“At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by, you will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are, especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself, ‘But I am this person.’ And in that statement, that correction, there will be a kind of love.” -Phoebe in Wonderland
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“Is it okay for me to jump?” he yelled.
I watched him pump his legs back and forth, swinging higher and higher until he was holding steady at a significant height. He and his brother had formed their own sort of Olympic game, gaining momentum and then jumping from their swings to see who could fly the furthest and “stick the landing.” Up until now, he’d been playing it safe, never risking too much, choosing to jump only from a reasonable altitude.
But now, I could see him wanting to push the boundaries, to go even higher, to let go even when it might feel crazy – and he wanted me to tell him if it was okay.
I watched him, wild eyed and wild haired, 7-years old and still so innocent. School has brought some exposure to the real world, with all of its ugliness and injustice – but mostly, he is unmarked. The thought of anything bad happening to him wrings my heart down the middle like a dishrag.
“I don’t know, buddy. How do you feel about it?”
He kept pumping his legs; he hadn’t lost any height. He looked at his brother swinging next to him, and then back at me. “Is this too high?”
I thought back to that feeling, swinging high, waiting for the perfect moment to leap. How do you ever know when the time is right? And how do you explain that feeling to someone else – all of the little confirmations that lead to the confident risk? I realized that I couldn’t answer the question for him.
“If you feel like you can jump from that high, then you probably can.”
His face flashed fear, courage, and a beautiful maybe. And with one more pump, he let go of the chains and sailed through the air, landing solidly on both feet, fists in the air.
I’ve never seen a smile so big.
Without first being angry, you cannot forgive.
Without first being unsure, you cannot trust.
Without first being afraid, you cannot be brave.
If you find yourself in any of these less-than-desirable places today, you are really just on the verge of a beautiful opportunity.
A chance to forgive. A chance to trust. A chance to be brave.
A chance to trade up for something better.
Because after all, what’s so great about bitterness and fear?
Let’s be more interesting than that.
Last night, I was working it at the gym with my iPod on shuffle, when this song came on.
Honest to goodness, I had all but forgotten that I ever wrote it.
This old demo made me remember what it felt like to write songs before anyone ever told me I was doing it wrong. When I had an idea, I just wrote. Unreserved. I didn’t “know” enough to “know” what was wrong with my writing – which is what made it ME.
I miss that me.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written anything, music-wise. I don’t even want to say how long, for fear of no longer being able to call myself a songwriter.
But I’ve been getting inspired again (why does it take senseless, underwhelming man-drama to stir it up? And yes, that is all I’m saying). I have ideas. I even think they’re good ideas.
And I want to write them.
These ideas have been bothering me for awhile now – like a stray hair that gets stuck to your shirt somewhere between the armpit and the elbow, brushing against the back of your arm, out of sight and out of reach. Phantom pains. Rogue apparitions.
It’s time for them to materialize.
So I’m telling you. I’m going to write them. I’m going to finish them.
Hold me to it.
Just don’t tell me how to do it. This is going to happen my way.
Something filled up my heart with nothing,
Someone told me not to cry.
But now that I’m older, my heart’s colder,
And I can see that it’s a lie.
I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
On Friday morning, my dad and I left at 4am and drove for over 2 hours to hike for 6 and see only one other person all day. It’s a very, very thin slice of the world’s population who will ever stand where we were on Friday – between the remote location and the 4-wheel drive roads and the amount of physicality one has to employ to get there, you have to REALLY mean to go.
But we had an opportunity, and we grabbed it. We really meant to go.
The hike was long and steep, but my daily walkoftriumphs have paid off, and we kept a good pace. Nearing the top, the summit looked so close.
But when we actually got closer, I realized that we were going to have to scale this (see here for another perspective):
Now, listen. I’m no rock climber. I have no triceps, remember? Plus, heights and me? We don’t get along so well. It’s not so much the heights that bother me – it’s more of the plunging to my death that really freaks me out. I don’t even like to skin my knees, let alone break bones, lose limbs, chip teeth, etc. And wouldn’t you know, the first really scary part, when my dad assured me that the rock was secure, and if I just put my hand *right there*, I could get a good grip – the rock BROKE OFF IN MY HAND.
