#CRUS11TOUR, Friendship, Grief, Tears

Spill With Me.

 

I can be made of steel and counted on in any crisis. But I do not feel badly when and if I cry, too. Why is it that the moment we begin to cry — especially men — we apologize? When did we learn that crying makes us lesser in some way?  In the past few months I have heard too many times, “I have to stop crying, this is the last time, I promise.”  Why?

There is a whole lot of emotion out there these days for me. Riding on my sleeve, face, heavy heart and yes, tracking down my face in the form of tears. Did this wave start on November 11, 2016? Crying on election night was a first for me. Hard tears. Maybe.

But I also cried when I saw the first spring heron on Green Lake and the first hyacinth bloom, when I heard a friend’s diagnosis and watched Davey’s #CRUS11TOUR team cross the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday.  I have been crying for happy, for sad, for pride. The tears felt necessary and the aftermath felt, well, good. I honored the moment that way. I honored the feelings that way. I honored these people with my tears.

Wait. Aren’t we supposed to buck up, stop crying, pull ourselves together, don’t be a baby, time to stop crying and get on with it, be a grownup, go it alone?

No.

By crying, letting those tears fall, swiping them with your sleeve or my proffered handkerchief, maybe even adding a hug, we demonstrate several things to the people around us: trust, intimacy, vulnerability, friendship, to name a few. Consider the baby crying. Consider happy tears at a wedding. And consider, for a moment, how painfully difficult it is to hold back tears because someone said you should.

Since November I have had many unexpected reasons to laugh and to cry, more than any other time in my life. I don’t know about you but those tears — that welling, salty water filling my eyes, floating behind my eyelashes, spilling down arbitrarily, often in front of other people — just seems to be what my body needs to release and express and shed with others. Maybe I am spilling my emotions out all over the place but I share them unconditionally with you, friends, because I trust you.

And know that if you cry in front of me, I consider that a great honor.

There is always an extra hankie in my pocket, just in case.

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Friendship, Support, writing

Map of Self.

I arrived in Seattle yesterday morning from Boston, my 7AM flight landing at SeaTac an hour early which covered two sunrises.  There was still snow in icy heaps back in Boston. Here, I can see a sea of cherry and plum blossoms from the Nest and this morning the birdsong woke me at 5AM. A pair of crows were stripping the flower garden below of dead, wiry nest material when I stepped out and smelled the air — that Pacific Northwest moist leaf and fertile dirt smell. I fed them some of my muffin, then I set up the ironing board, read fifty pages, edited a chapter and cleaned the Nest. These next five days might well be the most accurate map of my brain to date. But look closely at the lines.

On Friday I will participate in a public reading At The Fault Line on Capitol Hill, presenting an abbreviated chapter from my memoir manuscript. I am still whittling the reading to a strict six and a half minute limit (with no success — getting there). There is dress rehearsal tonight, the only one I could attend, and four more days to sweat the outfit. There is a little prayer involved that the writing lobe of my brain can make efficient edits and read clearly under the spotlights and under pressure.

I have discovered, in the words of Linda Kulman, that “ass in chair” is imperative to the progress of my manuscript, as is “stand in public and take it like a woman.” So here it goes, read out loud, the part of my story where I was at the fault line and had to decide which side to jump.

On Saturday I am the ‘featured designer’ at Churchmouse Yarn and Teas on Bainbridge Island, a yarn and design shop where, if I could split myself in two, I would work the night shift or be stock girl or even fetch coffee that is how much I love their business. My scarf caught their attention a year ago, and they transformed my meager notes into a versatile pattern that can be knit in a variety of yarn weights. I sent out requests to borrow all my cousins’ and daughters’ versions of the pattern and will have a glorious heap of scarves for the event. My flat smells of wet wool as I wash, resize and steam them on my knees, the floor covered in damp towels. I hope someone asks me a question or two Saturday afternoon, but to be honest, I will just be so darned pleased to be there.

And every day at tea time I will talk to my friend back east and try to ease her day a little, make her smile and remind her how much she is loved. This is the most important piece of each day right now, remembering it isn’t the spotlight, or the questions, or the perfectly aligned paragraphs/edges/manuscript page/outfit. I challenge that those lines are mapped out in my brain in pencil — I can erase them if needed, change them around, reschedule — as I did, staying east to be with my family and friends and missing all the rehearsals.

