Friday, December 2, 2016

Time for the good ice cream now

I was given a whole week to grieve.
 
Four days bereavement leave from work, two paid days for the Thanksgiving holiday, and a weekend.
 
I had a visitation to attend, a memorial service, a burial and a lunch following.
 
I was surrounded by family, and my precious Alex handed me a handkerchief as I wept during Grams' favorite hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus."
 
My voice wavered as I read aloud from Job: naked I came into this world, naked I will leave it. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away.
 
I thought I had let out what I needed to, that I had "handled it" honestly and openly.
 
But I'm finding myself back in life as I know it where I'm really starting to feel sad, alarmed by the tears falling at various intervals down my face, dripping onto my lap as I drive.
 
I find the skin on my face feeling thin, as if I've been sobbing for hours.
 
I bought heaps of dollar store Christmas gifts for my niece and nephew during my lunch hour to cheer myself up. It worked, sort of.
 
I ordered a print of this picture, to frame and hang in my home:
 
 
I thought about scheduling a massage after work, but decided against it.
 
I fantasized about holing up in my bedroom and just being alone and, well, sad tonight.
 
I'm considering writing Christmas cards, to overcome the darkness by putting some light out into the world.
 
***
 
I keep thinking about her watch. I lifted my four-year-old nephew up above the casket, and he asked, quiet and pure, "How is she keeping so still?"
 
I waited for my brother to come closer to us, to answer such formative questions for his son. He joined us, and told James that we were looking at her body only, that her soul is with Jesus.
 
"Your soul is what's inside you, in your head, what makes you you," he explained.
 
As I held him, we noticed her wristwatch, around her thin left arm, crossed in her lap atop her purple floral outfit.
 
It was still ticking.
 
It maybe still is, under the ground on a hillside in Kansas.
 
It's killing me, that watch.
 
It used to drive her batty that I didn't wear a watch. She was so concerned I would never know what time it was. I wouldn't be surprised if she requested to be buried with hers.
 
***
 
I didn't think I was that close with my grandma. I appreciated her sass, her strength, but I didn't reach out to her in times of need. I guess I'm learning it's not about that. Someone doesn't have to be your bestie to make you cry. She just has to be gone.
 
Part of me wants to scream, thinking of the symbolism of the tiny second hand on her wrist, making endless loops around the watch's face. I want to scream: "There's still time!"
 
The other part knows she was in so pain, and is grateful for her that she doesn't have to wait out the painful hours anymore.
 
***
 
There's an episode of the show I can quote most readily, Friends, when Chandler is broken up with Janice, and Monica and Rachel are coaching him through it.
 
Trying to cheer him up with ice cream, he tastes it and says, "This ice cream tastes like crap, by the way," and the girls explain to him that when you keep getting your heart broken, you have to eat low fat stuff to keep from ballooning up.
 
As the episodes continues on and Chandler is delivered another blow from Cupid, he asks his comforting female friends, "It's time for the good ice cream now, right?"
 
I'm in the good ice cream stage now, as far as I can tell.
 
This weekend I plan to snuggle with Max, with Alex. To drink, but now drown myself in, good wine. To remember to eat, even though I don't have much of an appetite. 
 
The day Grams died, I bought a pizza and brought it to Alex's, and picked out all the best episodes of Friends to watch. I may turn to Joey and Ross and Company this weekend, if I feel it is well advised to do so.
 
And hopefully, as I quote lines aloud before the actors can say them first, I will gather some gumption to write notes inside Christmas cards, address envelopes and stick stamps in corners.
 
Because Grams would have liked that, and if she was an example of anything to me, she was an example of kindness. An example to live honestly through your pain, but to do your best to be light in the meantime.
 
Missing you, Grams.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving thanks for a beautiful life


I should (maybe, probably) be sleeping. Well, maybe not. If the body and mind are awake, it's for a reason, no? Ha. Tell that to my insomniatic self six years ago, when her life was particularly hard. That Bailey might have punched this current Bailey in the face for being so calm and casual about middle of the night awakeness.

