Exciting news? Today my first article for RELEVANT Mag was published. You can read it here!
Routine : thin threads of truth tying me together. All the loose, uneasy parts of me that threaten to fall apart are sewn quietly, steadily, in each cup of morning coffee, in each word that finds its way to the paper, in every whispering rise and fall of pages turned, in each sunrise and sunset and swift chop of the knife over dinner, each sweat of garlic in the pan.
Someday these wounds will heal, though the scars may show. For this time, I stitch, one loop after another,
My name is Bethany.
I am 24 years old.
I lost my mother.
I do not feel like myself.
But I am loved.
I am known.
You are not impossible.
You have made a way for me.
Everything is not lost.
Grief is good.
Grief is necessary.
I will not try to escape my grief.
Everything is not lost.
I am a woman.
I am a wife.
I am a writer.
Everything is not lost.
Stitch, stitch, stitch.
This is the steady rhythm of my life.
Our family has spent every Labor Day for the past ten years at my aunt’s cottage in northern Michigan. It sits at the end of a dirt road and on the edge of Manake Lake, where cell service and internet and television are completely, blissfully unnecessary. Last year I didn’t make it up there, but this time around, I knew I couldn’t miss it. I knew my soul needed it.
I spent four days alternating between laying in the hammock with a good book, swimming, eating, laughing with 20 family members – parents, siblings, spouses, uncles, aunts, cousins, dogs. I’m sunburnt, but for every sting of red skin I smile a little at the memories made, the yard full of tents and RVs, the hugs and talks and jokes and boats and bonfires and meals and tears and the last rays of summer enjoyed before autumn is upon us.
I think in removing myself from the internet and work and obligation, I finally gave myself permission to feel. I even gave myself permission not to write. It would have been lovely to get up before everyone else and sit on the porch swing and let the words pour out of me so that I can have a stockpile of blog posts and articles, but I let myself sleep instead.
It has been a strange, busy, stressful, frustrating season, one that I have been desperate to get past and also desperate to learn from. I don’t think I understand my life any better than I did a week ago, but I did realize that clarity and peace aren’t always achieved in words, even though I am a writer. No, despite my desperation to achieve, succeed, survive, overcome, conquer whatever I face, I am learning to accept that sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the most necessary.
This is the season for letting go.
[Photo of Manake Lake courtesy of my brother.]
Some say follow your heart.
But when your heart is heavy like led, laden with grief and guilt, you can easily become inert, following nothing, going nowhere.
Some say act your way into belief.
This is faith, I know, though it sounds pathetic and untrue, like the mysticism of a rain dance. Do their dances bring rain, or do they dance until it rains, not realizing that it was going to do so anyway, in due time?
Yet I choose to act, not out of proof or fullness of love, nor even Grace. I choose it because I know better than to let myself become stuck.
It is almost September, and this shift in time feels a little like betrayal, like the closing of a door, like the last look before really saying goodbye.
I could do the hard things, the first weeks of silence, the wake of a deeply changed after; it’s the monotony of a long life alone that I just can’t seem to stand. How dare time move without you. I put one step in front of the other, but my energy is waning.
On Sunday, my best friend and I took a day trip to southern Michigan to enjoy the beach, the local vineyards, and one of my favorite restaurants. The Stray Dog is the first exit in, last exit out pit-stop along I-94 of the Michigan/Indiana border, complete with rooftop dining that looks out over Lake Michigan.
So I was utterly heartbroken when Rach and I walked up to a chain-link fence that surrounded my beloved eatery’s charred remains, now a collapsed heap and a bulldozer parked in its stead. It burnt down last month.
“But who will give me my fish tacos and Oberon?!” I cried, to the amusement of the ice cream parlor patrons up the street.
We found someplace else to eat, a little Italian cafe with great pizza and a giant berry tiramisu in a wine goblet for dessert. It more than sufficed, but still, as we walked past the the Stray Dog’s ghostly lot with full bellies, I contemplated how life never waits for us to be ready for change, ready for gratitude, ready for healthy perspective. Even faith in the small things, like where to enjoy a good taco and the sunset, is more fleeting than we realize.
by Thomas Hardy
Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.
She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.
Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!