When the Sun Comes Out

Magnolia blooms permeate the view from my writer’s perch.  The soft pink blossoms, illuminated by street lamps, beckon me to stop and appreciate their brilliance, my gaze soothed by a warm breeze, my heartbeat keeping time with the butterfly wind chimes.  God answered my prayers for a sign with the gift of summer days to interrupt the winter blues.

I’d ask for a sign that I’d be a mom someday, so that I could enjoy my singleness now.  Last week’s writing therapy typed me to the conclusion that my focus on the aim itself was misplaced.  While waiting for that sign, I seemed to find God’s footprints in the sand, leading me out of my self-prescribed desert.  After a few days actively looking, I was satisfied not that I had, in fact, gotten my answer.  Rather, I had approached everyday moments as if they were a part of a blueprint directing my path; somehow, focused on these moments instead of the illusive dream of motherhood, life began to matter again.

Which is not to say that it didn’t matter a few weeks ago.  I was just too discomforted by my own disillusionment to participate in everyday moments.  Mom has suggested I might experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, where winter ushers in a slushy, grey cloud to reign over my mood for a few months.  Last week, our weather fluctuated, and I felt my spirits brighten on the warm days only to awaken sullen and somber after a night’s frost.

Then Saturday, for Charming’s visit, God gave me a seventies-and-sunny February day to spend at the beach.  We set up our chairs and a blanket at Fort Monroe, and we enjoyed the lazy sun reading our books, tossing the football, and walking the shoreline to its passable end.  Some families were around earlier in the day, but the beach was pretty isolated by the time we left hours later.  When we trekked up the shore, we saw other footprints in the sand.

Others had come before us.  We couldn’t see them now, but there was evidence of their passing.  I thought about the last week and a half since I finished reading The Alchemist and started paying attention to my everyday moments.  I remembered standing on the shore in Spain over a decade ago and finding inspiration in a man and his daughter walking hand in hand, one in the water, one in the sand.  I remember finding inspiration in the broken sea shells.   I remember finding inspiration in the fact that I was seeing the Atlantic Ocean from the other side.

When did I stop believing that the world would surprise and delight me?  In my youth, I found inspiration in everything.  I’d churn out two songs a week with lyrics and piano accompaniment.  I wrote hundreds of poems in high school.  Dozens in college.  A handful in my twenties.  It’s been nearly a decade since I wrote a good song.  Maybe I stopped writing because I stopped seeing the wonder and awe in everyday moments.  Maybe writing about an uninspiring world was a natural road block.

Then, nearly two years ago, while driving east on I-64 after dinner at my brother’s, the sun was setting in the rear view mirror.  I had the urge to write that Tuesday night, and I’ve been writing on my front porch every Tuesday night since.  I’ve seen these magnolias bloom twice before.  I know the azaleas will be next.  Still, they surprise and delight me.  The magnolias bloomed a few weeks early.  The daffodil gifted at the Easter service last year sprouted and blossomed without warning.

Early on in my writing, it was my garden that dictated my manner of inspiration.  The seventies-and-sunny Saturday gave us a beach day.  The warm weekend gave me blossoms.  It was the setting sun that pierced my grey cloud on that March Tuesday night.  When the sun set on our beach day, I saw a collection of moments that mattered.  Steadied on the possibility of God’s footprints in the sand, I saw that I’d looked around me instead of narrowing my vision on an uncertain future.

When the sun comes out, things grow.  My magnolias and daffodils and azaleas.  And me.  I grow.

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That beach day was an answer to prayer.  Sunning myself with a Francine Rivers’ novel in my lap and Charming beside me, every worry and care slipped away.  I knew this day was a gift.  The weather will cool again; we’re far from the last frost of the year.  I was determined to make the most of the warmth.  You don’t waste a day like Saturday pining after children skipping rocks in the ocean.

But isn’t that what I’ve been doing with every today since this natural, overbearing, unwelcomed, maternal instinct first seized me months ago?  I would look at the empty dining room table and wish it were overflowing with crumbs evidencing a toddler had been there.  I’d never let my gaze shift long enough to observe the piano beside it begging for love and attention.

When we get a summer weekend in February, I stop to appreciate it.  When my magnolias are heavy with blooms, I stop to appreciate them.  If I considered every morning for the potential it, too, had to contain a surprise, would I not wake expectantly regardless of the heat index?  Yet, I’ve discovered in these recent days of waiting for a sign that God interacts in my life in a personal way.

