Shadows, Sunrise

Sheets cover the lower half of my body. The nearby freeway hums and rumbles in the background. Light from streetlamps sneaks through closed blinds and diffuse the darkness. Turned toward the center of the bed, I watch; I listen. I realize I’m not breathing, not because I’m consciously holding my breath, but because of the little one beside me.

She takes my breath away.

Little lungs inspiring as deeply as they can, relaxed eyelids, the muted and peaceful glow of her face siphon happiness from places within I never knew and fill my heart that I’m still getting to know. There’s tightness, discomfort from contentedness. It is solid ground and a highwire. I teeter along the cognitive dissonance where happiness and doubt coexist.

The first eight weeks cast an easily darker shadow on my perspective. I couldn’t ignore hormones and just smile. I couldn’t ignore harmless comments or even generous offers of help and instead took offense. I couldn’t ignore persistent, pulsing cries pleading for simple needs to be met. I couldn’t help myself.

Objectively, months later levels are more even. There’s more smiling, fewer eggshells. We use the bathroom. We eat. We sleep. Fulfilling these needs reveals the complexity of her personality, the obvious need to be nurtured, guided, taught. Is it Maslowesque. Is it even a pyramid.

What am I doing. Is it good enough. Will it ever be good enough.

I allow myself to inhale her overwhelming beauty, her skin aubergine, opalescent in the wee hours. I continue watching her as the bedroom slowly brightens. The air conditioner and refrigerator harmonize in my subconscious, but her breathing completes the chord and finally lulls me to sleep.

It’s good enough for now.

There are still shadows, though fainter. They do not come from her.

One Year

One seems such a small number.

One year began with a day. But what about what came before?

One day before the day that began the one year, two lives crossed with one meeting. A single meeting of two single people. That single meeting turned to one date just a few days later. Then another date. And another. As the number of dates increased, the singularity of the two single people became more ambiguous. They no longer considered themselves single.

Look at this cute couple!

This became even more evident to them after the one first kiss. There was the only first one, but there’s always a first second one, and a first third one, and so forth. A proper tally during this one year would add up to the first kiss for the ten-billionth time. The first kiss on the first anniversary morning of the wedding would be the first ten-billionth-and-first kiss.

Almost smoochies!

It’s a little bit mind-bending, this whole issue of two single people who no longer consider themselves single. One year ago today, they vowed they would not only be not single but would always be together. One unit. A single entity. They promised to love each other, to bring each other out of a single status as two people to be married into one. A single status.

In this past year, they have already experienced so much. There is a certain intensity of depth that comes from cleaving unto each other. There are even terms that derive from such cleaving. Moments in books, movies, or real life that somehow relate to the marriage cause more poignant, even clevimental tears. Moments that are more lighthearted and cause the two people to share a secret wink or smirk or cause them to laugh at the same thing are full of clevity.

Yay, us!

In this past year, this single couple have shared so many singular yet infinitely precious moments.

  • They have traveled parts of the United States and hiked various parts of Utah.
  • They have experimented cooking various meals and desserts.
  • They have decorated their apartment and added to their book collection.
  • They have met different family members.
  • They have attended concerts and other various cultural events.
  • They have gone to theme parks.
  • They have attended book clubs and readings.
  • They have played with babies and laughed at kids at church.
  • They have danced together. Like, a lot.
  • They have sung to each other.
  • They have spent time with friends in many ways and played weird card games with family.
  • They have watched a lot of television and many movies.
  • They have told each other how cute they are.
  • They have talked about their respective jobs with each other.
  • They have gotten accepted to grad school. Yes, both of them.
  • They have prayed together.
  • They have talked about their future.
  • They have expressed how much they love each other, which makes them even more excited to keep talking about their future.

They are happy that talking about their future is part of their future. The meta-commentary becomes part of the metaphysical that will eventually become part of their reality. A singular reality.

They stand one year ahead of when they were married for time and all eternity. Two souls, one year. One year will turn into two, then three, and so forth. Those years will come.

For now, together, they look back on this one year.

It seems so huge.

We can't help it.

New Year’s Reduction

86,400 seconds starts over at midnight. That’s the way it worked 366 times last year, and on the 367th time, another year began.

We’ve had a recurring — or maybe chronic — problem that’s carried over from last year. Yesterday came and went uneventfully enough, but it’s taken all the energy I have to not tell today to suck it. Truth is, though, it could be worse. It could always be worse.

It’s symbolic for a lot of people: A new year, a new leaf, a new resolve. I’m not guiltless; I start thinking about resolutions months ahead, probably around the 25 billionth second of each year.

I don’t start a lot of new things, though. I carry over a lot of things from the previous year, much like the way the seconds tick forward.

