Your Last Autumn

It drifted in twirling pathways

Of deep grey rain and golden sunbursts

On the mountains

–Your last autumn.

Anxious finches, the rustling light on leaves.

The world in memory. The world in preparation.

Only in Fall

Can the world be angled so differently.

Your eyes were a cerulean blue,

Like the sky,

Your last autumn.

I wonder what moments were focused in those lenses.

Crinkly-smile lines and warm sweater hugs?

The final leaf falls, in a sigh.

But now it is some other Fall,

And I see grays and golds

And blues

And you.

-Kathryn Gustafson, 2016

AMWAP Book Review: Here on Earth

*Note: What is an AMWAP review? It’s a thing I made up. It stands for “As Many Words as Pages.” My AMWAP book reviews are uniquely crafted towards a specific word count. It’s my little way of keeping things snappy and driving myself slowly insane.For instance…The following book review is 309 words long.

Here on Earth

Pages: 309

Last night I finished reading Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth (1997).  In case you are unacquainted with her, Hoffman’s got this raw-but-lyrical quality that leaves you feeling like you’ve been emotionally stripped bare at some kind of intervention, but that (somehow) you were thoroughly enchanted by the entire experience. It’s fitting that she often writes about magic, because her stories are spellbinding.

Recently, Here on Earth caught my eye. I read a New York Times Book Review that called it, “a Wuthering Heights . . . profound.”  Sadistic though it may be, I’ve always loved Emily Bronte’s twisted love story and the way it makes prickle with goosebumps of anger, passion, and regret.

And that’s pretty much the exact same effect of Hoffman’s Here on Earth.

5159The story successfully carries the haunting themes of Wuthering Heights into a setting of 1990s America as it follows the return of March Murray to her small hometown.  When March re-encounters Hollis, the childhood love she never let go of, the passionate bond between them grows.  As their relationship illuminates the ghosts of their common past, it also begins to cast a destructive shadow over their lives.  Despite the absence of Bronte’s moors, the rural Massachusetts setting of Here on Earth carries a ghostly mystique of its own.

Though I openly recommended this book to everyone while still in its early chapters, I would be more selective in my recommendations having finished it.  Literary triumph? Definitely.  Disturbing? Definitely.  Just don’t tell your teenager to read this alongside Wuthering Heights, okay?

Overall, Here on Earth is a choice autumnal read for those who know what they are in for:  a dark and compelling re-imagining.  It poses some pretty interesting questions about romantic possession, redemption, revenge and what might have happened if Catherine and Heathcliff had gotten a chance to be together, “here on earth.”

Tell Me About Your Books.

Hey readers! I just wanted to announce an idea that’s been on my brain lately.

I love reading and I read, well, everything.

I think most Hardcore Readers have several, hypothetical “stacks” of books surrounding them at all times: entertainment reads, classics, nonfiction, genre fiction, bestsellers, award winners, children’s books, comic books….you get the idea: a little bit of everything. (Coincidentally, that’s kind of what my blog is).

Anyway, while I’ve done a few book reviews on here before, I would really like to focus more on them with my blog. I’ll be done with my MA later this year, and I would like an outlet to keep writing about what I read/ sharing ideas about books with other readers. It may start out slow at first, but I’d like to get it up to a weekly read/review.

What am I going to read?

roryread

Everything, anything, all kinds of things: books that make me look intelligent when I walk around with them in my hand, and books that might seem…well, stupid… to the general public.

I’m of the mindset that readers should not be embarrassed to read YA, mystery thrillers, –whatever  novels keep you flipping those pages to wind down after a long day.

I also think that we should always push ourselves to read different books than the ones that immediately comfortable.

As readers, we challenge ourselves to explore worlds that we never would have known existed otherwise. That’s one of the best things about reading, right?

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want your help.

Starting now, I will be keeping an ongoing list of book suggestions. I make no promises about the order of my reading–but I would like suggestions for all kinds of books, from all kinds of readers. So if there’s a book that you love, or hate, or just want to talk about–please leave a comment and share it with me!