His footprints are sometimes unmistakable, other times nearly hidden by changing tides.  It’s made me a better teacher.  A half a dozen times in the last week, students have come to talk with me and I found myself really listening, trying to understand why this child was put in my path at this moment, hearing what she’s not saying.  I can complete the dozen with interactions with strangers at Walmart and even my driveway, moments I think must have been there all along, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Fix your eyes on the prize.  As a sprinter, I set my gaze just beyond the finish line. The stands blurred in my periphery.  I couldn’t see my father there cheering me on during the race, but afterward, his face was the first I searched for in the crowd.   To win, I had to shut my dad and everyone and everything else out.  I might not have seen him, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there, all along, supporting me every stride of that 100-meter dash.

I think that, perhaps, I’ve been treating my life as a sprint, focused on the prize: a family of my own.  I let the sidelines blur.  I wasn’t inspired because I didn’t see anything but my absent prize.  The beach day was a prize, a gift I didn’t know to ask God for, but He interceded nevertheless.  How many other prizes, gifts, signs, or omens have I missed because my face was set hard, cold, somewhere beyond the finish line?

When the sun comes out, I grow.  And the truth is, the sun always comes up.  It’s there, hidden behind the clouds, blurred with the sidelines.  My beach day was a promise.  Beneath the warmth of the sun’s rays, I could taste summer, and hope took hold of me.  There are better days ahead.

The days in between, the cold days, they’ll attack that hope.  They’ll remind me of the empty table, but I’ll sit astride the piano bench and lose myself in the gift of the music.  The dreary clouds will taunt me with visions of unfulfilled dreams, but I’ll wake expectantly for an unexpected gift in an everyday moment the day will offer.

When the sun comes out, I grow.  And when it doesn’t, I’ll follow the footprints in the sand to a new sunrise.

Show Me a Sign

Some signs are clear: they dictate our right of way in traffic, mark the appropriate bathroom, or denote the sale prices for a rack of clothing.  We rely on signs to navigate effectively through the physical realm.  There is a temptation for some, a longing for others, for such signs to satisfy the navigational needs of the inner soul.  Haven’t we all, at some point, asked God or the night air to show us a sign?

I have, in big moments and little ones.  When I can’t find my keys, and I imagine God seated on His great throne in heaven, peering down into my little rented house, eyes fixed on my purse which, I’ll discover in a half hour when I’m so frustrated I attempt to throw said purse, is sitting atop my keys.  I asked him them, to show me a sign… so I can make it to work on time.  And that’s little.  A bit embarrassing, but it’s honest as it happened just last week.

I’ve asked God for a sign in big moments, too.  Last month, I prayed that He would give me a sign that I’d eventually be a mother… so I could find happiness and contentment in my current situation.  We always have our reasons when we beg for a sign, and the bigger the reason is for me, the less confident I am that a sign will ever come.

Yet, I’ve seen answers during decision conundrums past where God’s intervention was undeniable.  He spoke through a street preacher in Baton Rouge who told me I could not go back where I came from; that door had been closed, but God would open new doors, and He had already forgiven me.  I’d prayed and searched so long for direction that I believed this was an answer from God, direction for my inner soul that it was time to leave Nashville and the life I’d built for a decade.

In the months that followed, I prayed for more signs: Where should I live?  What job should I pursue?  No signs came.  After six months of what seemed to be unanswered prayers, I stopped praying completely.  Had my encounter with the street preacher altered my expectations for God’s personal interactions in my life?  Would He now have to speak through men or animals or dreams for me to believe I was finally certain of my next steps?  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life, and I was hopeless as a direct result of my purposelessness.

So much has transpired in the last four years, and the benefit of hindsight renders interpretation of past signs and symbols utterly unreliable.  When my sister-in-law announced she was having twins, I sought out teaching jobs in Hampton.  When I got the job, I decided to move.  While packing up the moving truck, I was offered a position there in Syracuse.  I felt that it was a sign, that if I’d gotten that job offer two weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have made the move.

And I wouldn’t have been co-mothering my little nieces, I would have missed out on all their firsts, I would have never met my young bloggers or had reason to make it to Italy, I would have never started blogging, Charming would have never read my posts that made him reach out to me… the list could go on and on.  Was it a sign?  Does it really matter?

Sometimes we just have to make a choice, and we’ll use any available datum to  inform the direction, mostly because these signs aren’t clear like those in traffic or stores.  This weekend, Charming and I drove up to Pennsylvania for a ski day with some friends.  He cued up an audio book that fit the length of our round trip travel.  I recognized the title as one I’d read in college, but I couldn’t remember any specifics.