It's 3:08 a.m.

(Maybe, probably) I should be sleeping.

I'm not sure what woke me up, but since I roused from slumber I've checked my phone, scrolled Facebook, snuggled on Max until he gently closed his teeth on my hand to say, "No no. We're done with that for now." I took a pee break and he took a chow break and now he's once again smashed against me, warming my left leg this time, and all is as it should be in the cat realm of life.

I grabbed my computer, intending to make a list of all the packing and chores I need to tackle before getting on a plane in 17 hours, but instead I turned on some peaceful Sarah Jarosz tunes and decided to write about what's been on my mind since Friday at 5 a.m., when my phone rang and my brother was at the other end of the line. The thing that's put me on a plane at the last minute, scrapping my plans to do nothing on Thanksgiving, here in LA, and now has me instead signed up to make sweet potatoes in a kitchen crammed with my siblings and their wives, trying to make sure Mom gets some rest and doesn't cook all the things for us.

***

A beautiful lady left us this week, and I'm feeling a little hollow.

I was her only granddaughter, and for the last year and some months, she was my only living grandmother.

She spent her last days surrounded by family and friends, who read her Psalms and rubbed her back, teased her about her crooked nose, and sang her hymns as she exited this life for the next. Selfishly I wish I had been there. I'm still dealing with that, and may be dealing for some time. I know not to feel guilty, and will probably be admonished by several not to feel as such, but right now I feel a little sad and weird about not being nearer to her the last four and a half years.

When I first left for college, my grandma told my older brother that she didn't have a hard time when he left for college, but that she was really going to miss me. I think that's kind of funny, of course, and also curious. Why grieve my leaving town? Ever since, when I have moved away from her, for graduate school, and later for this faraway land called Los Angeles, I have felt a twinge of guilt for being away. Now maybe more than ever. I realize now it's too late to feel guilty, inappropriate maybe, and yet.

***

A friend of mine recently posted on social media how once upon a time, she was so in love with her nuclear family, that she couldn't imagine welcoming another person in her life who she could possibly love so much as them. There wasn't extra room in her heart, she thought. She was proved wrong when she fell in love with her husband, she wrote. Her heart made room for him.

She had similar feelings for ushering a baby into her life -- where would she possibly find room in that oh-so-full heart of hers to love another? Just recently she had a daughter, and she says she's made room.

"The heart adjusts," she says.

I suppose my heart will adjust to these feelings of guilt, and eventually, hopefully, they will go away. Meanwhile, when I'm not feeling guilty, or hollow, I'm trying to focus on all the great things about my sweet Grandma.

***

My Grams, like all of us, did not lead a life without struggle. She never had a lot of money, worked hard as a farmer's wife, and she was preceded in death by a daughter and a grandson. For a good portion of her life, she suffered several physical ailments, chiefly severe back pain as a result of the most severe case of scoliosis I've ever seen.

Sure, occasionally she dropped the mask and expressed pain, but mostly she just smiled sweetly at us and enjoyed our company. I'm glad she had so many people to love on her, because if anyone deserved it, it was her.

Grandma developed a skill for basketball in her youth, and became so good at it that she was on her high school team. The school, located in rural Kansas, was far enough from her home that, given the snowy winter months, caused her to live with a family in town so that she could play the sport she loved. She told me once how terribly homesick she was during that time, like Amy in Little Women, away from her three older sisters. Of course Grandma wasn't in Europe like Amy was, but when we miss family we might as well be, right? Missing people we love knows no distance on a map.

Grandma's penchant for basketball was not exhausted on the courts of Troy, Kansas, and she went on to make the team at what is arguably the best basketball college in the nation: the University of Kansas. The famed "Phog" Allen was her gym teacher. She held onto her white basketball shorts all these years, and I have dibs on them if my brothers don't get to them first.