 

 

 

Standing Desks: What’s the Big Deal?

My husband has been talking about standing desks for awhile now.

While his past jobs have kept him physically active, he now works a desk job which means that he sits at a computer for most of the day. After work, he comes home and pays bills. Recently he also started online classes (we are both going to school with SNHU online); this also keeps him sitting, glued to a screen.  Lately, he’s had more back problems than ever and has felt down about the sedentary nature of his daily routine.

He’s a tall, strong guy and he wants to use his body and stay healthy.  He’s basically Mr. Incredible, and therefore I really think he doesn’t want this to happen:

incredibles

I also want him to be happy and healthy of course, so I was totally supportive of the whole standing desk idea for our home office, even though it seemed a little weird to me.

This weekend the stand came in and assembly began. He converted his Monster (HUGE) Desk into an adjustable desk with a crank that can raise or lower the height so that it can be used while standing or sitting. It looks like a Mutant -Monster desk now.

“You’ll use it too?” he kept asking me, excitedly, “I mean, do you think you’ll like it?”

I just kind of shrugged, “Sure, I guess. Maybe.”

In all honesty, I couldn’t picture it. I am ADD and I get distracted enough as it is. I usually have to do like five things before I can settle in to on my writing projects or grad school assignments: coffee, blanket, computer glasses, music. . . toddler MUST be napping or I can’t focus at all.Then it takes me about 20 minutes, after settling in, to stop the circuit of rabbit-trailing articles or checking social media and actually begin the work at hand.

I could only imagine how distracted I would get standing up. That just didn’t seem -well- cozy/settled to me. Also, I chase a  1 year old around most of the day and exercise on a fairly regular basis, so I don’t really struggle with feeling inactive.

But yesterday I had to write a paper and I wanted to use the office. Why not? I figured. I’ll give the Mutant Monster Desk a try.

Then it happened.

I realized that standing desks are FREAKING AMAZING.

I mean, I am totally, completely IN LOVE with them.

Here is why:

  1. Something about the act of standing up actually helps keep my ADD brain on track. I did not expect this. I guess my body is saying, Okay, remember what you are here to do. You are standing up. You are not a lump. You are a person with a brain and purpose. Get to it. This is the complete opposite of what I expected to happen.
  2. I can actually stretch while I work. If I’m listening to music (which I always am when I am working) I can bounce/dance around a little.
  3. Movement makes me happy, as it does for most of us (even if we don’t realize it). Being able to use your body is a natural mood booster. I did not feel nearly as anxious  as I normally would about having to write a paper under a major time crunch. Being able to move and focus better were both huge stress-reducers.
  4. No added tension to my neck and shoulders. I have chronic headaches; any stress or discomfort seems to make it’s way directly to my noggin. Obviously, hunching over my laptop, as I frequently do, does not help the situation.  I actually had a really bad headache when I started working on my paper yesterday. However, the standing/stretching I was able to do while at the standing desk honestly helped to ease my discomfort.
  5. Energy. I finished my paper around midnight, which would normally be past my ideal bedtime. However, last night I felt almost hyper after my time spent at the standing desk.

So today, I couldn’t wait to get back in the office after Kora went down for her nap. I decided I would use the standing desk to spend some time researching benefits of . . . well . . . the standing desk. Here is what the research says, based on my findings here and here and  here.

