past, oh, the Mid-West. I’ve never lived past the line going from Texas to Minnesota, so why bother? I went to L.A. a few times as a child and again as an adult, hating everything about it every time. So why would I be interested in going back, particularly to live?

And how could I move again? Why would I want to? I’m tired. I’m old. I want to settle down. Or do I? I thought this was the end of the line, and I would get all set up the same way my parents did and live in small-town splendor quite happily for the rest of my days.

But oh em GEE, it suddenly hit me how not me that is.

I was apprehensive about dealing with all the happy people out there. No, really. I don’t like that. I’m a morose person with dark humor. Too much sunshine gives me the creeps. I’ve been mistaken as Goth for decades simply because I have dark hair (with some help since turning 30), skin fairer than anyone actually living should have, and a tendency to wear a lot of black just because I am a no-nonsense person. I don’t even know what a real Goth is, but I’m not that. But I am a bit too serious, a bit too ridiculous, a bit too neurotic. The idea of being out there with all those laid-back, happy people just wigged me the hell out.

Maybe it was the impending commitment of buying that condo that did it. I mean, you can get a divorce but good luck ever getting out of a mortgage.

Then the fear of earthquakes was overwhelming. There’s no warning when they hit. You have time to hide from a tornado, and you can always just get out of the way of a hurricane. Even a volcano you can run like hell and be out of the path of destruction. But an earthquake? One second you’re lounging on your patio petting your cat, the next your cat is eating your dead face from under a pile of concrete.

But I looked around the beloved place I consider my hometown. I was not born here, but I grew here (I refuse to say “grow up” because duh). I love the old row houses downtown, and the quiet charm of the people, the beauty of the blossoming trees in the spring, the timeless glow every winter holiday. I looked around and saw it through my husband’s eyes, the man who has selflessly agreed to support us both while I work reduced hours in order to spend more time writing. I looked at it through my adult eyes and saw that as much as I feel absolute love for the people here I have known for decades, I do not have one friend here who I can call when I need someone to talk to. That is not just because of moving around so much only to return to the place where I heal and regroup, but because I am not part of this. If anyone my age is still having children in this area, it is because they are having their sixth or seventh child. I don’t know anyone experiencing the heartbreak of infertility, the rawness of creative chaos, the confusion of abandoning a forced career to restart something else to feed my soul. I know people here support whatever I choose to do, but I also know that no one can understand it.

I saw the limitations of my husband’s career, the walls he will continue to run into as he tries to develop an entirely new art and career for himself in an area uninterested in the artistic side of technological innovation.

The bald truth of it is that I realized we aren’t needed here. There is no niche for us to fill because it has no place here. And the fact is that it’s perfectly all right for that to be the case, and for us to embrace that and move on to where we are needed.

So I started investigating this California business. San Francisco seems like a pretty amazing place, I have to admit. There’s no way of knowing if that’s where we will end up, but it’s a starting point to begin looking into other options.

It has been suggested to me that my restlessness in moving around so much is a result of something unresolved inside my soul, and when I find out what that is, I will stay wherever I am because I won’t be looking for something.

But I disagree. My husband and I are both people who love to evolve. We love to constantly learn new things, to explore, to take up new interests, and to embrace change. I think we’ve found ourselves by not feeling guilty about this driving need to roam and seek out new experiences. Maybe it’s not a symptom of being broken so much as a nod to our intelligence. While certainly some of my moving around has been driven by my desire to find something, sometimes all I’m looking for is something to stimulate my senses.

I love to live life as much as I can so that I have more to write about. Though I don’t know where life is going to take me next, I do know I’m ready for a new adventure. And I can’t wait to tell more of the story.

 

This is my story.

