Love and Other Search Terms

girl looking at records, vinyls, kristie was here
There was a time (that was entirely too recent) when I googled, “how do you know you’re in love?” I have always been one to do my research. So, “love” went into the search bar just like “best whiskey bars in SF,” or “common prepositional phrases,” also “Oprah’s hair last 22 years – video.” It is 2015 and I clearly know how to use the Internet.

For those of us out of practice, love can feel entirely unknown. Sure, love is obvious to me when I am with my family, with little newborn nieces who have my same sarcastic looks. I can feel it all the way down, recognize it as the oldest of friends. It is never really gone.

But when I am in it, when I have fallen or walked into it—gracefully, of course, like walking into a wall—that is when I am out of sorts. It is entirely too close, completely out of focus, scary even, like parallel parking between a Porsche and Ferrari. I’d rather leave it alone and save the insurance money.

Fear gets in the way. It stops me from claiming the things that should matter. It clouds the path when we should be telling ourselves the truth, getting into the mess, dancing under the stars. I am sure of this: our hearts are not porcelain, and we are not as fragile as we think. Yet love is the scariest because it feels like the beginning of an undoing, the letting go, the entirety of it out of our control. It mostly makes me nauseous and weary. But if you look at it right, it is magic.

I remember when I was terrified that I’d forgotten how to kiss. It’d been over 12 months since I’d tried. I was sure I no longer knew. Panic set in. Then one night a man leaned over and kissed me as we stood on a quiet street in San Francisco. And to borrow a phrase from everyone’s mother, “It was like riding a bike.” I fell a bit, and scraped my knee, but I got where I needed to go. I remembered how to dance. Just because we are out of practice does not mean we do not know how. Please remember that.

So, love. I’ve learned that the more I try at it, and walk into the sea of it, and do not hold onto it too tightly, the more I have to offer. Love begets itself. It is expansive. It is to be given freely, to flow naturally without all this effort and oomph (although there is a place for that too, of course).

To love is to accept. It is to see someone else and say, “Yes” to them again and again, just as they are. So when I say, “I love you,” it is not simply to hear it echoed back, it is to speak the truth out loud, to share the limits and wonder of humanity. It is me being honest with myself, being real, open to pain, to hurt, to misunderstandings and heartbreak, but also to joy, hope, truth. It is us being real with each other because life is more colorful when we are. I am slowly learning this.

We have every right to it. We have these dirty hands, broken hearts, and lives lived in the mess, and that is why love is for us. It is a taste of the Divine. It is the stars down on earth. It is the music for our dance. We need only to move our feet.

One of my favorite passages on love, the realness of it, the undoing of it, the magic of it is from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

So, how do you know you’re in love? When you begin to let it happen. When you claim it for yourself. When you remember that you are worthy of the stars, of the dance, of becoming.

And, maybe, when you type it into Google.



photo credit: death to the stock photo

Writing Down the Bones

donuts and coffee

When a writer-friend says about a book, “This will find a place next to your copy of Bird by Bird,” You buy it–even if you’re in a really, really bad head space, and you still would rather not follow any good advice. So, a few months ago I bought Writing Down the Bones, started to read it, and decided I hated it.

The premise is that writing is indeed a way into meditation, and quite helpful for the soul, and oh-so-very-good. And everything in me wanted to throw this writing-zen-meditation book across the room. This is my normal reaction to truth that stings. It’s quite mentally aggressive.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there was a connection between zen and the writing process, but I didn’t happen to care in that moment. And because I am not as evolved as you, or most newborns, I did not want to sit with myself, to hear my thoughts, and to sort out the bad from the ugly and the pain from the humor, and get it all down into letters and words. I knew what was there; I did not want to pen it down.

[Note: this is a tell tale sign that you should be writing.]

There was a little bit of shame, a good dose of pain, a smidge of hopelessness mixed up with insecurities, and a lot of self-doubt and brooding.  These are the times when I–in a clearly objective state–determine I am not social enough, or generous enough, or smart enough, or polite enough, and that my writing is mostly crap, and my driving is very bad, and I’m not quite qualified to do most things, or anything, really. Except sleep. Well, sleep and watch movies.

In essence, every un-truth and half-truth worked its way into my consciousness and I pretended the past few weeks weren’t their own kind of awful and my life was merely shit. This is what it is like inside my head when my feelings are hurt: I’m utterly irrational and weepy. I am not unique in this way.

So, of course, these are the times when meditation is best, and most necessary, and when we (or maybe just me) are the least likely to want to participate in any sort of self development and yoga-ness. Yet, meditation will seep into where it is needed. It will sneak into the act of writing, and move through the wisdom of others, and even turn running into it’s own type of  focused breathing exercise.