Grandma had the good sense, of course, to love a person more than a sport, and married her childhood sweetheart, Ken, leaving college and basketball behind. I wasn't there, but knowing her I'd say she did this willingly, happy to help on the farm and raise a family with the one she loved.

Even though she retired from playing, Grandma never stopped watching basketball, but let's just set the record straight and say that Grams' idea of "watching" basketball meant turning it off as soon as her team fell behind by, oh, two points. She couldn't handle seeing the Jayhawks not at their best, so devoted was she.

(For this reason I will be ever grateful to her for not writing me out of her life when I decided to go to school at her rival school, the University of Missouri. I reminded her that they paid for my education, in other words I was taking their money. She seemed assuaged with this, that smug, precious smile lighting up her eyes.)

After raising two girls, Donna and Jill, and later welcoming in six grandchildren and three great grandchildren, Grandma finally, in 1999, had to say goodbye to her husband of more than 50 years. She never stopped missing him, I don't think, but being a soldier for pressing on, she found ways to plow forward. After Grandpa's death, Grandma toyed with the idea of going back to college. Her alma maters, KU and a community college, said they would honor her previous credits, and with that Grams was headed to the bookstore, purchasing her first round of textbooks.

For several years, she would sit at her kitchen table and, with her left hand, underline passages in her history books. Though she wasn't a big fan, she begrudgingly used the computer my parents got her to hammer out her papers. Her favorite professor was a kind, quiet man with a ponytail, and one of her favorite students would frequently buy her coffee and place it on her desk before class. She didn't mind looking out of place on the Missouri Western campus; she had a job to do and didn't let anything stop her.

About six credits from the finish line, however, she told us of her academic pursuits, "This is silly." We all chorused in response that she was absolutely going to see this goal to the end, if for no other reason than we needed a reason to hoot and holler at a graduation ceremony, an admitted hobby of the noisy Brewer family. She plodded through those last semesters, only very seldom missing class due to inclement weather, and moments before my 80-year-old grandmother crossed the stage to get her diploma, I told my brother, "I'm so excited I'm going to throw up."

"You need to calm down," he told me.

"Geraldine Benitz," the announcer read her name, and as she took her time walking in her robe to claim her prize, we screamed and rang bells from the stands. It remains to this day my favorite graduation ceremony I've ever attended, and I doubt another will ever surpass it.

After college, we ribbed Grandma about getting a job, but slowly, we watched her slow down instead. She kept her spunk for another 11 years, still watching the Jayhawks shoot hoops and the Royals sling home runs. I believe she took a nap during game seven of the 2015 World Series, but I know she woke up to see her beloved team claim victory.

Last month when I talked to her on the phone, I asked how she felt about the Cubs being in the running this year. Having no sympathy for the underdogs of Chicago, she said, "I wish it were the Royals."

Grandma rekindled a friendship with a man named Franklin, who took her on her first date in her youth. Both widowed, they were grateful to find each other again, and they often talked on the phone at night, commentating on the games on their respective TVs.

She was visited frequently by family and friends in the area, and occasionally by rambunctious great grandchildren (and rambunctious, adult grandchildren) who visited from out of town. She played the piano, listened to big band music, and attended Bible studies. Though it made her sad, she moved out of her home to an apartment, and later to an assisted living facility. My parents set the bar extremely high in their care for her, making her room cozy and adorned with pictures, taking her to doctor's appointments, buying her warm socks and nagging her to use her walker.

Well, we all nagged her about that. Oh, to nag her one more time.

Grandma requested a drone for what would be her last Christmas with us, and she was gifted with one. Sadly, the powers that be at her residence rained on her technological parade, and told her she was not allowed to fly it on campus. She kept it in a box, though, and showed it off proudly when she had guests.

When Donald Trump ran for president, Grandma said she'd move to Cuba if he won. The day following the election, Mom brought her a suitcase with a tag affixed that read "Cuba or bust." Grandma instructed her to put it in the hallway, for all in her Red state to see. Mom of course obliged.