I’ve been poised on the edge of leaping off a cliff for some time. I look down the sides of its craggy, dark, rocky face and simply stand there staring. Sometimes I back away, and go running for the road I know — the road on which I’ve had too many accidents. I get tired of that unforgiving path with its brambles scratching my calves. And the biddies. So many biddies screeching, crowing, making a cacophonous racket. I wave my arms at them to go away, but the circle and caw until I am back at the cliff, staring down, wondering what’s down there.

My husband tells me to do it, to leap into the unknown. He believes in me in a way no one else ever has. I read a book I enjoy, make the cardinal sin of comparison, and he tells me I’m as good a writer as anyone. He enjoys my pacing, my details, how I get inside people’s heads. All I’ve allowed him to read of my writing is this blog; he hasn’t seen my daily dump of blather elsewhere on the internet because I don’t let anyone I know in person read it. He hasn’t seen my wretched attempts at romance novels that have shining moments amidst a whole lot of putrid clichés. But he’s read this, and he knows me better than anyone. Sometimes I don’t want him to know me this well, to see down into the fiery pits of hell inside my brain. He knows the lava erupts from time to time, but I’m careful to not to petrify him with it.

I don’t know. I look into that unknown, frothing sea of endless letters of rejection and sometimes it seems too overwhelming. On the other hand, it can’t be any worse than what I’ve already experienced.

When I was nineteen, I told my internet boyfriend I wanted to write a book about my life. Yes, it’s ridiculous that a nineteen-year-old girl was ready to write memoirs, but thing is, I’ve been working since I was three. I’d already lived a lifetime by then, and my broody personality loved to ruminate and romanticize it. I think that’s what makes a good non-fiction writer: being able to romanticize trauma and feel nostalgia for the worst day of your life.

His name was José, and he lived in California while I lived in Texas. We hadn’t met yet, but he was a few years older and was a writer. I don’t know if he ever did get published, but if he did, it must have been under a different name. José was interesting because he was open about his flaws. He didn’t hide his mental illness, but he didn’t boast about it either. He was honest. I liked that. 

When we spoke on the phone, I would snuggle down under the covers of my bed. The covers had a pattern of pastel shells that embodied the tackiness of cheap fabric in the 90’s. My apartment always smelled like cat shit because I did not have the energy to clean out the litterbox often enough. Maybe I didn’t know I was supposed to clean it out more often. I shouldn’t have had a cat. I shouldn’t have been living alone.

“I want to write a story about my life,” I told him excitedly, dreamily, already seeing my name in print and eager to share the tragedy of being an alienated child prodigy.

“No one wants to read it,” he said, squashing my enthusiasm under his bitter thumb. 

He was honest. I had liked that about him.

“But my life is different, people would read it,” I insisted.

“No one cares, Amy. Everyone cares about their own life. They just aren’t interested in yours.”

Being nineteen, impressionable, vulnerable, and gullible, I listened to him. I kept writing, but I knew a story about my life was off the table for any eyes but my own.

When we met in person, he told me how wonderful I was as we sat across from each other on stools at the breakfast bar in my kitchen. He wore a black leather jacket and I wore a brown pinstripe suit, hoping to look older and professional, not a depressed girl who had dropped out of college. He told me how wonderful I was, and reached for my lapels to draw me closer. My yearning to be loved made me shy and demure, and I would not meet his gaze. 

I was just young enough to not hate him when he quickly let go, got up off the stool and told me he was in love with his ex-girlfriend and nothing would be happening between us.

José and I kept in touch for a few weeks before it dropped altogether because what more was there to say? We were two writers needing someone to believe in our stories, but that was about all we had in common. He wrote aphorisms, the first time I’d come across the genre. He was too young to have the wisdom for such things, but I hope he pursued it. 

I’ve continued running back to the edge of that cliff over the years. Sometimes I am like Mr. Bean on the high diving board and begin performing remarkable feats of cowardice in my efforts to ease down over the side without actually taking the plunge. Maybe it is José’s voice still echoing in my mind, because it is really my own fear that he shared, “No one wants to read it.” So I climb back up, and go towards the path I grow weary of treading in circles. Round and round in avoidance of the journey, spinning wheels because I don’t like the noise the carriage makes, nor do I like my fellow travelers.