So my Honest Adult Book Review of Writing Down the Bones is that it was completely necessary, utterly annoying, and moved through me in all the right places. It reminded me that there is power in the words we share, the stories we live, and the truths we underline, highlight, and keep. It got me to write in the middle of sadness and fear and vulnerability, which is the best time (as is any time) to get feelings onto paper.

It is precisely the type of story that gets good books thrown at walls, and then picked up and read properly.


Learning to Date by Dating

girl on phone kristie was here
I’ve been working hard to be open. Open and kind. Open and smart. Open, vulnerable, strong, and honest. Open, with a fence, with a gate, a few keys, and a padlock. It is the most incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying thing, while simultaneously having all of the magic of the Divine wrapped into it. In short, it is the Amazing Mystery of Love Trumping Every Single Fear, But Only Slightly.

Last week a friend asked how I was. “I’m somewhere between a panic attack and great. So I think that means ‘okay’.”

“As long as ‘okay’ is in quotes,” he said.

I was sitting under my desk at work, listening to music, taking a break and making the world feel a little smaller and manageable. I do this (rarely) when I can’t get to a coffee shop or park bench to give my brain a break from the everything-is-moving type of feeling. Or when I need a nap.

To put my life in context: I am dating. That is to say, I am going on outings with strangers, or friends, or whatever you call the grey space in between. I am saying “yes” more than “no” and it is everything I can do to be “okay” and not tell the universe to fuck off. Some days this is all really annoying; as we all know, being self-aware can be exhausting and feels quite overrated.

So, dating—the intentional gender paring for a few moments over food or drinks—is scary, at least for me. Partly because I’ve done it poorly before; I believe “epically failed” would be the proper terminology. And partly because nothing quite prepares you for all this expansive human interaction except for the doing of it, both feet in, standing fully in your boots, looking into kinder eyes, wondering what the hell you are doing, and how you became an adult without your knowledge. Or maybe that is just me.

Either way, I keep saying over, and over, and over again, “This is me. I am here. Right now. Let’s give it a shot,” also, “Please and thank you,” because I have manners. Being present is one of the greatest gifts I can give another human being. Even if there is no spark, no stickiness, no attraction whatsoever, we are doing human together, and that is something.

Penelope Gunterman once shared with me an old Buddhist saying: “Life is full of one thousand joys and one thousand sorrows.” I’ve breathed in that truth.

Being human involves getting deep into the still-forming mosaic. It is all the issues, failures, baggage, and goodness forming Life; it my past and present and all the goodness of today. It is the joy, but also the sorrow.

When I was in Rome, a slender Italian man with gray hair and a large smile asked me, “How long has your heart been busy?” I was dating a tall gentleman at the time, and my new Italian friend had wanted to know for how long. His words were everything.

The heart. The gentle almost-always guarded heart I carry around is looking to be busy, busy with a kind of strength and vulnerability that has always been a fight. It is a fight worth having, but a battle nonetheless. My friend Shaylynn knows this. She is part of my Sanity Support Group. She has a lifetime membership. Last week she wrote me, “You’ve been through a lot, love hasn’t been a fair balance for you. But you are beyond deserving.”

And that is the gift of humanity, I suppose: whether or not it—love, vulnerability, joy, compassion, strength—comes easy, you are beyond deserving.

And if that ever gets to be too much (because I promise you it will sometimes) there’s always room for you under my desk.

Stories from May

typewriter kristie was here


And now I present you with potential titles for the stories I’ve lived this month…

On Dating: Tales of Wild Optimism & Incredible Naivety or How I Accidentally Go on Dates

On Education: That One Time I Was Homeschooled In A Cult or How I Finally Have Something in Common with The Duggers

On Running: I Keep Forgetting I Hate This or That Was Stupid

On Early Mornings: I Hate Everything Before 6:30am or Just Say No

On Children: Stop It. I’m Old Enough to Know if I Want Them or I Really Want a Dog

On Birth: Horrific & Magical—I Have a New Niece or I Almost Passed Out While Photographing a Birth

On Introverting: It’s Not You, It’s Me or If I Walk Away Will You Stop Talking to Me?

On Shopping: I  Have Enough or If I Cannot Buy it Online, It is Not Important

On Grandparents: My Grandma Wants a Tattoo or Why My Grandma is My Spirit Animal

On Watching Movies: Laugh with Strangers or Stories are Therapy

On Transportation: I Have Issues, Always or It Shouldn’t Be This Difficult to Park

On May: I Was Home for 37 Hours or Why Living out of A Suitcase is A Great Idea