  1. Those who used sit-stand desks were 78% more likely to report a pain-free day than those who used regular workstations, according to a Stanford University back pain study.
  2. The increased utilization of standing/sitting desks may help reduce obesity in our nation and the multiple related health concerns which accompany it.
  3. Did you know that an hour or more of daily sitting can actually lower your metabolism and your body’s good cholesterol, contributing to Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease? This is something that the increased utilization of standing desks could help combat. This is regardless of whether or not you exercise other times of the day.
  4. A 2011 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that workers who were given sitting/standing stations sat a lot less and experienced improved moods. Happy workers are good.
  5. A 2015 study published in the Oxford Journal of Public Health shows that sit-to-stand desks in classrooms appear to be an effective way of reducing sedentary behavior (prolonged sitting) in a diverse sample of children. This means that using this option in schools could help the upcoming generation to establish healthier habits.
  6. Office workers who are equipped with sitting/standing desks may be WAY more productive. One study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health found office workers who stood were 46% more productive than their sitting counterparts. That a is HUGE productivity.
  7. Though research has not yet yielded significant data to support it, my personal case study has indicated that using a standing desk while listening to dramatic film scores may increase your likelihood of feeling like a super hero/villain/spy. This is always a good thing.

Okay, so you get the picture. I’m all about the standing now, and the standing desks. Does it sound weird to you?  Try it. Just try it. I dare you. And let me know what happens.

standing-desk

 

All the Light We Cannot See: Doerr Illuminates the Heart in WWII Saga

The brain is locked in total darkness . . . yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. 

These words crackle over an old radio in Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See (2014). They represent a significantly fundamental idea to the novel’s main characters and to the reader’s experience of the book. Doerr’s World War II saga conveys the war’s beginnings through its aftermath via the alternating perspectives of a Nazi boy and a blind Parisian girl. Written in a sparse yet lyrical narrative, All The Light We Cannot See is a nuanced portrait of the oppressive darkness which reigned during this time in history, as well as the flames of humanity- and love-which managed to outlast it.

The (spoiler free-ish) story:

Werner Pfennig grows up in a poor, German orphanage with his beloved sister, Jutta. They live in a town where boys automatically become men who are condemned to a life of  mining as soon as they turn fourteen. When Werner is thirteen years old,his greatest fear is being sent into those mines, the same ones where his own father died. But another opportunity finds him first.  People whisper about the “big things” coming for Germany under Hitler’s leadership. While Werner doesn’t know much about the Reich, he does know that he has a burning desire to understand the world and a rare talent with mathematics and technology. His intellect- combined with his white-blond hair and blue eyes- secure him a place at the National Political Institute of Education where his skills are immediately put to use for Nazi warfare. Werner begins to learn other, non-academic, lessons as well: that being different is dangerous, that his intelligence makes him both valuable and captive, that life would be easier if he could only trade in his own thoughts and sense of morality for that of those around him.

As Werner struggles to accept his role in Germany, a blind girl named Marie-Laure is being raised by her father in France. Whereas Werner must reconfigure himself for the new world he has been placed in, Marie-Laure’s world has, for most of her childhood, been lovingly constructed around her. Her father teaches her to use her senses, to memorize models he has built of streets and buildings, to read Braille, to dream.   When Paris is bombed, Marie and her father flee to the home of her great uncle in Saint Malo, an eccentric man with a fascination for stories and radios. As Marie-Laure is exposed to her own losses and a world outside of comfortable bubble in Pairs, she becomes more curious and imaginative about the world around her. Just as the events of the war push Werner to become one of many, they also force Marie-Laure to become more independent and brave.  For most of the novel, Werner and Marie’s stories remain separate, though interwoven in numerous ways that they have no way of knowing.  The two characters finally converge in a powerful way at the story’s most climatic point.

Doerr spent the greater part of 10 years entrenched in his research, stating that it was his greatest delay in finishing the book.  And his attention to detail does come through in All the Light We Cannot See in a sensory-rich feast.  However, while this book may be seen as a memorial to WWII, it does not contain a straightforward account of historical events. This is not a book of linear facts. Instead, Doerr’s details tell about the horrors of the war solely through the characters’ experiences of them: a forbidden book of birds painted by an American illustrator, the measuring of noses done prior to entrance in Hitler’s academy, bulging bags of ownerless weddings rings to be sorted by a Nazi jeweler.