One of the happiest weeks of my life transpired recently while we were on vacation in the mountains. We did not have internet access, and our phone signal was quite weak. We woke up early because we were refreshed from a peaceful night’s sleep. I would have tea, and read by the fireplace until I felt like taking a shower. Then I would write all afternoon, hearing my own thoughts for the first time in years. The quiet was so pervasive that it exuded my own thoughts. I looked out the window and saw them passing by, and was able to capture them, whisk them into a frothy soup of a fluffy romance novel and I felt good for it. No, I wrote nothing worthy of an award but it felt so delightful to have the freedom to write whatever came to my head. I spoke and was heard by my own ears because I had room to listen. After dinner, we would soak in the hot tub with a bottle of too-sweet wine, letting the sounds of the snow melting symbolize everything we needed to say.

It is difficult to get off this path, to run up to that cliff and let out my inner lemming to run without reservation. What’s down there? The safety of what is known is so easy to cling to, even as it suffocates me. Sure, teaching at home is a cushy, flexible job. But music harbors too much darkness for my black soul. I find it difficult to see the joy in it, to share the joy of it, to inspire anyone to want to touch the stuff. I see people get high off it, writhing in their own delusions and sinking down into philosophical monologues about one measure of notes and wonder how to escape the smoky ring I’m trapped in, blown from their burning cigarette of dreams.

But those depths I stare into lure me and terrify me. There is nothing there but possibility. Taking that leap of faith has eluded me for so long I’m not sure I have legs anymore. I have stumps that have been worn down on the old familiar track into a mix of blood, mud and bone. 

“No one wants to read it.” But what if someone does? This is my story, this is my song. I seek that blessed assurance in one person who says, “I loved it,” and need that one person to be me.

 

As long as it feels better when you leave.

About nine and a half weeks ago, I broke my hand when I fell onto concrete. Two complete fractures and a dislocation of the large joint connecting my pinky to my palm. One ER visit and two surgeries later, I am finally able to learn to use my hand again.

I figured it would be easy, since I’ve been a pianist for over 30 years. All those tendons and muscles are primed and ready to return to business, right?

No such luck.

I started hand therapy with a certified hand specialist last week. We’ve had three sessions so far. When I first met him, I was thrilled at the opportunity to observe an odd character for a while but wasn’t sure about his lack of experience working with pianists. Old habits die hard, and I still feel convinced at times that being a pianist gives me special privileges that mere mortals do not have. Ask anyone who has sat in a practice room for hours at a time something about their hands and they will bore you for more hours than they just practiced. Yes, we are as obsessed with this half of our instrument as a singer is about his voice. Pianists make fun of singers with their steamers, their refusal to make phone calls to save their voice, and their natural flair for drama. But you know what? Pianists are worse. So much worse. “Watch the hands!” becomes our mantra. “Oh, a strained tendon? Heating pad, ice, Advil, Tylenol,” is our shared trophy for over-practice.

Because performance is not a priority anymore, and because my husband and I share one car and going in to Baltimore to work with some specialist who has experience with the best musicians wasn’t particularly appealing, I decided to stay close to home with the hand therapist in town. 

You know, the man knows hands. Yes, it’s true that my required range of motion is more significant than the average patient, but he is a man who listens and modifies to accommodate my neurosis. It’s to my own detriment because he has fashioned the most frightening torture devices to restore my hand’s function, and they hurt like almighty hell. But they help; bit by bit, millimeter by millimeter, I am able to move my hand a tiny bit more each day. 

Most of the time, the soft tissue feels the same sort of fatigue you might feel if you’d just tried to bench-press 250 pounds when you’ve never bench-pressed anything in your life. This is what I find frustrating. I just broke the thing; why did it atrophy so quickly? Why don’t my tendons want to snap back into place?