***

Grams has been gone for two days, and I keep thinking about the big things, like her graduation, but mostly my mind is caught up in the little things.

How she always pushed fudge or some other sweet on us. When I spent a spring break with her in high school, and she taught me to drive in the school parking lot. I remember, for who knows what reason, that Mom and I drove to see her one autumn. I remember I was reading Harry Potter in the car, and when we arrived, we were chatting with her in the kitchen, and Grandma waved fruit flies away from some pears.

It's things like the wave of her hand that I'll miss, simply because I can't see it anymore.

The heart adjusts, my friend says. She was talking about adjustment for more love to enter in, but I suppose that applies to making room for some grief to take up residence in our chests.

Right now I'm in a bit of bewilderment, in disbelief, that I really never get to see that soft, wrinkled hand gesture as Grandma talks. I know that I'm getting on a plane tonight, and I know the reason for my visit home, but my heart is being reluctant to adjust.

My brother posted a video to Facebook today, of Grams playing the piano, her great granddaughter at her side, and a baby James sidling up to press some keys. Grams shoulders jumped up and down in jovial laughter.

I believe that we will see Grams again. I don't know if we'll recognize each other then, but I know it won't matter at that point.

I'm grateful that she's now laughing and maybe playing a piano somewhere for some veterans, like she did this side of glory. I know and trust that my heart will adjust, to holidays without Grandma, to the fact that her number will be saved in my phone but that I won't dial it. 

I am sad that when I get off a plane tonight, there will be no detour from the airport to see a sweet lady.

A sweet lady who would be under an afghan, calling from her bed to "Come in!" A lady who would set aside her crossword and slowly sit up to greet us. Kind and loving, just like always. Setting aside her crossword and her pain, to just welcome us in.

Our hearts will adjust, but I predict it will be a long journey. For she loved us in so many ways, and we must heal and adjust as we miss each one.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The schedule of a madwoman (me)

 
Dearest Friends,
 
If you're wondering why this extroverted social butterfly who loves to over schedule
 
SOMETIMES GETS STRESSED OUT,
 
[especially during October/November/December],
 
it's because of what I will list below.
 
This weekend has so many potential activities that I had to write them all down, so that I can pick them apart and decide which ones to actually attend, and insert time to breathe.
 
Ready? Here it is:
 
***
 
Weekend plans/possibilities:

Friday:

8 pm – Drinks for A’s birthday

Saturday:

3:30 pm – A’s sketch show
6 pm – K’s Franksgiving
6:30 – Pie fundraiser, R’s church
7 pm – bowling for A’s birthday
7:30 – C’s birthday party

Sunday:

All day – Disneyland w/ J, J, V, & A
10:15 – help with prayers at church
12:30 – young adult Friendsgiving
8 – S's album release party
9:30 – karaoke with M, J, and maybe A
***
 
Are you still with me, or did you pass out from sympathy stress sometime around Saturday?
 
This coming weekend comes on the heels of a weekend spent driving five hours north, completing a half marathon, catching up with friends, and driving five hours south.
 
This coming weekend will be followed by: a Monday lunch meeting, a three day work week (with an important twice-a-year deadline and a large meeting all included, no charge), a freelance interview accompanied by an hour drive each way, Christmas-movie-watching with friends, a 5K, possibly hosting someone for Thanksgiving, and, OH YEAH, Thanksgiving itself.
 
And did I mention I have a (different) freelance piece due in December, and an application for graduate school due in December? And, OH YEAH, Christmas?????????
 
I have problems. And I probably need someone to slap me when I say, "Sure! I'll join you for/help you with that."
 
Friends, do me a favor, K? Breathe. Don't over schedule. Schedule time to smooch your pet. To read. To spend enough time at home so that your laundry pile does not equal laundry MOUNTAIN and so you can actually use your kitchen to, ya know, cook once in a while.
 
XOXO (and don't be offended when I can't squeeze in plans with you), 
Me 
 

A race revelation

 
I don't know when inflatable T-Rex body suits became a thing in our culture, but I'm ever grateful that they did.
 