One area in which Doerr’s descriptions are particularly exceptional is when he describes things from Marie-Laure’s perspective.  The way her blindness impacts her perception does not give her a limited narrative, but a striking one. When thousands of fliers are dropped over the city of Saint Malo with orders to evacuate, Marie first hears the paper rattling in the wind, then finds one with her fingers and notes that it smells like fresh ink and gasoline.  Though she cannot read the words printed on the paper, she understands the meaning. Often, the characters in All the Light We Cannot See never learn the significance of what is occurring around them; many of these historically significant details are tucked away in the text purely to give the modern reader goosebumps.

14302955_10208593142999007_762459838_n

Doerr’s story is compelling in its focus on the inner-workings of his characters as they experience the war.  The author artfully conveys the fear that comes from making choices with dangerous and unknown repercussions. He shows hope in the friendship that grows between Marie and her uncle, Etienne.  He depicts the weight of personal, senseless loss through the events that befall one of Werner’s best friends, Frederick. He conveys the feeling that so many people had after WWII: a lifetime of answerless questions.

In this manner, All the Light We Cannot See is a story with two kinds of truth.  First, it is true in the well-researched details of its setting and history. However, and much more profoundly, it is true in the same way that all great stories are true; it makes us, the (you know, readers) understand things we didn’t understand before, ask big questions, and feel full of a broad spectrum of human emotion. If I’m being completely honest, I had to lie awake for awhile when I finished this book a couple of nights ago, sinking into a trembling puddle of feelings–an understanding of times and places that I will never understand fully, but that this novel has given me a sense of.

Doerr’s  lyrical writing style will probably attract  readers who enjoy poetry and fantasy; in many ways this novel often reads like it should belong to a different  genre than historical fiction. Reader who love fairy-tales and poems will likely think this author’s writing is exquisite, whereas those who are expecting a more traditional or straightforward war narrative may find it jarring.

However, given the descriptiveness of the novel, it has much easier readability than one might expect. In part, this is due to Doerr’s habit of “showing” (and hardly ever “telling”).  Another, more obvious, structural statement of this novel which impacts readability is that its chapters are never more than a few pages long, each with its own self-contained theme and perspective.  Meanwhile, the plight’s of the characters and the non-linear storytelling keep the pages turning quickly. While this structure is unusual, and may not appeal to all readers, it certainly has benefits. Doerr said that he started writing the novel when he was a new father, with very short spaces of time available for writing. From my personal experience, the novel is likewise well-suited to busy readers.

The structure of All the Light We Cannot See makes it feasible to pick up and read for only three minutes without getting lost . . . but I’m betting you are going to want to read it for more than 3 minutes.

 

 

Remembering the Tidal Wave

-There’s no denying that this week, the week of June 18, sucks. Maybe it always will.  Each moment of June 18, 2013…and the days leading up to it, are pounding brain in tidal waves of memory and grief this week. I’m not alone in grief; I don’t pretend to be. I don’t share these thoughts in an effort to seem important, but because these feelings are important, and we all have them. They merit expression in words, which don’t come easily for everyone.  Our stories matter. Here’s some of mine-

It’s not just remembering saying goodbye the day you died. It’s the remembrance of everything in those last days.

That final trip to the hospital, when you were discharged and assigned hospice care.  I promised to make you something good to eat when we got home. You just looked at me with those sad, blue, dolphin eyes. You smiled, slightly; I took a photo.  I didn’t know that you were saying goodbye, then. I had absolutely no idea. Not until June the 19, when I was sorting out pictures for the funeral arrangements. I looked at that photo – taken only days before – and saw your face looking back at me in that moment: brave, sad, loving, pitying.

At home, family began to arrive. Hospice gravely told us you had a few weeks, perhaps. The truth was it would only be a few days. Dad went back to the bedroom and told you, quietly, what they’d said. I heard you cry out, “I don’t want to die yet!” The loudest words you’d spoken in weeks. It broke my heart. Breaks my heart, even at this very moment; I can hear it now.

That night I screamed. And screamed. This was a nightmare I had had over and over as a small child. But was this real? Was this real? No, no, couldn’t be. It was. But it couldn’t be.

