The Shape of My Love

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I’m reading The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. She has a passage that’s been ruminating in my head:

Which makes my thinking go like this: When you fall in love with your kids, you fall in love forever. And that love forms the exact shape in the world of the cab of a beat-up pickup on the side of the dark highway — filled with safety and Steve Wonder and okay-ness.

Or the exact shape of a single hospital bed with two figures nestled in it. Which of course suggests that no matter what, the kid is going to be all right.

I’ve been wondering what my love looks like for Eldon, or what my love looks like for my parents. I remember having maori practice in my backyard some Saturday afternoon. My dad was teaching all of us a song, and when I started to sing, he smiled at me in a way that made me feel like the most important person in the world.

I remember when I took out my endowments in the Salt Lake City temple, my mom hovered and fretted over me the whole time. Her nervousness on my behalf somehow made me feel calm and loved and proud. When it was all over, she looked at me with a kind of wistfulness as if she was trying to capture the feeling of this moment for a little bit longer. Or maybe that was me.

What will Eldon remember? What will be the story that makes him say, “That’s when I knew my mom loved me.” It’s a silly notation, I know. The love I have for Eldon isn’t wrapped up in one story or one moment. I’m sure the shape of it will grow, expand, evolve into something solid, and eternal. I can’t wait.

Burn

galaxy lollipops

Galaxy lollipops are a thing now.

I mourn a lot over my past self. I remember this intense girl who picked spots on the horizon and tried with clumsy determination to make it into the general area. She accomplished a lot of what she set out to do, but she seldom felt the glow that seemed promised in her ambitions. She also talked more than she listened.

I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting today. Two different people came up to me after the meeting and prefaced the usual, “great job, thanks for sharing” church greeting with, “You know, it’s really scary to go up there, but…”

The husband assured me that I did not in fact sound afraid or nervous, but the comments have stuck in my head wondering when I became such a coward.

I’ve only recently begun to hear the voices in my head again. This is how it starts for me. A fragment of conversation between characters that with the proper nudging develops into dialogue. More nudging may invoke a theme. My hope is that the attention may lead me to a story. How desperately I hope that my fingers and my brain will get their act together long enough for a story. How much I have missed it.

I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack too much (is that possible?). The phrase “palaces out of paragraphs” sound so lovely even against its context. “You built cathedrals.” How glorious and frightening.

 

It Mattered to Me: The People that Changed My Life for the Better (my dad)

Last night I dreamt that I was explaining to a stranger that my dad had died and his funeral was going to be soon. In my dream I was the age I am now even though my dad really died when I was twelve.

The stranger asked what kind of person my dad was and I struggled to find the right words. I said he was the best. I said that he had been admired by so many people. Most of all, I told this stranger that he was kind.

I woke up and clung to those things I had said in my dream. They were all true. Although it’s still hard even now. Sometimes I look at these moments I had with my dad and it feels something like cheap consolations for the even more moments that he has not been here. I can find myself still suppressing the bitterness that can creep up in my throat as I wish and wish that I could talk to him, that he could talk to me, that I could hold my hand in his and wait until he squeezed and I would know that he loved me and that I was safe.

I think if I didn’t love him, if I hadn’t felt the great love he had for me, it wouldn’t hurt this much. This year has worn me down, and I’m glad we have only a couple more months left of it. I don’t know what the new year will be like, but I’m going to think about my dream. I’m going to think about my dad. And I’m going to try to be more kind.

 

It Mattered to Me: The People that Changed My Life for the Better (my siblings)

Thoughts about my older sister:

A year after I had graduated high school, I didn’t really think about my future beyond college graduation. I was a commuting college student taking a full load and working 2 part time jobs. My biggest indulgence was going to see movies, and my favorite movie partner was my older sister.

One weekend we rented the movie Before Sunrise and then went to see Before Sunset in theaters a few days later. We spent literally hours talking about Before Sunrise, and when we walked into the theater to see Before Sunset we kept trying to check ourselves from expecting too much only to be disappointed.

When the end credits rolled and we walked out of the theater, I felt like I was floating. I turned to my sister and she had the same dreamy look on her face. We recognized the shared expressions and started talking really fast, overlapping and interjecting with other insights or exclamations that the film brought out in us. It was one of the best nights of my life.

My little sister:

I have always described myself as loyal, and I seek after loyalty in my friends and my family. I sometimes think of loyalty as dutiful, responsible, honorable or some kind of boring affectation that fits into my own personality. My little sister is loyal, but she is very different in comparison. Her interests, her passions, the way she goes about things is entirely different from me. She is the kind of brave that I envy, the kind of dreamer that I admire.