Charming’s choice was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, subtitled “A Fable About Following Your Dreams” originally published in Portuguese in 1988.  A Spanish shepherd boy goes in pursuit of his personal legend, given to him in a recurring dream about finding a buried treasure in the sands at the pyramids.  Santiago encounters people who help him on his journey.  One tells him that the Soul of the World conspires to help people fulfill their personal legends.

As with any fable, immediate parallels can be drawn, and I found myself resonating so much with the conclusion that I was moved to tears.  Only a masterpiece of fiction can accomplish such a sudden flash of emotion entirely absent in the sentence preceding it.  After a full day on the slopes, the frequent falls of an amateur had taken effect.  The audio book was a welcomed distraction, facilitating the two hour drive home in the dark, winding mountains.

The last person Santiago encounters is an alchemist in the desert who teaches him to listen to his heart, and the boy eventually hears it say: “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.  We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away  forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands.  Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.”

Yes, yes, yes! I cried inwardly.  I sat up.  I listened even closer.  The road noise was muted by the intensity of the words.  Santiago’s heart goes on to instruct the boy to tell it, his heart, that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and “no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

Yes.  That’s it.  The fear of suffering stunts us all at some point, and we long for these omens promised to the boy Santiago, omens given by God to guide us in realizing our personal legacy.  It makes sense then, that I would pray for a sign that I would be a mother… so that I could be satisfied in my life now.  It’s the reason that’s flawed, not that dream or the desire.  Santiago’s journey was the lesson.  His journey contained richness equal in measure to that of the treasure he pursued.  He was committed to his destination, but it did not stop him from achieving in whatever his present circumstances chanced to be.

Instead, he saw signs in the moments we often missed.  Since Sunday’s reading, I’ve been paying attention, too. Last night, I dreamed that my hairdresser had mistakenly given me bangs.  Does it mean something?  Probably not.

During my planning block, a distraught senior came inquiring about cap and gown pictures in the auditorium, explaining her sister had passed away and today was her first day back.  As I worked to accommodate her into a full schedule, I noticed her t-shirt bore the dates of her sister’s life.  She was in her early twenties.  She died on my birthday.  She left behind two baby girls.  Does it mean something?  To me, it did.  I was ready to adopt those little girls in that moment had they not already had a loving home.

On lunch, Facebook reminded me it was Uncle Paul’s birthday.  I remembered the integral role he played in helping me come to make peace with the reality of my divorce.  God gave him a second chance with my Auntie Cherry, and their quiver was full with four brilliant and charming sons.  It’s just coincidence, that it’s his birthday today, but Paulo Coelho’s fabled manner of interpreting life has lasting effects.  In any event, I stopped to think, to pray, to thank God for Uncle Paul and his personal legacy.

After school, we interviewed a potential candidate for an English position next year.  Over the course of an hour, I’d concluded I was in love with her.  Her answers sounded like mine every time.  I had visions of us collaborating over grade ten curriculum.  I left thinking, “She could be my best friend.” Another dream.

At dinner, my sister-in-law explained what Mardi Gras means to her, though I’d been unaware it was even coming up.  She talked about living in Louisiana and how the week leading up to Lent was marked by a festival every day.  Next week, on Ash Wednesday, many Christians will observe a period of fasting or abstaining.  I’ve participated myself, giving up soda or chocolate or music, but I never understood the real significance until tonight.  Perhaps, it was because my experience with The Alchemist has me paying attention.

I’d heard that the smudge of ash put on the forehead embodied the scripture that we come from the dust and will return to it.  Gabrielle told me, however, that she sees this mark of ash as a representation that our sins are gone, that our pasts have been burned up, like the sins written on the cards that some churches symbolically throw into a fire.  Lent begins, and the daily denying of something by yourself is instituted to draw yourself closer to God.

These are signs that we give to God.  They represent promises.  Does it mean something that this week begins the daily Mardi Gras festivals, that the world enjoys its last nights absent the discipline required in the weeks to come?

I don’t know if it matters if there are, in fact, omens, or that these random moments in my day are, in fact, signs.  What I’ve gathered, in one day of paying attention, of reading my environment, of seeing and hearing things I’d normally overlook in my dismal cloud of disappointment at not yet being a mother, this ache that overshadows normal interactions.  My reason had changed.  My heart can’t suffer if it goes in search of its dreams, because “every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

I felt God more near to me today than I have in years, than I have since the street preacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, home to Gabrielle’s fondest Mardi Gras memories, on the day we focus on living, on the day a great man gains another calendar on the cake, the day a young girl faces a new life raising her sister’s kids, a sister that died on my thirty-forth birthday, a day I was so sad.