1. There’s this concept called Clearing to Neutral that I find very useful, because it helps me enjoy waking up, cooking, going to work, and keeping my friends. It helps me avoid the stress of procrastination. I’ve applied this concept to most of my life, but I consciously want to implement it in other areas, such as laundry, vacation planning, and my non-introvert social skills. Let’s hope I can use it to ease some of my social anxiety.

2. I wake up every morning with the intention to read my scriptures, and I go through phases where I’m really diligent, but other times I just go to friends’ websites where they contemplate the scriptures. They do the thinking for me. It’s time to stop piggybacking. The youth Sunday School curriculum is new this year. It aligns more with the way I prefer to study the scriptures. I think I’ll use it, because this change seems a cute little tender mercy.

3. So, maybe 37 books last year is the most I’ve read in a year since 3rd grade, when I read 40 50-page books in a month to get a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. I’d like to continue the trend (not the 3rd grade one). I don’t know how many books I’ll read this year, but a goal of at least 30 pages a day seems reasonable. Some days I’ll read more, but 30 is the hard minimum, even if it takes up to 3600 seconds.

4. They say more reading makes better writing, so I’m going to push writing as well. This does not include writing that is related to work. No, thank you (except that I really enjoy writing for work (see #1 above)). Well, do I write at least 30 minutes or 300 words a day? Sometimes I write as slowly as I read (or vice versa), so I’ll just give myself the flexibility of going between those parameters.

5. Sometimes if I’ve been sitting for a long time, my lower back gets stiff and it hurts to stand up. That makes me feel old. I do not like that feeling. I like feeling limber and spry, so I’ll be stretching my body 5-10 minutes every day. Not only will that help loosen my joints, it will help me feel younger in other ways, other married-activity, hubba-hubba ways.

Other things, like being kinder, smiling at old people, removing clutter, being an awesome wife, only cussing 3 times a day — those go without saying more than the five things I’ve mentioned. But they also help me to keep from telling days like today to suck it, as much as days like today deserve it. The seconds — 86,400 of them — will tick into tomorrow, and we all get to start again. Who needs new years? We have brand new days.

Have a Wonderful Christmas

Cool lantern

(More photos at Flickr.)

Let Earth receive her king

For unto us a Child is born

Come, adore on bended knee,

Christ the Lord, the newborn King

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

Let every heart prepare him room

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance

En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth

And he shall reign for ever and ever.

Hallelujah.

At Church Yesterday

All the children stood in front of the congregation and sang two Christmas songs. One of the little boys standing near the pulpit caught my attention. He looked to be around 7 years old. He wore a lime green dress shirt and a dark, pin-striped vest. His lime green striped clip-on tie was slightly askew. He was cute. As his mouth moved while the music played, it became apparent that he didn’t know the words to the song. He just opened and closed his mouth to the beat, ba ma ba ma. It was a little bit funny at first, but then I admired his effort.

During Sunday school, an elderly man stood up and made a couple of seemingly unrelated comments about the Christmas lesson. He’s probably in his 80s, he only comes to church every once in a while. The teachers always do a good job of tying in what he says into the lesson, and yesterday was no exception. He usually talks about his childhood, his time at war; yesterday he recounted the history of man since Adam, and I realized that his comment wasn’t that far off. When we think about our origins, our history, our universal family, Christmas has as much to do with the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark as it does with December and eggnog and gift exchanges. More, actually.

The young and the old. Those who are most childlike shared themselves with their fellow church members yesterday. I am grateful to have experienced it. They reminded me of the spirit of Christmas.

Churchery and Blogs I Read

It’s a little weird when someone you don’t know all that well approaches you and says that they’ve been reading your blog. Then they say something about your life that you know you didn’t tell them, which is pretty jarring until you realize that they read it on your blog.

You get to know people through their writing, and you feel a certain closeness to them. They recount experiences that you can relate to. They help you to remember that you’re not alone in this world. Even though you haven’t met them, even though you’re not friends, they understand that parts of life can be especially hard.

I faithfully follow the blogs of two people who have been married for 10 years. On Monday they announced through their blogs (here and here) that they are getting a divorce. Over the years their blogs have shown what a great couple these people are. They’ve expressed love and appreciation for each other, and they’ve written about how they support each other in situations where they have struggled with mental health.

They announced their separation a few months ago, and when they announced their divorce, I couldn’t help feeling a bit of sadness for them. It made me think back to my parents’ divorce, and I guess I felt like lending a little bit of support and sent Dooce an email. Here’s part of it:

I didn’t understand my parents’ divorce when it was happening. They announced their separation in 1997, during my junior year at BYU. Everything finalized sometime in 2002. My mom was an immigrant and worked a minimum-wage job, and my dad’s lawyer somehow convinced him to sue Mom for child support for my then teenage brother. Dad came out looking like the bad guy.