When I was in shock the months after my boy was born, she would show up ready to hold him as I ran into the bathroom to doze off in the shower. She still shows up to make my son laugh at her funny faces or tell me about a new recipe that involves figs and carmelized-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-too-busy-rolling-my-eyes-to-listen-to-the-rest-of-these-ingredients-sorry-not-sorry.

My little brother:

I am a good singer. This does not mean I am a great singer, just good. Years of disuse has made my singing voice unreliable, but I still fall back on being a good singer. Once after a concert or some silly performance in high school, I was at home and my little brother came into my room and said, “Nani, you have a good voice.” I smiled and said thank you, but inside I was beaming.

My little brother has such a quiet way of making those around him feel good. He is the only boy of three girls and the baby. He charmed us all as a little kid with just a smile. He still charms with little effort. Now that he is a new dad, I can’t wait to see the generous love he will shower down on his son.

 

 

 

It Mattered to Me: The People that Changed My Life for the Better (the Leader)

One of the speakers at church sparked this post as well as the moving talk by President Uchtdorf in the Women’s General Broadcast yesterday. I feel like for the past few months I’ve been mired in a muck of ennui. I’ve had some encouraging moments sprinkled throughout the past week, and I wonder if I’m starting to climb out of it.

These two speakers prompted me to think about the miraculous people that have come into my life. I’ve thought about the teachers, friends, family members and mentors that have changed me for the better. They loved me and served me even when or especially when I didn’t deserve it. By thinking about these people, more and more names came into my mind until I realized how much I’ve been seen.

I’d like to post a new person once a week and see how many stories I can showcase.

When asked at church to think of a person that changed my life for the better, the first person I thought of was a former bishop I had growing up.

It should surprise no one that as awkward as I am today as an adult, I was an even more awkward teenager. Losing a dad right before you start junior high doesn’t help. I don’t know what I would have done without someone to talk to, someone that wasn’t a member of my family, someone that was always on my side, someone that thought I was wonderful, someone that cared.

Every Sunday he would ask me how I was doing. I always answered back, “Fine.” When I didn’t mean it, he would know and have me come into his office and talk it through. Sometimes when I did mean it, he would invite me into his office to share good news. He always had tissues and treats. He always had a kind word, and a compliment ready to dispense. I felt smart, and capable and believed in. I can’t measure how much and how often this man made me shine.

Those years after my dad died should have been unbearable, and I had many moments that were, but then again, I also had so many sweet kindnesses to think back on. He was a part of a lot of them. I hope one day he knows how much he changed my life, how much it was needed.

 

I’m the Mama

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This Mother’s Day was my first baby’s-out-of-my-belly Mother’s Day. I’ve been trying to formulate my thoughts over the past two years from the time I first found out I was pregnant. I can say that motherhood has changed me. I don’t know that I am better or kinder or more patient. My anxieties haven’t seemed to lessen much. I am still the flawed person I was before this remarkable change.

The greatest part of being a mother is my boy. I hold on to that when the fears crowd my mind. I need it when I feel at a loss for the answers just out of reach. I can choose to care for my child using option A over option B and then switch to option B when option A only worked the first time but never after that and I am still his mother.

As my boy enters more and more new phases in his life, I am still his mother. When I feel so inadequate and I make mistake after mistake, I am still his mother. Through the well meaning voices that abound and offer advice and sweet counsel, I decide what will work for me because I am his mother. What a marvel to be this boy’s mother. What a gift.

2016

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A couple of weeks ago, I binge-listened Magic Lessons, a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert. The last podcast she had with Brene Brown was so great. One of the ideas they shared was to tweak the often quoted pseudo-inspirational question “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” to “What’s worth doing even if you failed?”

I know I can be risk averse to a fault. Failure has always had such grumbling resonance in my mind that its mere shadow sometimes leaves me in a state of flush. And yet…when I thought of the moments where I knew failure could find me, I flinched, I worried, I consulted those I trusted, I read loads: I did it anyway. I listened to the risks as they howled my anxieties, my worst case scenarios. I did it anyway. I traversed through mistake after mistake and tried to learn and improve. I was competent. I was lacking. I am still working at it.

The two times when I felt it would be worth it even if I failed was choosing to be a wife and a mother. Maybe that seems silly compared to more vocationally impressive goals and aspirations. Maybe I will drum up the courage to find another thing I’d be willing to fail for. But at least in 2015, I can say that I was brave. I can say that I opened myself up to a new adventure that has changed the direction of my whole life. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. Yet despite the fear, I am unwavering in my conviction that they are both worth it.