I’m still here! Don’t worry! It’s been longer than usual since my last post, to which I shrug my shoulders and say, “Life!” I’m sorry not to have written. I just didn’t have anything to write.
I still sort of don’t, but at least I’ve got fingers on keys. My fingers, they’re flitting about forming words somehow, so that’s a good thing. That’s victory enough. For all the days before, I couldn’t even get here, to the fingers flitting part. I’ve been empty-headed, with the worst sorts of circular thoughts. I’m trying to do away with them, but it’s hard work. It takes a lot of my energy, trying to banish my anxiety. I’m tired and I’m working on it. Maybe think of me as I work on it. And give me grace for my empty-headedness at times. For my energy stolen away. For bits of me lost, and confusion about what’s left. Hard. I will say that this year has been hard.
It’s occurring to me now that this space is only what I make it. That I can give what I have to give with no need for anything else. That if I need grace I can create it for myself here, or at least an illusion of grace. Anytime I write here, I’m winning. Anytime I declare that I have something to say, that complicated things can be made simple enough for words on a page, that there’s something in all the nothing, I am victorious. This thought is encouraging me, even as I’m writing. It’s buttoning me up and getting me ready to keep going. Maybe it’s encouraging you too. Maybe.
Today I ate some egg whites on a bagel. I looked at Instagram. I played a game. I made a WHOLE QUILT TOP. I listened to music. My body felt fairly well, a victory in itself. I talked with Isaiah. I roasted some tomatoes. I did the dishes. I put in my contacts. I washed my hands. I wore my slippers. I wrote, I’m writing. I asked friends for their email addresses. I worried sometimes, but not the whole time. I sat by the heater. I read some blogs.
Isaiah and I came back to Chicago from six days in Pennsylvania yesterday, and when we got to our apartment we almost couldn’t believe how comforting it was to return to our space. This little apartment on Damen Avenue has become such a haven for us, more than I’d ever thought that it could, more than any other home I’ve known. I’m not sure why we love it so much, but we hardly ever want to leave. Being here together right now is perfect. Not without hardship, not without sorrow. The troubles live here too with us. But this place is a home, sort of more than I’ve ever known home to be. It’s home because we’ve made it so.
As a sad, anxious, twenty-three-year-old postgrad, going back to Pennsylvania, to my childhood home, is always fraught with emotion, old feelings I’m only beginning to understand and new ones that are surprising and strange. This year, going back to Pennsylvania felt especially weighty. For weeks I felt this yearning for home in my gut, thinking that maybe, maybe in Pennsylvania I’d be able to relax, I’d feel safe. But being there for Christmas on the street where I grew up fixed nothing. Sitting on the hardwood floor of my childhood bedroom fixed nothing. All the traditions, the slow drive through the Christmas lights, hugs from my dad, lunch with my mom, shared looks with my sister, candles at church, all balm for my soul, but nowhere near a cure. Nothing has clicked into place, no part of the box has been opened. I thought it would, though. I really thought that going to Pennsylvania would comfort me in a way that I needed to be comforted. But oddly, coming back to Chicago feels like a piece of that comfort, or at least a touch of the corner of it. Like the sick woman healed only by touching Jesus’s hem. I’m not certain of the healing yet, but I have an inkling of a brush of grace perhaps. A space for hope. Comfort, and maybe, maybe joy.
I think home just isn’t in Pennsylvania anymore, which in no way discounts to me what I’ve shared with my family in that house, in that town. I think I’m just really actually growing up now, the kind of growing up that is painful, where you’re sort of homeless for a while, where there’s sort of no where to go. I know that Isaiah and I are going somewhere, I just have no clue where. But I have such hopes! Hopes so stunning and beautiful that I can hardly believe that I’m allowed to hope them! Hopes that I’m surprised by, hopes that I never could have thought up when I was ten or eighteen or twenty-one, even. I’m changing. I’m making quilt tops. I’m amazed at what I want to do, what my hands reach for. In all this not-knowing, there’s a lot that I’m doing, maybe entirely by intuition. Maybe that’s a whole grace in itself. If all my plans for my life had worked from the start of this year, maybe there would be no quilt tops at all. Maybe there never would be. Maybe my bright hopes would be a little more dim.