One of the surgeries required an incision that has left a scar from the skin down into the tendon. My hand therapist is working on releasing the adhesion, and I use silicone gel at night to smooth the surface. The bones healed quickly, but the soft tissue has months to go. I try not to find this depressing, but it is. I can’t stretch my hand out. My pinky has a curve to it that I am working to correct by wearing a special splint at night. I can’t bend my little finger on my own. After three torturous sessions, I can bend it from my palm, but there is nothing engaging inside to curl the rest of it into my palm. He says this will take until December. It’s October. Two more months before I can make a loose fist; six more until I can make a full fist. 

The experience has taught me much about myself, and I spend quite a lot of time being philosophical about it. Mostly because I don’t have anything else to do during hours of hand exercises every day but think.

My hand therapist is a tall, fair, Danish man with a thick accent. He enjoys using American idioms and speech patterns. I enjoy hearing them in a Danish accent. He is roughly “middle-aged,” and walks with a limp. His fading blonde hair falls over his brow, and brushing it back out of his eyes is something of a nervous tick. He likes to have multiple conversations going on at one time, and I am both disturbed and impressed by his ability to juggle them. His favorite method of doing this is to ask a question of one person and immediately ask another unrelated question of the second person without waiting for a response from the first. He then nods as both participants answer unrelated questions at the same time, colliding our awkward banter in a way that is surprisingly pleasant when you get used to the rhythm of it.

Today during my session, he said, “You’re not squirming in your chair yet; that means it is maturing and healing.” It’s true, I did not squirm until halfway through the appointment, at which time his manipulation of the pinky finger was so forceful that I wished Lamaze had been part of my education. When it reaches this level of intensity, I wince and curl my body into my chair in an effort to draw away from the pain. He nods his head in the way only wise older man can and says, “As long as it feels better when you leave, ja?” He apologizes when he bends it further than it wants to go and I jump involuntarily, yet he continues doing it. I haven’t decided if it makes him a brave man to hurt people for a living or just sadistic.

I choose to believe my intuition telling me of his kind nature is correct and have learned to trust him. Sometimes I have to just close my eyes and shake my head to the unasked question, “Do you need to stop?” I know if I stop, I will not use my hands the way I have become accustomed to over the past thirty-five years and that is not acceptable.

In truth, my hand therapist and his aide brighten my day. They keep me believing that there really is an end to this pain and tedium, even if it is too far away to see yet. They talk to me about a variety of subjects (some all at the same time), and we have traded ideas about everything from overseas travel to tendon flexors to beer. More than that, they are moral support on a bleak journey. While the landscape of my life was already changing, this made a few decisions for me that I was not ready to make. I do not talk about it, but I think about it every moment of every day. This quirky support team unintentionally remind me to put things in perspective. No matter what happens with my hand in the end, I am grateful to them for the hope they provide.

 

Love Never Fails

Legend has it that my parents first met at church one Sunday when my father was a reader for the scripture. His verse was Corinthians 13: 4-8, which, though well-known and loved by millions of others, became even more special to my parents throughout their marriage.

When I married my husband two years after my father had passed, I knew I wanted that verse in our wedding. I hear my father’s voice when I read it; calm, quiet, slightly strained yet firm.  In this way, he was there with us on that beach when we quietly vowed to spend our lives together.

We are just over two years into our journey together as husband and wife, yet we have already been through so much. Soon after we stood on that beach and emblazoned our unity across the sky in a magnificent sunset, we were tested by the loss of our first pregnancy. As time wore on, and as we continue to not have happy news to share, we find ourselves drawn closer to each other. Many couples find infertility drives them apart; we are the lucky ones in that we have only clung harder to each other, and the love we share.