Because the most meaningful line in my brain, on my map of self, is written in ink. The giving line.

This other stuff will happen and be fun, the second draft of my memoir will get written but not quickly. On my map of self, the giving line is indelible. I choose plum-colored ink for her. It is that simple.

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Walking to Green Lake, March 26, 2017

 

 

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Facebook, Friendship, Social Media

Friend-back.

 

There is a lot I do not want to read this month — or see, or hear. Inconceivable to me a year ago, I have been making daily choices about the news: read the New York Times or toss? Turn on the evening news or Netflix? Scroll through Twitter or ignore.?

“Bear witness!” my cousin scolds me. But I need to manage my media diet to sleep at night. I have taken to skimming. I deleted The Skimm (suddenly, it seems too snarky and young when everything is too much in crisis). Facebook, however, has been a bit of a conundrum.

As a social media tool, FB has such information potential and such damage potential. A year ago, convinced I couldn’t listen or read what the Trump supporters had to post, I ‘unfollowed’ a lot of people. I defined ‘friends’ as those that agreed with my politics. But look where that landed me — in a bubble of Hilary supporters and no balanced perspective. I was crushed even more– a tough lesson in listening and not just to what I wanted to hear.

Since January 21st, 2017 the site has become a place to ‘click and share’ our rage and disbelief, media false or true, pictures that can be difficult to look at, rhetoric that ranges from “F***” to “Crying.” Frankly, who isn’t going through that range of emotion every day, regardless of which party you support?

This time, I won’t un-friend you. In fact, I have ‘friended-back’ everyone.

I am listening.

I fully understand that the rate of posting cute puppies or sporty photos in exotic locations has steeply declined. We are a nation in crisis. But you are my friends, and for that I will read your feed, wince in private, and be present to what is happening and for you.

Otherwise, I am uninformed and not a friend. But throw me a cute Scottish Terrier sometime just to keep my heartburn at bay.

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Changes, Choices, Friendship, Women

What We Need We Do Not Know.

 

What we need we do not know but find on the street corners, women in soft t-shirts walking dogs, mothers, the milk, just strangers who pause to savor that day of freedom November 8 the talk of children and leaves not small circles pressed deep with pens and pencils or choices all the ones we have made over and over for everyone but ourselves for today is our day.

What we need we do not know November 9 we push our fingers frantically, beating against our streaming words and screaming soundless fury, scrolling and scrolling and hoping the next line will make us better, so many words to find one answer the rainbow bleeds to white at the unfathomable red fury.

What we need we do not know but find anyways when we push off the noise, once the rain falls relentless and the paper stays unopened we float curled on the couch seek with coffee and friends anchor at our kitchen tables the tired in our bones rising, the tired that comes just before the fight and the starting gun.

What we need we do not know but it’s been buried deep and anyways will take four years to recognize, to age into the imperfect terroir clinging to our tongues staining our breath the taste of loss and resurrection of sweetbitterlove.

What we need we do not know but we discover in a humble safety pin. We push the sharp end through our ragged skins, catch the torn edges, secure the clasp. Begin in pain anyways bleeding and mending,my skin fusing with your skin my children scarring together with your children my vote cast with your vote. Again.

What we need we do not know until we find ourselves at the corner with the women holding each other, laughing at the joy of ourselves.

Alexandra Dane, November 11, 2016

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Community, Friendship

Moving on.

The dog threw up at five this morning. Then again at seven. She won’t have a name until the three loads of laundry are finished. And I swear she can’t reach the Halloween candy.

My Seattle pied-à-terre entrance is in back of a house and up thirty five steps. I have had all of three trick-or-treater’s in the last three years. But for 364 days of the year I store a purple plastic pumpkin, bloody hand decal and illuminated spider web for just this one night.

Why? I continue to claim this is my least favorite holiday. But consider the one or two faces that struggle up the steps clutching wands, gowns, masks, bags of candy, oversized pants, dogs. Then the rifling hands. Then the “Thank you!” and thundering feet descending back down the stairs, dashing off to the next house, fast, as my back yard might be a little bit SCARY.