I mean it.
 
I have spent many a gleeful moment the last several months, watching T-Rexes practice balletfrolic along the beach, complete the American Ninja Warrior course. I simply delight in the silliness of it, particularly in a year when we have all needed much distraction from violence and a little spring in our slumped step.
 
This weekend a T-Rex gave me a high five.
 
Well, a low five. I imagine the reaching power in those suits is limited, so I did a little side-angle clapping of our palms, not asking the giant lizard to raise his claws high in the air for me.
 
I encountered this T-Rex in a tunnel slightly southeast of Cannery Row. Normally a dinosaur in a dark space might startle me a bit, but I was surrounded by hundreds of runners, and Rihanna's "We Found Love" was pumping through the underpass, so I was feeling pretty stoked and not like I was trapped in Jurassic Park with Jeff Goldblum.
 
(Although if I must be trapped somewhere, to be with Mr. Goldblum would be rather pleasant, I'd venture).
 
I was walk-jogging in the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, and my T-Rex moment was one of the highest for me along the course. (I then stopped at the top of the hill to remove my long sleeved shirt, and lost some momentum, but it's fine). Admittedly, this here blog post was birthed in the T-Rex moment. It's a special, tingling thing when a blog post is birthed. Other bloggers can attest to this, I'm sure.
 
***
 
Throughout the 13 mile course, I passed several locals sitting on camping chairs outside their homes, on their porches, in their living rooms. I envied them their coffee, but their presence gave me power to pass them by, toward the aquarium, toward the beach, toward the finish line where my Honey Bee awaited.
 
Some of these friendly strangers cheered me on by name, and each time I wondered how they knew to call me Bailey. I then remembered that "Bailey" was emblazoned on my race bib, and that it's printed there for the sole purpose that strangers can cheer runners on. By name. And oh, what a powerful thing to be called by name.
 
The white letters on my black bib were there so that strangers could, for one magical day, erase their status as strangers.
 
***
 
I first learned the power of names on race bibs when my incredible brother ran his first of many marathons, years ago. I was a sophomore in college, and I took the train with his friends into Chicago and watched for my brother in his orange shirt throughout the day, screaming wildly every time he came into view, so proud and amazed at the feat he was tackling.
 
While waiting for him to show up at various points along the race course, I also cheered for people I had never met, people I will never encounter again.
 
"Go Judy! Woooooooooo!" I let my voice ring out in the city streets, causing ears around me, no doubt, to ring.
 
"Lookin' good, Jose! Keep it up, Mary!"
 
I enjoyed the funny signs that spectators held up ("I'm not wearing any underwear"), and marveled at people who were willing to wear, say, a chicken suit for their 26 mile jaunt.
 
To be honest, after years of cheering on growing numbers of my family members in races (for my brother's first race inspired countless other Brewers to literally follow in his footsteps), I grew somewhat weary of the annual tribal trek to Chicago, and took a small break. But when my 65-year-old father was due to run his 10th marathon, I bought a plane ticket to Chi Town to surprise him. I knew where I needed to be.
 
And on that original fateful day in 2004, I fell in love with cheering from the sidelines of a race.
 
Now, 12 years later, as I have taken on my own (less ambitious, HALF marathons), I am still grateful for the T-Rexes and humans who choose to offer support to a bunch of strangers, on a chilly, foggy morning when they could be in bed.
 
***
 
Around mile 4 of this past weekend's race, a man near me started joking with his friend, suggesting that the friend buy an expensive home we were passing by, so that he could live there rent free.
 
Me, being the obnoxious extrovert that I am, said I'd like to get in on that deal. "I can eat macaroni for lunch everyday," I ribbed, already planning to survive on a minimal income for when I quit my job and live in the expensive house and write my books.
 
This man (read: instant new best friend for the day) launched into a description of the gourmet mac and cheese that he is capable of cooking, and, well what can I say? That was enough for me to decide that I should stick with him.
 