Love is patient

We were together three years before we married. Before that, we were friends for a year and a half. We’d lost touch for the better part of a year, but after I went through a “legal break-up,” our friendship renewed and then quickly turned to more. We were tested, and often. We took turns sacrificing our dreams for the other, and when we came to a fork in the road that determined whether we would continue on the same path together, we forged a new path instead of diverging.

Love is kind

Upon seeing his photo for the first time, my friend said to me, “Oh, he looks so kind.” My husband does have one of the kindest, purest hearts you will ever find in a human being. We have balanced each other in many ways, but one thing he has done for me is soften my cynical, bruised heart. We have kind words for each other even in disagreement, always knowing that what comes before anything else is our love.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud

After two years of trying and failing to conceive, we have been through every emotion possible. It is impossible to not feel envious of others who have the family we so deeply desire. We see announcements on Facebook, watch our family members add to the masses, our friends have baby showers, and we are saddened by grief that has no end to its mourning period. There is a constant cycle of hope, loss, and grief in infertility. We are not proud, we cannot boast. Sometimes we do not have the energy to envy.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking

Once, we waited in line at the grocery store behind two mothers:one pregnant, one with a small child. In the line next to us, there was another pregnant mother with two other little ones in tow, and a mother directly behind her with a newborn. My husband said to me, “It’s hard not to feel like everyone’s just showing off.” Sometimes it really is hard not to feel as though we have been singled out for punishment. We receive unsolicited advice, and yet are also ostracized. We are either subjected to clichés that hurt far more than they help, or we are avoided to supposedly protect our feelings. It is an unfortunate situation to be in, where people either have no sensitivity at all or limit their time using it. Surely there is a happier middle-ground in society where we can be understanding of the pain others are going through without shunning them.

It is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs

I used to get angry. We lost the baby, and I got so angry I couldn’t speak. I got so angry I ate everything I could to stop myself from yelling at people who did not know what to say except what I did not need to hear. (Please to not tell a woman who experiences a pregnancy loss that it was not the right time. Would you tell a victim of cancer that it is the right time to die? It’s the same logic, and the grief is as real.) Time has turned anger into sadness; grief has turned it into acceptance. I try to find that patience, that kindness, that peace and strength we have in our marriage and approach my anger at others the same way I would with my husband: I let it go.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth

It is hard to feel joy in the face of our truth. Yet we find it every day because we love each other. Our honesty with each other is as deep as anything I have ever experienced with another person. Whether it is to point out an errant booger in sight, or to reveal our feelings about this or any other difficult situation we have been in over the past five years of our relationship. We never hide anything from the other, and that constant communication helps us deal with the evil truth of infertility.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

There have been many times in this journey together when I wished we could protect each other. We trust each other with our pain, when our hope is lost, when there is no other choice but to just keep going. We have long since opened our hearts and home to adoption, but find that just like infertility, there is no way around the roadblocks except to keep waiting, keep hoping, keep trying, and keep loving. It is much harder to keep trusting that we will find a way to our family when we have small wallets and are reluctant to leap into the popularity contest that is adoption in America today.

Love never fails

It really doesn’t. We have been through things that would tear apart most people — and they have torn us apart internally, but our love for each other holds us together.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease

I can’t handle another person telling me about that friend or family member who tried for years and then suddenly got pregnant when they quit trying, or when they started eating chicken hearts, or whatever else it is. These are well-meaning stories of hope, but they only make me feel more inadequate, more hopeless, more broken. I do not need prophecy; I need quiet understanding. I need the patience my husband gives me.

Where there are tongues, they will be stilled

If only.

Where there is knowledge, it will pass away

We know more than most people about how to make a baby. We know of every supplement out there, every scientific technique, every temperature that indicates fertility, every sexual position, every food to avoid, every little thing you can imagine that may swing the odds in our favor. We know about open adoption, closed adoption, semi-open adoption, domestic adoption, international adoption, foster care, we have spent hours upon hours adding to our knowledge about starting a family. But it has all passed away with only the knowledge of our love for each other holding true.