But Dad has always seemed like the bad guy. Navy man. Almost draconian in disciplining us. We were spanked (belts, switches, whatever he could get his hands on), we were afraid of speaking up or forming original thoughts or developing our identities. He never listened, and he was always right. So I guess he felt he didn’t have to listen. The more I thought about it, and the more I talked it through with a therapist, the clearer the reasons for the divorce became.

They say that sometimes divorce works out to everyone’s happiness. Mom has since remarried, and my mental health has greatly improved. But my brother has stopped talking to my heartbroken dad, who has recently developed dementia and now convalesces at a Veterans Affairs place in Oklahoma. (When the house emptied, he moved from my childhood home in Florida to live closer to his sister.) I say “but,” but maybe Dad has found a little soothing in his blurry moments, like white noise or static on a tv screen. And maybe his lucid moments–when he recognizes his sister, when he and I have a good phone conversation–provide a little peace, too.

I see my dad in a different light.

Dad’s dementia has been an interesting extension of my therapy, an added reason to forgive him for the physical, sexual, and mental abuse I received as a child. He never remembered the sexual abuse (two isolated incidents), and I’ve debated confronting him about it for so many years. But now he’ll never remember it again, so why should I keep clutching a hurt that’s healed? When my aunt called with the diagnosis, it was like the tide came in after 25 years, and the sand I was holding in my fists magically washed away. I could finally swim.

Not that the divorce caused Dad’s dementia: causation, correlation, blah-blah-blah. Yet the divorce did seem to allow other events to unfold. And everyone in my family has learned to take varying degrees of charge of their lives. The happiness has been hard to find sometimes, but it has been there for the finding.

Today in church we talked about forgiveness, and one of the points that people kept mentioning was that many people don’t even realize they’ve offended you. They don’t set out to hurt you, but somehow it seems easier to assume maliciousness, so that you can take the high road and forgive. Which seems silly. The most sensible thing is not to take offense in the first place, because you don’t know the lives of those who may have hurt you. The better thing is to try to be more understanding, because forgiveness sometimes is so unbelievably hard.

Then again, if an offense is committed and your feelings are truly hurt, the other people may need your forgiveness as much as you need to forgive. It depends on the situation, I guess. So maybe my point here is not to let the grudge fester. Don’t let your refusal/unwillingness to forgive hinder your ability to see and the best in people, to understand them, to see them in a different light. Forgiveness can bring out the best in us, which is what the Lord always sees.

The happiness is there.

Not a Concussion, but Maybe a Slight Butt Bruise

The past four days have knocked me squarely on my rear. Three flights, up and down, up and down. My things, my books. His things, his books.

His friends. My friends. Family. Lots of help.

My bike, his shelves. Bags of clothes, boxes of DVDs. Different copies of Catcher in the Rye, American Gods, The Shipping News, The Road. Same copies of Norton. That’s what you get when English majors fall in love with each other. Conversations about Harold Bloom and Stephen Greenblatt. Also about Mad Men, Buffy, and the Utah Jazz.

And also about how we’re going to play basketball against his brother and sister-in-law and win. Of course we’ll win.

His Spanish books. My French ones. Comparisons of the forthcoming lune de miel/luna de miel.

And maybe blushing a little.

Putting together three more six-foot shelves. Lining the walls in the guest room. We’ve called it the study. But there are also his guitars and amp and my clarinet.

Thank goodness for cheap particle board. Precedes first-anniversary paper, which becomes appropriate in a year and 32 days. My bike tool with several types of screwdrivers and miniature wrenches works with a former roommate’s hammer. The books now have a home. They didn’t like the floor. I didn’t like them on the floor.

Someday they’ll actually be organized.

I threw away four boxes of school papers that were not appropriate for a first anniversary. Much easier than I thought it would be.

My diploma cover waits for a BYU diploma. It waits to sit next to a diploma from the University of Utah.

The irony of his blue Snuggie and my red one.

We have his television. His Playstation. My Wii.

My spices. His boxes of cereal.

When we run out of food, at least we’ll have books. We can eat those, but most likely the mass-market paperbacks first.

People have been so generous with the registry. Thank you.

Newly developed photos of a recent bridal shoot. His black suit and purple tie. My white dress and purple bouquet.

My Reilly. His May.

His past stories, mine. Share now to make future ours.

More conversations, more time together. More love and acceptance than I have ever known.

Sitting upright, legs out like a doll’s, disoriented. Sore. I shake myself present. The moment comes into focus. These past four days, damn.

Our happiness. All ours.