Surely I would wake up.

The next day, you went to sleep.

 Your friends and family poured in. Bringing food. Sitting in the bed next to you. Singing and praying and kissing your face as you drifted in and out of awareness.  I lay in bed with my arms around you while you slept. I tried not to cry, in case you would hear, but once I lost control. You hadn’t moved all day, until then. You moaned and lifted your hand to rub my back, softly. Small tears slipped out of the corners of your closed eyes. Later, there would be a tiny bit of dry salt there.

Don’t worry. I know how much you love me. Always have. Always will.

June 17: The night before it happened, I sat near you with my husband and my best friend. We read you poems. You seemed content, though you did not stir. Dad held your hand all night: so sweet, so vigilant.

I went to home.

He called the next morning. Early. Barely able to get the words out, he told me that you were struggling to breathe, “fish out of water,” he said.

I made it just in time, which was a miracle. Another miracle; you heard my voice and opened your eyes: looked at me, into me.

That’s how you left the world, looking into me.

Pouring your love into me, just like you always had.

I saw you leave. Saw the light go out. Saw your body empty of you. I know where you went.

No one could die better. What a hard thing, but what an honor, it was: to say goodbye like that, your eyes on mine. It’s a memory that hurts and haunts me, but I treasure it all the same. Sometimes, a lot of times, that’s the image I see when I close my eyes at night.

-People say that grief comes in waves, and they are right. That’s how it feels. Like a tidal wave. I think that the first year is the worst for most people: you never know how high the waves are going to be, when they are going to hit. It’s not that you miss someone less after the first year; it’s just that you learn to keep swimming. Life keeps happening no matter how much you feel like it should have stopped. Eventually it just becomes part of you. That doesn’t mean you forget, or that it doesn’t hurt anymore, but it becomes a different sort of thing. You learn to anticipate what might trigger it: holidays, birthday and weeks like this one: the anniversary of the loss.

It’s been 3 years now, and most days I keep swimming pretty well. But this week has – like a tidal wave – knocked me off my feet. I wasn’t expecting it, somehow. All these memories to come flooding in this strongly. It sucks – literally sucks the air out of me-sucks me down under the weight of everything. People who haven’t had this kind of loss in their lives don’t quite realize how much these waves can  feel less like sadness and more like raw horror. While I share this without a bow on top, without any dusting of sugar, I do know that it won’t always hurt like this.

Next week will be better, different, again. But I do think it’s important to acknowledge our pain when we’re in it. We feel these things  because we’ve lost something valuable–in our grief, we acknowledge the value of what we’ve lost.

As my mom always said, “It is what it is.”

Fruit and Flowers: 4th Anniversary

They say you won’t be able to sleep the night before your wedding, and that, the day of your wedding, you will be jittery and nervous.  Last night when I went to sleep, I got to thinking about how none of that had been true for me, exactly four years ago.

The night before my wedding, I was excited, but not nervous. I slept well, if little: the “little” part was only because it had been a late night visiting with family and because I had to get up early the next morning to get beautiful. I remember the strange realization that fell over me as I crawled into my childhood bed, head on “The Little Mermaid” pillowcase that my mom had put there (probably with emotions that I can only begin to understand now that I’m a mother.)

I realized that I wouldn’t be sleeping there anymore, not unless there was some special reason. My best friend and maid-of-honor was sleeping on an air mattress or something in my room, and I realized that I was – for the most part – saying goodbye to Little Mermaid pillowcases and slumber parties (I have since realized that there are some exceptions!)

It was the last of so many things I knew, with infinite firsts on the horizon.

But I slept, and slept well, maybe because I knew that it was all new for Dane, too. That’s what marriage is, in large part: loving someone enough to say, “Hey, whatever it is, this life together, I want it with you. Let’s jump into the unknown, holding hands. You are my person, and we will help each other  with all the firsts & all the lasts, too.”