When there is the kind of love we share that is honest, true, kind, and enduring, it is natural to want to share it. Some days, the deep disappointment I feel at the continued emptiness of our arms leaves me powerless to do anything but give in to my tears and my hopelessness. But always, at the end of those days, I hear my father’s voice: always trusts, always perseveres.

We have each other, which is more than most people have. Our relationship is the stuff of legend in its deep, abiding friendship and simmering passion. Sometimes I think this is our penance for having in each other what other people only dream of having in their spouse. Our cup is too full, so we must be greedy to want more.

But love never fails. It keeps me from losing all hope, from bitch-slapping people who should stay quiet, from feeling like the constant cycle of grief and loss will swallow me whole. It keeps me going. The love I share with my husband stems from the love I have from God, from my parents. It always perseveres, as will I.

 

 

 

 

Hearing Silence

When I drive downtown to take my husband to work, I pass the Maryland School for the Deaf. I can’t help but observe the interaction of the children with each other, their parents, and their teachers. Or perhaps more significantly, I catch their own observations. I do not understand American Sign Language, though it’s on my list of things to learn in life. However, I have learned that by not understanding, I comprehend far more.

I’ve observed how our voices are individualized not just by our tone. Eavesdropping from my car, I watch them speak with their hands and can intuit subtle details. I find myself embarrassed, and feel that I am intruding even though I do not know the words.

A boy is picked up by his family, signing excitedly before the car door opens. What a tremendous ability, to be able to converse on sight. When I pick up my husband, we smile at each other to communicate. These kids are already telling their parents about their day through the window. They are speaking as any teenager of hearing would speak: some of the signing is jerky, halting, and awkward. They frequently punctuate with shrugs, head shakes, and the rolling of their eyes.

Another boy is approached by his teacher on the sidewalk. I can see the adult is signing with compassion as the boy is embarrassed, even fearful. Perhaps he had a failing grade, or was caught with something he shouldn’t have. The teacher is firm, but gentle in his speech. The boy relaxes and slowly nods his head in acceptance as the fear recedes.

A girl meets a boy in the middle of the crosswalk. They stop to speak, the innocent flirting evident in their glances, their smiles, their hands. They wave as they continue to pass by each other, the girl glancing back at him after a few seconds just as I used to with my own crushes.

I feel as though I must be the most heinous voyeur to make such observations as I pass, but the truth is, I do this with everyone. I’ve just never done it without sound, and it is remarkable how much there is to hear.

I find myself wondering, after witnessing an exchange like the above: what it is like to hear only silence? To feel sound, or  to touch words. What is it like to watch people speak? To feel angry words reverberate through your hands, or gentle ones hum up your arm.

One day I passed the dormitory, and a girl was sitting in her window — actually sitting on the sill. She watched traffic, lost in thought. Such a simple act, casual but yet significant. I felt vulnerable to her perceptive stare, and  the intensity of her daydreams.

At night when I am wrapped in my husband’s arms, we speak softly to each other in the dark. I wonder some nights: what is it like to hear the darkness? To whisper with your fingers instead of your lips?

We spend so much time, as a society, glorifying what we have and bemoaning what we don’t. We take pity on those we feel are less fortunate, setting up fundraisers, missions, donations, everything we feel we can give to those who do not have what we have.

Sometimes I think we give away what we don’t need in an effort to forget what we don’t have. We don’t assuage our guilt, we feed it.

Then I look at those who do not have what I have, and I see something far more precious. I see they intuit what I cannot, that they live normal lives, not compensating for what they are missing, but for what we miss on their behalf. Perhaps I am presumptuous, as I’m sure every person without hearing wishes to hear. But I see sometimes how we project our fears of loss, when it’s easy to forget that you can’t miss what you never had.

I can shut my eyes and listen, but I can’t close my ears and watch. How differently I would see if I could. How beautiful sound would look.