And stick together we did, for seven miles.
 
Larry, Brian (the friend who's in charge of buying the home), and I jogged, then walked, then jogged, then walked, and did a whole lot of talking (Brian's more of a listener, to be honest), as waves crashed in the near distance.
 
Larry and Brian, with their persistent bouts of jogging, as well as keeping track of our pace -- with this thing called a watch that some normal humans use, helped me shave 3 minutes and 15 seconds off my average mile pace. I felt the pain from this increase in speed the following few days, but I was thrilled at the finish line, and encouraged in what I was capable of accomplishing.
 
I let Larry go ahead around mile 11, but he met up with me at the finish line, met Alex, and posed for a picture with me.
 
***
 
I may never see Larry again (though I'd like to keep in touch).
 
But Larry helped me so much, when he didn't have to.
 
Someone dressed in a T-Rex costume and slapped my hand, when he/she didn't have to.
 
High school cheerleaders tied their hair in bows before sunlight appeared, and for several hours rustled pom pons and called me and others by name.
 
"Go Bailey!"
 
I know I started this post by talking about the dinosaur that came out to support athletes this weekend, but it was the kiddoes who really got me emotionally charged up and ready to write this.
 
There weren't a lot of kids on the sidelines, but there were enough to inspire me.
 
One little girl sat in a camping chair, the blue canvas nearly swallowing her up. She was pleased as punch to watch people shuffle by. Her dad stood by, chaperoning her wonder.
 
A couple kiddoes, probably 8 or 9, gave me high fives as I passed them near a harbor.
 
And others stood near their parents, their eyes taking in people doing something that's difficult but not impossible.
 
***
 
If I do one thing right as a parent, I've decided, it is this: I will rouse my children before dawn, wrap them in fleece jackets and plop ear muffs on their heads. I will endure their whining about the early wake up call, and buy them cake pops and hot cocoa to ease the pain. Because if kids don't learn that sugar and hot beverages ease pain, then what am I really teaching them that's at all relevant to life?
 
And I will bring them to the sidelines.
 
We will be a family that builds up. We will call strangers by name. We will watch people do a difficult and admirable thing, and be inspired that we can achieve our own difficult and admirable dreams.
 
We will learn that people who pass us by are not necessarily to be feared, that sometimes it will be a stranger who helps us plod along through strenuous miles.
 
And boy oh boy, do I hope we have some room in our budget for a T-Rex costume.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sorting through that which is racing inside me

When I was 13, Desert Fox happened.
 
I don't know if many of us even remember that event or its name, but I do.
 
I was home alone sometime during those four days or shortly thereafter, and a very loud airplane flew over my family's house.
 
I raced to the basement, crouching by my brother's bed, cowering in fear until the noise stopped.
 
I knew -- from what I had learned in my Current Events class as a seventh grader regarding the danger and complete devastation of nuclear weapons -- that crouching in the basement would not save me, were a bomb actually dropped on our Colorado home in 1998.
 
But I ran to somewhere where I felt a little more safe.
 
I've never told anyone this story, ever.
 
***
 
I unfollowed people on Facebook yesterday.
 
I decided that I can no longer read the texts and emails of certain people in my life right now.
 
Just minutes ago, I posted my email address on Facebook, so that friends can reach out if they need to talk, but announced that I'm taking a break from the social media scene. I watched a video of my cat playing with a hair tie, and a video of a woman dancing some crazy moves at a basketball game. And then I logged out. I'm going to do my best not to log back in, until further notice. I'm not going to share this blog post on Facebook, because if I do I will be tempted to read comments that people might leave in response, and then my eyes will stray and I will read things that make my heart beat out of my chest.
 
And my heart's beating out of my chest anyway, so I can't fuel that fire.
 
The people I'm avoiding, and unfollowing, are people who voted like me. People who have the same terrifying fears as I. Because I can't face my fears. I can't have them voiced out loud and hear or read them.
 