But there was only one way to the top, and I wasn’t walking off that mountain without a summit.
Despite my fears, and freezing a couple of times, unable to move or breathe, starting the stressed-out-whistle-breath thing, after a long, slow climb, I made one last quick hand-over-foot movement and scrambled my way onto the top of Wetterhorn Peak.
Fears: faced, engaged, overcome.
First 14er of the season: conquered.
(Now go read my dad’s post about what HE did the next day. AAAAGH.)
I’ve heard it said that to start anything requires a certain willing suspension of disbelief. You have to allow yourself, on some level, to dare to hope – even in the face of potential disappointment or failure or heartbreak.
What a scary place to live. There is no guaranteed win. But thankfully, as a sweet friend recently reminded me, “winning” is not the point.
We might not be fearless, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be brave.
I want a heart that’s rolled open like a welcome mat. I’m working on it.
My parents have three dogs, Rowdy, Maci, and Kodi.
Kodi is the cutest. That’s not favoritism – it’s just fact. I mean, look at her happy dog perma-grin:
Her name is Kodi, but mostly we call her Toad. She’s this ridiculous, squatty little Chow mix, with short legs and a barrel chest. She has so much fur, she looks like a tank – but in the summers, my parents have her shaved to keep her cool. And then, she looks like a little pig.
The best thing about Toad is that her tail is always wagging, no matter what. She wags when she sees you, she wags when she’s looking out the window, she wags when she’s all alone in the backyard, she wags when she gets fed, she wags when she’s lying on the living room floor, she wags when she hears voices – even if they’re not talking to her. The only time that she didn’t wag was when she was entered in a tail-wagging contest at the Puppy Parade – then she stood stone still.
The remarkable thing is that Toad has bone spurs on her spine that keep her in a constant state of discomfort. She has trouble sitting from a standing position, or standing from a sitting position. She is stiff and awkward. She is in pain.
But she wags anyway.
I want to be like Toad.
I want to wag anyway – even when nobody’s looking and I’m all alone.
Almost 3 years ago, through the wonders of the internet, I blog-met (it’s a thing, people) a girl named Marijke. “Muh-RIJ-key?” I wondered. No. “Muh-RY-kuh.” Like “Mariah” with a k.
A fellow blogger, fellow songwriter, fellow dreamer, Marijke has been living in Anchorage, Alaska, for several years. She has had a steady job, but music is where her heart is – and about a year ago, she came to Nashville to check out the scene. In what is becoming a regular occurrence in my life, we met face-to-face for the first time when she showed up on my doorstep.* We spent a weekend exploring the city, hearing live music, and talking about life. She is a kindred spirit, for sure.
And now, in a brave and gutsy move, Marijke is about to move from Alaska to Texas to pursue music – talk about a change of scenery.
Today, she is releasing a CD. And from the previews that I’ve heard, this is a GREAT album. Her voice is pure, her lyrics honest and truthful, and the instrumentation so well done (good job, Jon! Jon showed up on my doorstep one time, too*).
Would you support her by ordering a copy? For only $10, you’ll play a part in helping make my friend’s dream possible, as well as get an awesome, quality product. I’ve ordered it – and I wish that I could be at her release show tonight. If you live in Anchorage, YOU SHOULD GO!
Thanks, Marijke, for reminding me what it means to live boldly.
– – – – – – – –
*Happening again tonight when Joey and Sam show up! YES! Best blog friends forever!
There have been a lot of times in the past several years when I have needed courage. Between the ending of relationships, and a solo cross-country move, and feeling so alone I could barely breathe, and being relatively destitute, and getting roommates, and starting to share my music for the first time, and introducing myself to hundreds of new people, and continually putting myself out there… I have been through a lot of big, dramatic, grandiose transition. Change is scary.
But for me, change is not the scariest thing.
In recent months, a lot of things have fallen into place for me. I’m on stable ground. I have a home, and a Tennessee family, and a great job, and a feeling of belonging. I know my way around the city, and I’m involved in my church and various other groups, and I feel very much a part of the fabric of my Nashville community. Things are steady.
Then why is my first instinct to run?
I’m finding that staying put requires a lot more courage than leaving.