599391_3607377136049_1725567912_n

Four years later, and I know there is no one else that I’d rather be holding my hand. We are blessed to share so many things in common: creative interests, nerdy stuff, morals and values, perspectives on family and faith. We enjoy each other, though we are not perfect at all. We are also incredibly different from one another in ways that can make things challenging for us sometimes.

In the way we approach life, we couldn’t be more opposite: I’m over here clumsily juggling 20 balls in the air (and dropping some, like “oh well!”) Meanwhile, he’s in the opposite corner, slowly and carefully entering each task into a spreadsheet, thinking of the best way to get each thing done. I’m more emotional, passion-driven. He is more practical, rule-oriented.  Sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

Sometimes we also show our affection in different ways, which can mean that, sadly, we often miss what the other has done in a wholehearted effort to say, “I love you.” When we have these differences, though, we are both learning to grasp the realization that what the other was trying to say was, in fact, “I love you,” and that’s really what matters most.

We’ve been through a lot of death and a lot of change in four short years, and I think it’s made us both realize how short life is. And this year we celebrate our anniversary with our little girl.  I think she has made our hearts grow larger, so that as our love for her has grown, our love and appreciation for one another has, too. Every day I am grateful for the love that binds us. Every day I am grateful our life together.

Happy 4th Anniversary, Dane!

(Apparently, we are supposed to give each other fruit and flowers.)

 

 

The Beauty of Blockbuster

Growing up,  my mom and I would often hit the local Blockbuster after school. I’ve got this clear picture of the event: me in my school uniform, rain dripping down on our green van. It’s probably a Thursday afternoon. Thursday afternoons are the best time for Blockbuster. It gives you weekend movies and Friday-flourescent-light-daydreams of vegging out.

We didn’t just go when a new movie was out on DVD or (gasp) video, either. We went when we were in a mood that needed to find resonance at a cinematic level.

It’s the same mood you have when you venture into the library or into a bookstore. You don’t know where you are about to go, but you know there is some kind of journey ahead. It’s a journey that involves walking down aisles that are stocked with possibility, each containing a world all it’s own.

Blockbuster_1359451c

 

Then, gradually, then quickly, life changed. We became the instant age.

Remember when Netflix first arrived and you just put a whole bunch of things in your online cue, but you didn’t know what they might send you? It was a new surprise each time, and it was the hippest Russian Roulette to date. Then came the days when you could watch Netflix from your laptop (if you were really cool).

Today, pretty much everyone has Netflix available right on their TV screen (and by that, we  mean what used to be known as “instant watch”). It’s nice, I mean, it’s convenient and yes—it’s perfect for chilling. Heck, there’s a whole layer of Millenials (not my layer, but the younger ones) who base their social lives around the phrase, “Netflix and chill.” (Yes, I know, that’s not actually what that means…and this post is just gonna dodge that bullet.)

I’m not saying Netflix is bad, not at all. I love my Netflix, especially now that they are coming out with these amazing original series (Daredevil, anyone?). All I’m saying is that now, Blockbusters are no more. One day, I will have to explain to my children and grandchildren that – back when I was a kid – we used to have to go to a store and pay to borrow a movie that we wanted to watch. It probably will sound terrible to them, maybe their little eyes will widen in horror. Is this the future equivalent to walking “six miles in the snow?”

But I don’t know if there will be a way to explain it. The process of taking time, the physical act of pacing, picking choices up, putting them down. What mood are you in? What kind of weekend will it be?

I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell them how such a simple act had the ability to slow down dull, rainy Thursday afternoons, how it provided the therapeutic ability to process, analyze and make mood-oriented cinematic choices.

But there it is, the long-lost  beauty of Blockbuster.

 

The Power of Nerd Awe

Awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

Nerds have a great deal of awe. In fact, nerds have a special kind of awe, different from the awe of others.

It is this Nerd Awe that gives the Nerd his power.  It’s an energy field created by all epic things. It surrounds us literature and film lovers and binds us together, connecting our mundane and fantastical worlds.

