Tuesday, June 22, 2010

one year later

It's been a year since I began using this space as a place to write, to make noise about race and art and relationship. I haven't given much thought to units of time measurement. As a girl, days were all I had, weeks were too long, months seemed unbearable and years, unknowable. When I graduated from college I spent three months feeling like I was skating through a vacuous white space, unsure of where I was, because all my life's efforts had been building to that date in 2002--which, incidentally, was my birthday.

But now a year seems reasonable. A year ago I was eager to get done some of the stuff that was on my "stuff to do before I turn 30 list" (sadly, no progress whatever, but not for lack of trying), and to push myself ambitiously and artistically. It's been a year, and things have happened. People have revolved in and out of my life, the nature of several relationships has changed--namely, I'm a married lady--and I've grown a lot into the fullness of myself. But some things have stayed the same: our apartment is as it was, with perhaps more appliances working than before; my job is both in the most satisfying and nauseating of ways, still the same.

But I wonder if change is the way to measure growth. It is with something. If a plant doesn't go to seed, in order to propagate, it's going to die, right? It has to grow taller and fuller, to be fed and to respond to that food, in order to grow. So it is with people: if anything stops moving it begins to atrophy.

But people are more nuanced. A person keeps growing regardless of the fact that they may not get any taller. While the major majority of things around me look the same as they were a year ago, I know that they're not.

I turned 30 on the 22nd. He took me to dinner at a sushi restaurant where he'd taken me for my birthday the year we began dating each other, three years ago. It was nice to be in a place we'd been in before, to remember the newness of our relationship--which at that point wasn't even a relationship, was just two people dating and enjoying--in our present newlywed context. The food was amazing (a hamachi carpaccio I won't soon forget), and there was a lot of looking back. These days I feel an energy to look forward, to move toward what's next with his hand in mine. I find marriage, and turning 30, to be freeing acts; they make me want to fly instead of nest.

I don't know what's coming. He thinks 30 is going to be a good year. There's definitely some 29 shit to leave behind me, and some things to be tidied up. But maybe it will be.

Monday, June 21, 2010

you're glowing.

The sky outside my kitchen window turned an astonishing cloudy cool periwinkle blue tonight, and I stopped in the middle of doing dishes and making egg salad for lunch, to run out into it. Once outside, on the back porch, I discovered that the sky was the kind of color that makes everything under it the same color: sometimes the sky is an unreachable palette of color, sometimes it is a color that brings every other color into its fullest expression, but sometimes, it dyes the world beneath it. This night, the concrete, the untreated wood of my porch, the cars below, my arms and legs and my beloved's torn shorts on my legs, everything glowed, vibrated with this periwinkle blue.

I thrust myself into it, sitting down on the porch steps to let the blue soak into and glow off my skin. It was marvelous. I listened to birds, and bugs, and sirens and whines of planes arriving and departing, slicing their metal noses through the low clouds above.

And then, silent as grass growing, one at a time, the fireflies went off. Green: beep, beep.... beep,......... beep, beep. Their little rumps glowed one after another, each looking for her partner, hoping to find his mate.

I ran into the kitchen, and dragged my mate out of it, whose hands were still wet with soapy water. We sat, nearly silently, letting the sky turn our skin blue, whispering at the fireflies.

Summer is so perfect, and complicated and fleeting. I wish every day that I had more of it, that I lived in a place with summer six months out of the year, instead of three or less. I know I'd never take all that for granted.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

stoicism is for pussies.

Two weeks ago, my sweetheart sent me a New York Times article about stoicism as a principle of philosophy and what it costs American soldiers to employ stoicism in their practices protecting our nation and its interests. I reread this paragraph several times.

The Stoic doctrine is essentially about reducing vulnerability. And it
starts off where Aristotle leaves off. Aristotle insists that happiness depends
to some degree on chance and prosperity. Though the primary component of
happiness is virtue — and that, a matter of one’s own discipline and effort —
realizing virtue in the world goes beyond one’s effort. Actions that succeed and
relationships that endure and are reciprocal depend upon more than one’s own
goodness. For the Stoics, this makes happiness far too dicey a matter. And so in
their revision, virtue, and virtue alone, is sufficient for happiness. Virtue
itself becomes purified, based on reason only, and shorn of ordinary emotions,
like fear and grief that cling to objects beyond our control.

When he and I first got serious about each other. I'd tell him he was stoic. While it's true that beside my passion and energy even a Big 10 cheerleader is, at times, bound to seem stoic, he struck me as the kind of guy who was unflappable. He took everything in stride, and when he spoke about emotional extremes, he did so in a measured and rational way. This way of life is completely foreign to me. I feel everything so deeply, sometimes more than I wish I did. (And today is probably not the best day for me to be writing about stoicism and vulnerability. There's nothing like launching yourself into the stratosphere to marry your favorite person in the world to dilate you emotionally, only to crash back to the rocky surface of the earth and deal with the complicated detritus of your everyday existence.) So watching this man deal with things in a way that I didn't understand was at times fascinating, frustrating, confusing and maybe even scary.