When I was skiing on Sunday, I tried a blue trail for the first time.  It wasn’t until I made it to the bottom and looked back at the mountain behind me that I felt satisfaction.  I’d fallen four times.   I’d hated the run.  Too often, I think, we scorn the journey, or at least I do, when the suffering of the path will certainly be behind us, when eventually it will end.

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We scorn them because we can’t see how those sufferings themselves will become, in the perfect retrospect of hindsight, necessary means to fulfill our own personal legacies.  There were signs on the trail on the way down, but I can’t see any facing me when I look back up the mountain.  I just see that I made it.

Status, Symbols, and Self

You love or hate today, really, I imagine.  Single, dating, married, or divorced, Cupid’s arrow strikes humanity indiscriminately once a year, ushering in a day’s reign of sentimental gestures. Nine years ago today, my ex-husband proposed.  Four years ago today, I packed a bag; I didn’t know that I would end up leaving him for good.  Tonight, I’m alone.  Alone on Valentine’s Day.

Oh, I celebrated with Charming this weekend.  I’d created a charming adventure, perfect for a mid-sixties Saturday afternoon.  I’d made cards with pictures of locations around my town, and on the reverse of each were questions that we had to answer en route to the next stop.  We were just carefree kids on a quest in the beginning.  I brought my selfie stick from the White Elephant gift exchange back at Christmas, and we snapped a shot at each card’s location.

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I’d separated the cards into categories.  The game began with emotionally neutral topics, like career, saving more sensitive topics, like future, for the end.  My favorite question was about childhood: What advice would you give your childhood self?  While I’d typed up the cards, I’d been careful not to think about my answers in advance.  So when I was tasked to consider this, a silent movie began to play.

I saw myself in third grade writing a poem Valentine for the pastor’s son while the other girls were playing after Sunday School.  I saw myself in sixth grade assuring myself that I was not, in fact, dropping band because I would get to be in study hall with a cute red head instead.  I saw myself in tenth grade, head buried in the choir room’s baby grand composing my heartbreak in a song called “Forever Chained” exactly eighteen years ago today.

I didn’t need a day on the calendar to remind me of love in my childhood; I was obsessed with it.  My dad was right to fear I was boy crazy, though I still cringe at the blow the attribution wielded by the force of negative connotation.  If I didn’t have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, there was one I was pursuing.  Today, I watched streams of teens file in and out of my classroom, some laden with flowers and chocolate, others hanging their heads in a little more angst than usual.

There are not just two sides to Valentine’s Day – it’s more like a tetrahedron, where your feelings about the holiday are determined by the point at which your circumstances intersect.  I’ve experienced today as an unhappily single teen pining after an unrequited love.  Most years, I had a boyfriend, but I was only happy in some.  Several years, I was married, and likewise only happy in some. For a few years, I’ve been divorced and dating.

My conclusion?  Loving or hating today has little to do with your Facebook relationship status.  If I had a Polaroid from this day every year since I hit puberty (Dad might argue earlier), you’d need an index to keep track of all the boys, some of them men, that fill the album.  The only constant in those pictures, the only variable that remains fixed, is me.

If I could tell my childhood self one thing, it would be to forget about boys until her late twenties.  I would tell her that loving love and longing for love and living for love would not guarantee her the kind of love she desperately sought after.  I would say, “Laura Joy, you’re going to be Valedictorian.”  Pawn it off as arrogance, but I had the academic potential.  Shoot for the moon and end up Magna Cum Laude at least.  I can’t say that my relational efforts were all a waste as that would decree two thirds of my life an unrecoverable void.  It’s just that the efforts could have been redirected, could have been more effectively distributed toward academic growth or fostering a friendship with that elusive best girl friend for life.

I would tell my childhood self what I told the girls in my third block class who were bemoaning their singleness today, saying they didn’t feel loved.  I gave each a jaw breaker and said, “You are loved.  You don’t need flowers and candy to be loved.  This is just a symbol of love you already have.  Now, does everybody feel loved?”

That’s all they wanted.  A symbol of love.  It’s all I wanted, too, for as far back as I can see.  Over the decades, the desired symbol has changed.  A title.  A Facebook status.  A promise ring.  An engagement ring.  A wedding band.  A divorce decree.