It just really, really has been a hard, hard year. For me and for so many people. As I’ve become more and more vulnerable and soft as this year has worn on, I feel like my writing here has thinned out to something more personal, more close to the bone, than I’d thought it would be at first, which I’m sort of secretly thrilled by. I like the things I’m writing here. I feel like myself when I write in this space, a victory to point at and celebrate.
There are more of you reading me than ever before, and it feels fantastically possible to tell you my secrets, even just a little bit, to hang some of my sadnesses out on the laundry line. There’s more understanding here than misunderstanding, I think. From what I’ve heard from readers, we’re all sort of walking the same line at different times and paces and depths. So many women, twenty-three years old or remembering what it was like to be so, standing, shocked by sadness, unsure of how to put one foot in front of the other, and frustrated by fear. I am remarkably un-alone, and I feel such freedom in knowing that.
I have some plans for a bit of a shift in my life and in my creative making that will mean even more of a settling in for this space. I think this blog will continue to be a place for the things I carry close to my chest. Things I know, things I feel, things I just really like, the projects I’m most proud of, the things I’m making, the stuff I lug around with me, deep fears and bright hopes. That’s what you’ll find, keep finding here, in 2017. Maybe more frequent, maybe a little less frequent, maybe exactly the same, who knows. WHO KNOWS! That’s how I feel about so many things right now! Big, lovely question marks, shoulders shrugged, fists released into palms, reluctantly. I have no idea! There is so little that I am able to control!
My biggest goal for 2017, if it’s safe to have one, is to learn more about faith, to dip my toe into it and see what I can do with it. I’m bad at faith, friends. But control hasn’t been working out for me, so I’m doing the hard work of trying to change. And 2017 somehow feels like hope. A new year in this world that feels sort of terrible right now. It’s beautiful too, I remember sometimes.
It’s beautiful too.
You should know that I’m leaving in a couple of days for two weeks in Kigali, Rwanda, where I’ll be working on theater project with some dear friends. I’m excited about this, and I also can’t believe that I’m going given the current state of my heart and mind. So much sadness, so much anxiety, but adventure all the same! I’ll tell you about it, I’m sure. But think of me, pray for me, maybe, as I do an unlikely thing at an unlikely time with my unlikely self. I’ll have good days and I’ll have bad days. I’ll see new things. I’ll count some victories. And we’ll all be back home afterward. Whatever home even is. Holding Isaiah’s hand. Egg on toast. Quilt tops. Tomatoes. Sitting by the heater. It is, all of it, possible.
And now some other things:
- Thoughts from this time last year, really different, really similar.
- Really liking this blog and its slightly older counterpart these days. And reading everything on Fringe Association, trying to absorb all the wisdom.
- Just bought this frying pan from Food 52 with a Christmas gift card (dreams), and it’s a truly a nonstick dream come true. Also threw in a single cup coffee dripper and an egg separator because Isaiah and I were feeling swanky and festive.
- My nerdy, tender heart is getting really into this book. Nonfiction at its lovely, hyper-specific best.
- Some photos from a Christmas in Pennsylvania.
If you walk to the end of my street, you get to here. Brown in front, and grey, grey-ness far in the distance. The truest Pennsylvania.
Forcing my sister to learn how to quilt through a gift I was super excited to give this Christmas.
This little townhouse in Lancaster is everything.
My childhood bedroom floor, porcelain Anne of Green Gables staring back at me, same old furniture but a different quilt, certain of nothing at all.
I felt really good about knitting a mitten on our laughably short plane rides.
My sweet, sickly kitty, always nearby, asking questions I can’t answer. And Christmas socks.
This is the place where Isaiah’s grandma has made her hundreds and hundreds of quilts.
You know your heart is shifting somewhere new when scissors are your favorite present.
Brown cat, brown world, sort of fearless.
I made socks for my mom. She said she wanted to hang them on the wall and look at them always. I told her she had to wear them, because that’s what they’re for.
Pap’s workbench, just as he left it. Chicken stock can full of paintbrushes, getting stiff.
My favorite shop in Pittsburgh / maybe all the world.
Pennsylvania from up high.
We always drive through the Christmas lights.