All Hallow’s Eve is heartwarming. And brings back memories of Disney princesses, Robin Hoods and Ninja Turtles of days gone past, of borrowing bits of costume from across the street, contriving swords out of boxes, spraying glitter on a line-up of star wands, of trailing the neighborhood pack of kids with other parents, keeping a respectable distance sometimes with warming libations tucked in our pockets. It’s good memory of friendship, taking care of one another, of October leaves and the harvest moon.

This afternoon in the pouring rain I will carve a pumpkin, light it with a Glassybaby (of course) and wait. Even for one smiling princess. And remember Robin Hood in his green tights filched from his sister’s dresser. Of Princess Jasmine. And remember community is the backbone of who we are, regardless of political party or race or sexual identification. We are the people who will make tomorrow happen, together, raucously, maybe with a wand, hopefully with a ballot. We will move on and make it work. We always have.

Then Olive and I will turn off all the lights, the universal signal that this eve is over and go to bed at eight due to our early day, full of good thoughts and hopefully a memory of that knock, knock, knock at the door and a chance to meet a new neighbor.

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Olive, Halloween 2015. She wants to be Newt Gingrich this year. I suggested we reuse the same costume.

 

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Friendship, Kansas, ovarian cancer, Suzanne Wedel

Lesson From A Friend.

Last weekend I traveled to North Newton, Kansas to attend a memorial service for my friend, Dr Suzanne Wedel, who died seven months ago from ovarian cancer. Her Kansas family and their mennonite kindness was astonishing; everyone hugged me, everyone I met — and there were so many! — was a cousin, schoolmate, teacher, or friend of Suzanne. I ate my weight in family Swiss chocolates, Zwieback rolls slathered in jam and cream cheese, sweet, swirly poppy seed cakes, dense orange and white cheese curds, drank gallons of iced tea. And the endless beauty of Kansas; black birds diving through indigenous grasses, soybean planted as far as my eyes could squint, traces of the ancient indian tribes in art and markers and the clouds.

I had anticipated this rich historic land. I had not anticipated that I would feel her standing next to me. In North Newton, Kansas, I had found the heart of her heart.

I saw her in her father’s smile, her brother’s laugh, her sister’s voice, her mother’s eyes.   I cried and laughed as friends and family reminisced about her antics from four-years old and beyond. They embodied her and she embodied them in every story. I see you, my friend.

I had goosebumps when I walked into her childhood home. After climbing the narrow staircase and ducking my head into her bedroom I swear she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, let’s go rake those leaves!”I could hear her scamper out the house full of purpose. We know what she went on to do with that purpose — that little Kansas girl grew up to make a monumental impact on emergency medicine around the world. Just a year ago, she launched a fund to support research for ovarian cancer early detection , initiating steps to prevent ovarian cancer in her daughter, grandchildren and generations of women to come. She was beloved and respected from coast to coast. Her dedication to family, work and friends was tireless.

Suzanne raised the bar on living life from early on but especially during her illness. She demonstrated that every, single second we breathe we need to love and love and love. Each other and ourselves. And her essence, her care, her calm focused center formed right here under the eaves of this solid little white house. I saw her in the big sky, the massive oak trees, the sheltered porch, the family who loved her so. I missed her all over again in North Newton, Kansas. Hard.

When Suzanne was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she called me and said, “You know. I don’t even have to tell you.” And I did know. The thirty-five years between her call and my mother’s same call had not changed the statistics for ovarian cancer survival, or even the drugs all that much. Our friendship was intense, loving and too short.

You know.

Grief is a strange and wondrous emotion that takes possession of us in so many different ways. Do not believe anyone who says there are time limits or any sort of statue of limitations on sadness after the loss of someone or something you hold dear. I will never forget her and know that sharp moments of grief will overwhelm me for years to come — seeing her children grow to adulthood, walk down the aisle, have their own babies, when our friends gather for chili during the holidays, when her teams win, when we sing Christmas carols.

There is a childhood story that circulates about Suzanne. Once when she was very young she announced that she would go to heaven first, then come back down and tell everyone how to get there. As I sat under the sparkling stained glass and soaring wood ceiling of the Bethel College chapel I knew one thing for certain: Every day of her life she had shown us how to get there.

This lesson from my friend will shape me forever.

Now I know where she is, here in the heartland of Kansas, skipping stones and running along the wide, warm sidewalk. And someday I will return to North Newton and tell her what’s happening, pat her favorite tree and thank her for reminding me what I do counts, each and every day.

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Wedel House, North Newton, Kansas.

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