One of his best friends, Frank Crist, died not long into our relationship. It was a strange and tenuous time for me; I knew Frank, and was sorry to lose him, but we weren't close. I didn't know how to respond to my sweetheart in the midst of his grief. He had a number of people around him grieving deeply over the loss of such a good man and a gifted writer and teacher, and they held each other in the best way they knew how and nursed their wounds. People aren't always good at dealing with emotions that scare them, but they did what they could.

I don't know how or what he was feeling when he was with me, after having lost Frank. I know that he was feeling something. I remember the morning that he woke up in my bed from a dream, sure that Frank had said goodbye to him. I remember the quiet, and the stillness, the feelings that masqueraded as stoicism, and the lightly tapping fingertips with which we touched each other around that time, confirming our presence, gently touching to accommodate tenderness.

And people change each other, right? They say that women in relationship are always trying to change men, and so men are loath to commit because they want to be free to be themselves and women are bending over backward not to come off as rigid, tyrant shrews who want to nag or manipulate our men into being someone else.

So my man isn't any Iraqi or Afghan veteran. He's someone with more than his fair share of sorrow and pain, but also with some pretty amazing blessings and talents. (Who isn't?) I don't know if he would describe himself as stoic, or as vulnerable. I think I know that he gets to be more vulnerable with me than maybe with anyone else he knows.

What a gift that is, to have someone in your life that you can be so vulnerable with. It isn't something that each of us have, it isn't something that it's easy to have and we shouldn't take it for granted.

We were standing underneath a chandelier, in front of a mantle, in what constitutes an altar in an antique warehouse, and I listened as he pledged himself, his life and his efforts to me and mine. Then I got to say this:

My Favorite, my ai-ren,
You are the man who loves me. You are the only man I have ever known who has not been too afraid to love me as I am. You are the most thoughtful, wisest and humblest person I know. You are a student of the world, and you teach me to listen, and to seek lessons in surprising places. You are a human who cares about humanity, and who seeks to make small but indelible marks on the hearts of others. You are Bear, my playmate, you are my best friend; you are the one who makes me feel held and safe and loved in this world.
I choose you as my husband and my partner. I promise to love, honor and respect you. I promise to be faithful to you, and to walk beside you in all things. I promise to support and encourage the artist in you, in whatever shape or form your artist’s life takes. I promise to love you even when you hurt me. I promise to try to speak with honesty and tenderness, and to listen with an open heart. I promise that whenever I am scared or angry, I will always try to move toward you, and not away from you.
I want to reflect back to you the humor, the beauty and the joy I see in you. I want to be the woman who provides room and safety enough for you to take the risks that will help you grow into the truest expression of your self. I wish for us a marriage that learns to balance togetherness and intimacy with individuality and solitude; I wish for us a life of growth and discovery, full of affection and sharing.
I am a better woman for loving you. I hold you in my heart as my favorite today and forever.

I wasn't a mess: I knew I'd be crying through the entire thing, and I did, so I had an antique lace-trimmed hankie to wipe at my face. But I was awash, I mean, I can't feel the bottom of the ocean floor awash, in my emotions. It felt great. I felt like standing there with him, feeling all that stuff that made me so knocked out, I was the safest I've ever been. Later, people came to me and told them how emotional our vows had made them, or how they were worried for me and what I was feeling. But not me; for all the lip trembling and the heavy breathing and the pausing I had to do, I felt so safe in my vulnerability with that man. My husband.

So of the two of us, I guess he's still the one who operates on a more even keel. But he's touchable; he's vulnerable; he feels things, and I'm better able to tell sometimes that he's feeling something.

Vulnerability absolutely comes at a high cost. It means that you spend a fair amount of your time feeling like crap, because not every feeling can be good. But I'm glad I have a partner who can touch and be touched.

Monday, June 14, 2010


So I have a story that's being run on Cellstories, a website that allows you to get short fiction on your smart phone on a daily basis. It's going up tomorrow, Tuesday June 15, in conjunction with 2nd Story, a cycle of oral storytellers I'm involved with here in Chicago. On June 15, even if you don't have a smart phone (like me, I don't have one) you can read it, just for the day at

Check it out.


returned. feeling a bit buried under the mountain of what piles up while you're in paradise, being all blissed out. lots to tell, but today, this is all I can offer to do the talking.

we are so happy.