I can't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
 
***
 
I make no apologies for what I'm saying here, and I'm not apologizing for getting "political."
 
In part, because I feel like everything I'm discussing here is not political. I'm simply discussing fears I have, and that is nothing new for this blog. I've gone to some pretty dark corners with you all before; I'm just continuing that journey. I need to get some thoughts out right now, and I feel I owe you, as the writer that I am, my honesty.
 
***
 
I raced to my "basement" here in LA yesterday. After work, I drove to Alex.
 
It took me several minutes to calm down, even upon arriving at his apartment, but I got there. After about 30 minutes, I could breathe and swallow my dinner and not lose myself to panic.
 
I helped him film an audition video, and then watched the different takes and gave my opinion on which one I thought was best.
 
 
"You snorted," Alex said to me.
 
"I know," I said.
 
***
 
I was in the car for 10 minutes, driving home afterward to feed Max and get some rest, when I started to get scared again.
 
I called Alex. He told me I could come right back to his place if I needed to. I told him I would if I couldn't sleep.
 
I told him that I feel like I need to escape reality right now. The only way to avoid my crippling fear is to watch TV (NOT the news) and read, if I can even concentrate. Which, in the good moments, I can.
 
"Ai'nt nothin' wrong with that, Baby," he said.
 
My love gave me permission to avoid, at least temporarily.
 
I got home and Max met me at the door. My indoor cat made a run for it outside. He climbed the stairs toward the apartments above me. I followed him. Took video. Texted evidence of his adventure to people I love.
 
I corralled him back to the apartment, scooped him up and put dry, meat-infused nuggets into his bowl.
 
I got in bed and read five pages of my book before succumbing to exhaustion.
 
Max slept vigil next to my pillow all night. He helped me feel safe. When I awoke from dreams, I kissed his fur and rested my head on his purring form.
 
***
 
In general right now, I'm scared. Maybe the most scared I've been in my life. (Hard to say exactly, because I've been scared of a lot of things before -- the prospect of harming myself, acts of terrorism, feeling like the devil had a hold of my heart. SCARY stuff.)
 
I'm breathing in this current moment. My chest is not alight with tightness and heat.
 
I don't feel hate for the people in my life who may have voted in a way that I wish they hadn't. The vast majority of people I know are not people who hate. Are not people who will commit hate crimes. Are people who would have the same visceral fear as I if our nation were truly at risk of serious danger.
 
I wish our nation weren't on a two-party system. I don't want to teach my children that one side of the line is right, and the other is wrong. In some ways, yes, I do want to teach them that (Racism: wrong. Hatred: wrong. Violence: wrong).
 
But I know my children will feel nuance.
 
They may want conservative tax regulations but they may have a best friend, like I do, who feels attraction for members of his same sex.
 
They may not know what to do with that. And giving them only two choices in such a frame of mind seems, I guess, unfair.
 
What's more, and more urgent, is that giving them only two choices will make them struggle to communicate with people around them. Make them scared to come home for Thanksgiving, and sit around the table worrying that conversation will lean toward taboo topics.
 
Make them worry that their family may be torn apart. Make them worry that their nation may fall apart. Make them worry that they have no safe place to run, that all they have is the basement that they know won't protect them.
 
***
 
So much more I can say, but I'll stop for now. I'll probably be back, with more thoughts and fears and hopefully peace as life unfolds.
 
I have work to do. I have to get ready for a weekend out of town. Have to get extra food for the cat, have to clean out my car so there's room for me and Alex and our luggage. Have to locate my athletic shoes, so I can walk 13 miles on Sunday.
 
I have to write prayers for church.
 
If you have any requests, for what you'd like my church family to pray for this weekend, let me know. I'll take them into consideration.
 
I love you guys. I hope you can breathe, and eat, and snuggle your kids and pets without being lost to anxiety.
 
I'm here to talk if you need it. I may have to keep my distance, if it proves to be too much for me to handle, but I'll do my best.
 
So much love and peace,
Bailey