we made it to november, and therefore lots of thoughts

November showed up and none of us were ready for it. It came quietly, changing nothing, just the calendar, just a 31 to a 1. Months fly astonishingly quickly here, now that I’m adult (sort of) living in a strange land, shuffling through days, trying to make things, trying to breathe, trying to keep taking steps forward, forward toward something. It’s November, friends. We all made it to here. All of us in different places, different Novembers. We made it to somewhere with further still to go.

I’m proud of us.

I’m writing this post because I want to, but I don’t have much to say. Just a few thoughts on a few disparate topics, some updates, lots of feelings. I’m so thankful for this blog, the smallest of lifeboats, this chronicle of days and ideas, this letter to God and you. I want to tell you that I’m making choices, that writing matters to me, that you haven’t heard the last of me, that I’m making things every day. I want to tell you that I’m here. I want to tell you that it matters to me that you’re here too. I like writing letters here and leaving them out in the open for anyone to read if they find the right spot to click. Like a cake left on a porch step. Like a cairn. Like a handmade thing given away. Like the most classic of metaphors, a message in a bottle. Who will find it? Who knows! Who reads this little blog?! Who in the world!? People I know, people I don’t! What an honor! What a joy! Take my words, the ones I put here! Take them, please! They’re yours! Mine too, but left here for you.

I’ve been feeling sad. I’ve been quietly and not so quietly mourning things lately, things I’ve very truly lost, things I fear I can’t get back. It’s been hard. I’m a little alone in the chasm of myself right now, a sort of mental health odyssey, a crossing of a wide expanse, a hero’s journey, one with no sidekick or team of people to fight for me, but definitely with a lot of people rooting for me and watching me. (Especially Isaiah. Shoutout to the world’s best husband!) No one told me that my anxiety would pop up so viciously when I graduated from college. No one told me that possibility and freedom mean terror to my soul. But I’m here and I’m weathering it and I’m pressing ever forward. Lots of messages in bottles, friends. Lots of brushing off and trying again. I’m telling you about it because I want to be honest. I’m telling you about it because this is what I have. This is all I’ve got in my pockets, in my purse. Crumpled up anxiety, piles of fear, irrational worry, a water bottle, some loose change, a notebook, some words, some photos, an idea.

I was spending a glorious weekend in Michigan when Jessie told me that her mom often tells her, “You are right in the middle of God’s good favor.” I am right in the middle of God’s good favor. I have to repeat it to myself three or four times each time I remember it to comprehend what it means. That where I am is true and right. That I am not in the wrong place, that I am not on an island, trapped. I’m right in the middle. The things right now are the right things. This day, this one day, is God’s day, and tomorrow will be too. These feelings are the right ones. I’m right in the middle. I have made no irreversible error. I am not lost. God sees me even here even though I have to ask him over and over if he does. I am not lost.

There are some things I want to share with you. Projects, ideas, updates, thoughts. These are the things I’m stopping to think about as I travel my chasm, as I wander in a place that feels far from home, as I try to figure out what the heck home even is. These are the things I’m excited about, things I’m hopeful about, things that remind me to lift my eyes to the hills, to think about something outside myself. These are things that matter to me in big and small ways. Here are some things, I don’t even know what they will be yet, I’ll just write them. Here they are. Here I go.

THINGS I’M THINKING ABOUT IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

1. I’m really thankful for Carole King. I’m thinking of “It’s Gonna Take Some Time,” and “Up on the Roof,” and “Home Again.” Her songs are so simple, so straightforward. She sings the way my heart thinks when it’s hurting. Clear sentences, simple, pure feelings, just what it is and no more. I’m grateful for that. She sings simple strength, good communication. I’ve been listening to a lot of Carole these past few months. Maybe I’ll write her an email for something to tell her that a little millennial in Chicago is thankful for her. Maybe she’d like that. Maybe she wouldn’t care at all. When I was in London I saw an ad in the tube for a concert she would be giving, and I wanted so badly to go to that concert in London. I couldn’t, obviously, because we were only there for literally a hot second, but it mattered to even see the ad. She’s a real person. She still does concerts. Her heart felt all the things she sang when she was my age. She wrote all the songs. She sings them still. She probably feels them still, or remembers her 23-year-old self every time she sings them. Maybe being a mega-star has ruined that for her, but I really hope not.

Also, a lot of her songs make me want to dance / make me feel sexy, two important things.