I’ve wanted love and I’ve had it, in different ways and different times with different guys.  And though I’m officially with Charming, it seems most fitting that I’m alone this year on Valentine’s Day.  I feel more single, perhaps, than I ever have since my divorce.  Because I am alone, I get to sit on my white wicker perch, sifting through the void of Valentine’s Days pasts to make sense of that Polaroid photo album.

Alone, I see the constant in the picture.  I see me.

I have loved, for thirty-four years, with unabashed joy and faith.  I have loved my family and friends and students in active service.  Once a year, Cupid reminds me to love more intentionally, but my kids don’t need candy to be reminded.  They appreciate the symbol.  We all appreciate the symbols.

Wading through the void, the recoverable truth emerges – the advice I didn’t know to give until well into my one hundred and second night writing here on this front porch in Virginia.  If I could give one piece of advice to my childhood self, it would be this: Laura Joy, you must love yourself.  No exclusions or restrictions.  Not love yourself before someone will love you.  Not love yourself because someone loves you.  Love yourself because you will be the only constant in every Valentine’s Day.

Love yourself.  Because when you’re alone on your front porch in your thirties or fifties or seventies, you’ll be the star of all your memories.  Were you really smiling?  Roll the Valentine’s tetrahedron like gambling with dice, and no matter where you land in the relationship plane, I think you love today if you love yourself, independent of how many symbols of love you received.

I’ve never had a problem loving others; loving myself doesn’t come naturally.  Ever the perfectionist, my flaws are mentally highlighted in yellow until I can eliminate them.  I’m in my head all the time.  There are days I’ve actually wished I were someone else so I wouldn’t have to be alone with myself.  Ridiculous, right?  That internal narrative is deep seeded, decades old, fostered and nurtured by a lifetime of defining happiness by a romantic position.

I see it in my young students, consumed by the equal desire to find happily ever after.  If I could sit down with that childhood version of me and her Babysitter’s Club book of the week, if I could have a conversation with her on that frilly pink comforter, I would tell her to write her happily ever after dependent only on herself.  I would tell her not to pin her hopes and dreams on always and forever with a knight in shining armor.  I’d tell her to love, value, cherish, and honor herself in equal measure to those around her, that she would be her best friend and lifelong companion inside a revolving door of transitory love, inevitable with changes in life circumstances.

If I’d loved myself then, it would surely come naturally to do so now.  And I would love today… if I loved me.  Charming’s roses on the table inside are a beautiful symbol of his love for me.  If I could give myself a symbol of my love, it would be those buds on the magnolia tree.  Just beginning, but with a promise of growth and beauty.

After I’d answered the childhood question for Charming on our quest this weekend, he turned it around on me.  “Would you give yourself the same advice now?”  That wasn’t on my game cards, but looking back tonight, it seems to me the most important question of the holiday, however rhetorical.

It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry if I Want To

So it happened on Sunday.  I turned thirty-four.  Honestly?  I hated it.  Charming did his best to cheer me up, from making tea to combat my miserable cold to reservations for an elegant dinner in Old Town to a warm fire in the fireplace.  I should have been content.  Instead, I cried my way through much of my birthday.

It’s getting pretty ridiculous at this point.  Granted, I sense that all the little moments of darkness scattered over the past few months had this day as their apex.  It peaked after church where I’d spent the service fighting the all-too-familiar ache in my stomach, at the core an irrational jealousy toward mothers with babies in their arms that seems almost biblical, driven by a God-given maternal instinct to go forth and create.

In light of the superior competing sports event on Sunday, we’d celebrated my birthday the night before.  I’d been sick for days and couldn’t recall my last good night’s sleep.  I had the afternoon to rest up for a Superbowl party with his church friends.  Charming made me soup.  We watched Netflix.   I tried to nap.  I couldn’t, so we talked.

And while the reality is that I was just a day older, the added year makes a difference.  I’m another year outside of my strategic plan for my life, devised in Mrs. Feldman’s class at Tecumseh Elementary a decade and half ago.  I was to marry at twenty-two, like my mom, and have my first child by twenty-eight, like my mom.  I’d named all my children in that little essay.  I could picture them with dark hair and skin like mine, but light colored eyes like my dad and my brothers.