Do you have this great power in YOU?

th

Ponder these things in your heart,  and you will know the answer.

Have you ever stayed up until the early hours of the morning with a book…Eyes heavy with fatigue, heart racing with adrenaline? You know that, if you fall asleep, they may never find the final Horcrux.

Have you ever felt tingles down your spine as you listen to a John Williams score, overwhelmed by the complicated emotions brought on by the Force?

Have you ever been filled with joy, smiling to yourself like a moron, over the typed words on a page, the scene from a film, that reminds you that friendship is so much more than text messages or hangouts? True friendship, you realize, goes to Mount Doom and Back Again, no matter the consequences.

Have you ever read a line from a book and felt like dancing up and down: “Someone else understands! Somebody gets it, and they said it better than I ever even thought to think it.”

Do you ever listen to music and daydream that you are fighting an army (zombies, orcs, wizards, etc) and totally killing it? (Be honest, now.)

Have you ever tried to use a superpower that maybe, just maybe you actually have, but you just have to believe it enough?

Do you ever get goosebumps from a feeling that you can’t quite describe, a sensation connected to the rediscovery of an alternate view of the world…and world of ancient, long-forgotten binaries:  good versus evil, right versus wrong, what we can do and what we must do.

Do all of these things inspire you? To read. To write. To travel. To make deep friendships. To have adventures?

If you know these things to be true, then wield the mighty power of Nerd Awe well, and you could change the world. 

Just remember, my fellow Nerds: with great power comes great responsibility.

spiderman-ii-2004-112-g

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

-John Green

The Struggle of Living in the Present

Living in the present is both something that I conscientiously try to do, maybe more than most people…. and it’s also something which is a real and honest struggle for me.

It’s started really early for me. I can probably peg it to a dream I had when I was about four. I had this dream that my mom died, and I woke up crying because I realized-for the first time- that one day she probably would go before me. It became my worst fear for most of my childhood. My mom was my best friend, and I didn’t want her to go. I tried to appreciate her as much as possible. Then, as many of you know, she did end up leaving this world way too soon. Have you ever had your childhood nightmare unfurl in front of you? Trying to stretch time out before the trauma comes, to love as hard as possible but  finding it’s not enough to retain the present? It leaves you with a weird relationship with time. You realize that it will keep slipping away even as you try, so deliberately, to soak it in.

I also remember when I turned 10, being kind of contemplative about how great my childhood had been up until that point and the fact that it was going  by too quickly. I was definitely aware that time was speeding up and I needed to enjoy it, but the fact that I was so aware  made it hard to do that.

Was I just a weird kid? Are there others of you out there?

29499-Modern-family-manny-delgado-fr-xEvd.png

There are a plethora of similar examples, but I think they all essentially represent a serious paradox of the introspective, melancholy type.

Fundamentally, we are aware of the present. We are aware of its joy, of its depth in grief, of its illusive inability to be captured. There are photographs we consciously take in an awareness of the fleetingness of life. I do think that those mental photographs are one of the best things I do to live in the present, but it’s still hard to keep the ongoing moment in focus when I know I am trying to remember something that might be gone, later. My mind always is slipping forward, to the “What if? Whens?” or backward to the “Remember?” It’s hard to keep it still.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that’s all bad. The fact that my brain tries too hard to appreciate the present does actually help me appreciate people and events in my life better, I think. However, it can still steal my joy in the present.

I was struggling the other night as I lay in bed, caught between memories and inevitabilities and yearning for the peace of the present.

I realized, suddenly, that I have one anchor throughout all my life. Just one.

The Lord is in every time and every place, and He has always been-will always be-with me, wherever I am.  There’s a saying that, in life, we enter and leave alone, but as a Christian I know that that’s not true. My God is with me in every stage of my life, and there is so much comfort in that realization.

So my prayer for today-yours, if you want it-  is for joy in the present, appreciating but not overthinking. Each moment God has made was made to be lived in.

“This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118: 24