By the way, do this poem and Carole’s “The First Night in August” go together? I wonder. It’s “I Remember” by Ann Sexton, of course.

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color—no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

2. I’m knitting more. Or, I should say I’m knitting still. Continuously. I wish I were knitting now, but alas I’m typing instead. I want to knit and knit and knit, thing after thing after thing. I’m following like 100 new people on Instagram, all knitters, because I’m fascinated. It’s such an honest task. Just started a sock last night. It’s teeny tiny stitches with thin yarn on 2.25 mm needles, so it’s very slow-going which I sort of love. I’ve made little progress. You can’t knit quickly and you can’t want to. Knitting is teaching me about patience. So much for a sock! It’s not about the sock! So much to learn! I tried to knit in the dark this morning in bed while Isaiah was still sleeping, but it was too hard and I was terrified that I was splitting my strands accidentally. I tried to use my iPhone light a little bit, but that was too difficult. I may soon become a headlamp knitter, which would be sort of fun. I wish I could read while knitting, but it would be difficult because I need my eyes to knit. What’s really ideal is listening to podcasts or music or watching a television show that doesn’t require much watching (Like Parenthood where you can pretty much picture what it looks like even if you just hear it.) But it’s also really nice to just sit and knit and not think of much. I really relish the opportunity to let my mind wander, but I sort of have to coax myself into letting it happen. It has to come as a surprise. The bathtub is a prime spot for mind wandering, because you’re just sort of enjoying the warm water and trying not to let it overflow and you can’t spend the time looking at Instagram or anything. I’m not looking forward to the day when I have a waterproof phone, because I’ll be too tempted to have my phone in the bathtub with me. Friends, don’t let me do that! I’ll never get any thinking done! Also, force me to knit in silence sometimes! Remind me that I like it! Remind me that quiet is good! I’ll remind you too! A time for everything! A time for quiet!

The socks I’m knitting are Purl Soho’s Perfect Fit Socks, a pattern you can get free if you sign up for their email updates. But Purl Soho has TONS of really great free patterns available as well. They are truly an indispensable resource, and I’ve loved clicking all around their website over the past few weeks. I have a bunch of their projects on my list.

3. I’m still reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, which I’m really reading only a page at a time and mostly in the bathtub, which is how I would want any book of mine to be read (mostly in the bathtub, I mean). [I didn’t intend to talk about the bathtub so much in this post. It’s just happening and I’m going with it.] I just read a page where she talks about the fact that writing is not just an act of the mind but also of the body. You have to use your hands. She was talking about a friend who asked her once why she didn’t dictate all her books or use a voice recorder, and she said that that idea had never even occurred to her, or something like that. That writing to her can’t be separated from her body, her hands. That that’s as much a part of it as her brain. I really appreciated that observation, her naming of it, her validating the fact that writing is physical work, that it’s not just a brain floating in space with words floating in strands from it. We are all physical people doing physical work. Things matter. Matter matters. My fingers touching the computer keys matters. I wish I could pick up each word I write, turn it over in my hands, put in in my pocket, I wish it were that physical, but the typing is a start.

A few weeks ago, I bought a blue typewriter from the seventies at Goodwill for $12. Typing on it is so satisfying. It shakes the table with the power of each letter hitting the page. I’ll tell you right now that it’s very affirming as a writer to feel, FEEL, each letter hit the page, the accumulation. It feels so real, so actual. And then you immediately have a printed thing, a document you can touch, carry. It’s the polaroid of writing instruments. It’s fantastic. I have plans to do some transcription projects on the typewriter, to type some of my favorite passages from books, some poems. Just to feel it under my fingers. Just to have something to carry, something real, a physical manifestation of an ethereal thing.

4. I’ve been trying hard not to eat sugar due to some health maneuvers, and it’s been difficult. I didn’t realize how much sweet things had become a crutch or reward to me, how woven into my life they were. It sounds silly, but it’s been truly hard to say no to sugar so much throughout these past few weeks. But I’m trying! And I’m trying to eat as many healthy, whole things as I can. I’m not always succeeding, but I’m trying. These are strange times. But I will tell you that today I ate an egg quesadilla for lunch, much like this one, and I felt as I ate it that it may be the world’s most perfect lunch. So there’s that. I would also like to publically declare that I really appreciate the existence of everything bagels because they are perfect and fabulous and should never change. Also lattes. And whole grain toast. And sourdough toast. Toast is one of my favorite foods. Also, I recently discovered Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea while at Isaiah’s grandma’s house, and it has been a frontrunner for these past few weeks. It feels very autumnal. Have it in the afternoon with a tiny bit of half and half. Let it steep awhile. It’s very nice.