The dreams of my future children were vivid when I myself was just a girl.  There was no question or doubt in my childhood.  No fear or apprehension in my teens.  No uncertainty or suspicions in my twenties.  I would be a good mother.  I would rest my hands on my swollen belly like the worship leader did on Sunday, gently soothing my unborn bundle of joy.  I would cuddle a little girl against my chest that looked a lot like me.  We would have Little League games and Awana Club nights and ballet recitals.

There wasn’t an option for motherhood on career aptitude tests, so teaching was a natural second choice.  It’s become my primary productive outlet.  In the absence of my own family, I am confident that hundreds of teens in Hampton have become the beneficiaries.  All that love, attention, thought, and time that I thought I would be investing in my own children by age thirty-four gets redirected to them.  I’m grateful to be in a profession where it’s easy to be in a position to love on people, students and colleagues alike.

It was my birthday, and Charming told me I could be sad and cry all day if I wanted to, but that tomorrow was a new day, and I needed to try and get past this.  Bleary eyed, I agreed.  I wept.  I grieved the children that are getting harder to picture playing in my front yard while I watch from the porch swing.  In my thirties, building a family with children that will grow up and give me grandbabies is no longer guaranteed.  There’s question and doubt, fear and apprehension, uncertainty and suspicion.

This morning, I stopped by to see my teacher friend Ariel before the first bell.  We swapped current drama.  She’s had a certain glow about her since meeting a new fellow a few months back.  Though divorce proceedings continue dragging, she’s starting to see the light at the end.  I noted a hesitant hope that suited the situation.  Her new beaux is ready to start a family of their own, and while she senses things moving too quickly, the way she described her desire for another baby is all too familiar.  It was like an epiphany for me, that my unsolicited emotional response to babies is not unique.

It’s not because I’m broken.  It’s because I’m a woman.

I’m not sure that it’s as simple a fix as just trying to move past it tomorrow.  Maybe this is one of those gender specific wonders that Charming can’t relate to.  He can fathom empathy, but the desire to bear children is outside his DNA.  It felt so good to hear Arial describe her own thoughts of unwelcomed jealousy at new mothers.  And, admittedly, I’m broken by this, but brokenness doesn’t make the tears start in church.  I’m a woman, after all.

Last week, I saw the first signs of growth in my magnolias.  I checked the dates on pictures from last year and the year before and gauged the trees are transforming right on track.  Tonight, the buds were unmistakable, set against the backdrop of a setting sun.  I smiled, even laughed aloud in spite of myself. In six weeks’ time, they’ll boast vibrant pink blossoms, the featured landscape on my street until April brings life forth from seeds latent in the long winter.

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The tiny, fuzzy buds delight me because they are a promise of what is to come.  It is certain.  There will be new life, great life, vibrancy, color, and it will permeate the winter frosts and emerge somehow even more beautiful than last year. The cycle is sure.

When I blew out the oil votive candle at the restaurant with Charming, I had wished for a promise like these buds.  A promise of what’s to come.  Something that’s certain.  That in my future, there will be children.  That though it’s getting harder to picture those kids playing in the front yard, that the painting will be restored, a featured landscape emerging out of my endless winter.  That I will be a mom, and it will be a great life, full of the color and vibrancy lacking as I turn in alone night after night.

It’s easy to shift the focus to Charming.  He’s an easy scapegoat.  Everyone has advice. Some say to end it; if he hasn’t figured it out by now, he never will.  Others say to just pull back, maybe be willing to entertain other options if they present themselves.  A few lone wolves say give it more time, but not past the two year mark.  No one seems to know how to quiet this longing for children so I can be contented with the good life that I already have.

I suppose I’ve determined the best combative strategy that I can employ for my current battle.  I’m not siring any little Palma soldiers any time soon, so I need to focus on reinforcing my home base.  I told myself to get a life.  I’ve said yes to a handful of social engagements.  Last week, I picked a church.   This week, I wrote a song.  It’s not a good one.  I might even scrap it and start over.  But it had been nine years since I last tried to plunk out a melody on the ivory keys.  I’m rusty, not unlike I was when I started writing this blog nearly two years ago.  This cycle is sure too.

I don’t know if I’ll get a promise of a beautiful future with baby blossoms and a front porch swing.  I do know that, if I can’t get past this unquenchable desire, I’m going to drag this malingering emotional cold with me through the foreseeable future.  I spent my birthday crying, and that was my choice.  Do I want to spend my next year that way?  Crippling fear becomes an ungodly foe.

One of my students said today that people are like glow sticks; they have to be broken to shine.  I want a glimmer in my smile again.  I’ve been broken, and whatever it takes to get from here to shining, I’ll all in.