5. Election day is Tuesday, and I don’t know what will happen in Hillary doesn’t win. She’s all we’ve got, people. She’s a real person with a real heart, which unfortunately I’m not sure that I can say about DT. We need her. Isaiah and I were wondering the other day if Donald Trump ever feels sad about what’s going on, what he has gotten himself into. We were wondering if he realizes the harm he is doing, the magnitude of his recklessness, the true fear so many of us feel. I don’t think he feels it. I don’t think he knows. He may be the world’s least empathetic person. I think no part of him is sad or uncertain. And that’s the scariest thing of all. I won’t talk about it too much more because it makes me sad and angry, because I feel powerless, because things have already been handled poorly and unfairly. But I’m hopeful still. I hope we’re all with her. We have to be.

6. The Cubs won the World Series. I’ll admit that I’m totally a bandwagon fan, but that’s not the point. I’m really a fan of Chicago. I’m a fan of a big win for a city that doesn’t win enough, that spends most days actutely aware of pain and inequality, a city where a lot of people get almost none of what they want and little of what they need. This is something we all wanted. This is something we all needed, actually. It’s really cool to live here right now. It was cool to be in the loop on Friday for the Cubs parade with the other FIVE MILLION PEOPLE, twice the population of the city, everyone amazed, everyone rejoicing. Literally one of the largest human gatherings in recorded history in this city I live in, in this time, this place. History is still happening in sports, in elections, in our neighborhoods. It was really something else to drive home after Game Seven, singing and shouting out the windows with everyone on the street, strangers driving ubers, people leaning out their windows, groups of friends on the street, people alone outside waiting for someone to celebrate with. The whole dang city all happy about something all at once. When does that happen? Better than any holiday! I’m not a sports fan, but I’m a big Chicago fan. This was really, really good. So, thank you Cubs for doing something very important for this city. Thank you for this W. We will fly it high.

7. A last thought for tonight, and really only the beginning of a thought, one I keep turning over and over in my mind, one that doesn’t really ever go away. I’m only twenty-three so there’s so much still ahead, but I’m already sort of letting go of, or maybe just setting aside, some of my ambition. I think I thought it would be much easier to find a really cool job, or a really cool spot in the world. I think I thought I’d have more people telling me I was smart and great, or that it would feel different when they did. I think I just had it sort of wrong in my head. It’s hard out here. There are not as many spots for people as I thought there were. I’m working at a coffee shop, so I’m not sitting around doing nothing, but work is really a tough area of thought for me. I don’t know what to do with it, I don’t know what I really want, I don’t know where I should be, what the work for me in the world really is. Am I headed toward an office? Is there something I should be doing to prepare? Am I wasting all my time? Will anyone ever pick me? Am I allowed to spend time making things that are not really doing anything for anyone but me (like socks, like a sweater, like a quilt)? I don’t know where I’m headed and I don’t know what I want. I have some ideas, some projects, some plans to wobble my way towards, but it’s a really murky path, guys. It’s really dang confusing. It’s a lot of guessing. I expect to fail a lot. I expect it to hurt.

At this point, I don’t really expect to succeed. And that’s a sad way to feel. That’s not where I expected to be at twenty-three. That’s a feeling that I want to figure out how to turn around. I’m sure it’s all connected to anxiety, to listlessness. I think most twenty-three-year-olds feel this way to some degree, but that doesn’t make it easier. We are all in the same boat, but it’s a crappy boat. I wasn’t prepared. It will get better, I know. Someday maybe I’ll have a really fabulous job and someone will pay me to do something I’m proud of and it will be awesome, but that’s not the thing right now and from where I stand it feels like it could never be. Not quite despair, but a cousin of it. The post-grad abyss. I’m in it.

Writing this blog is work for me, or at least it feels that way. I treat it that way. I’m claiming this space as some of my work, something I can show for myself, because why wouldn’t I? But no one is paying me. The time I spend here is given away, poured into the river, mixed in with everything else. We still all need money to live. I still need someone to pay me to do something somewhere. And I want to feel my work being fruitful. It’s okay if that’s not money yet, but someday I’ll need it to be. 

I have seen fruit from this space in big ways and small. Quite a few people have affirmed me, told me to not stop, told me that this work matters, that they see me do it. That means a lot, that keeps me going. To those of you who have told me that, thank you. You’re a lot of why I’m still here. I’d like to think I’d still do the work if there was no affirmation at all, but I’m not sure. Or maybe it would look different, who knows? Sometimes it’s really hard to get myself to keep trying to write, keep remembering that this is a good thing to do, a step toward power and agency, an act of creation, or artistry. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time. Sometimes I feel silly. Those are lies, but they’re real and repetitive. But, truly, I’m glad I’m doing this work even though it’s confusing. Every post I write is a small personal victory, a laugh in the face of fear, of nothingness. The same with knitting, with quilting, with every conversation with a friend, with every prayer.

What I’m saying, I think, is that I don’t know about work yet. It’s an unreconciled idea, a blinking cursor, a problem, a hope. I don’t know what my work is. I don’t know what I am meant to do in the world, what disparate pieces of me I can give to the world, or who will ever pay me, or why we need money in the first place. I often wish I could be a homesteader, a prairie wife. It probably sounds un-feminist for me to say that, but I don’t think it is, not at all. I think it sounds wonderful and powerful, living a small, real life caring for my home, my family, digging up vegetables, stitching torn things, making what I need, no need for any more money than we need to keep going, nothing to want but what we have.

But that’s not how it is. That’s not where I am. I live in a city full of artists and fancy business people. I live in a place where there’s a lot to buy at all times and a lot of people getting paid to do work that feels restricted to me. It’s really confusing and it often makes me sad and I don’t have any answers yet, just hopes, just next things to try, just places to be for a time. I know I will do things I’m proud of. I already have. I am a person who makes things. I am a person with ideas. I have a lot in me. Someone somewhere will want what I’ve got. I just need to figure out what my work is. I just need to keep doing what I can. I just need to keep writing words in this space, posting pictures of leaves, remembering, stitching, thinking, hoping, remembering that I’m actually truly right in the middle of God’s good favor. Not lost at all. Right in the middle.

Right really in the smack dang middle. That’s the only place I could ever want to be. Right, right in the middle.

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7 thoughts on “we made it to november, and therefore lots of thoughts

  1. Lovely, lovely words.
    I don’t know that this feeling ever goes away. I still have the feeling of the something great that I know is lurking in the depths of me, lying dormant just waiting for the right moment, the right set of circumstances. And this is at 41. I believe this is very much part of the creative personality type, and as such, hard to avoid.
    You may also find this affirming from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille:

    The greatest thing [Graham] ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha.

    I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

    It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open…

    No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

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  2. Thanks for this great blog. I am always challenged and encouraged by you and how you see the world. You are indeed in the middle of God’s good favor.

    See you at Christmas!

    Jonathan Bornman Global Consultant Christian/Muslim Relations Team Eastern Mennonite Mission (717) 826-7700

    >

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  3. “I am right in the middle of God’s good favor. I have to repeat it to myself three or four times each time I remember it to comprehend what it means. That where I am is true and right. That I am not in the wrong place, that I am not on an island, trapped. I’m right in the middle. The things right now are the right things. This day, this one day, is God’s day, and tomorrow will be too. These feelings are the right ones. I’m right in the middle. I have made no irreversible error. I am not lost. God sees me even here even though I have to ask him over and over if he does. I am not lost.”

    These words touched my soul. I really needed to hear them right now. Thank you.

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  4. Homesteading/homemaking is in no way anti-feminist as long as people of any gender, in any kind of partnership, can do it and not get spat on or sneered at or driven out of town. The problem is restriction, not activity.

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  5. that’s great writing…and you will find your way. Life has a way of happening anyway! even if we don’t know what and where we are supposed to be. Keep creating, I’m sure it will lead you somewhere good. Maybe that’s enough right now, with a little work here and there. I’m sure the answers are in the making. I’m still looking for them too! X

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  6. Know that your work impacts complete strangers like me, another girl who is stuck in the middle sometimes. Your blog has brought me rest, laughter, and words to match my soul on some of the busiest/hardest/stuck-in-the-middle-feeling days. Thank you for your work Amy, may it blossom into passions you can never expect.

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