I only own one pair of snow pants. They are lime green with holes, stains and suspenders. They don’t match my coat and one of the buttons is broke.
The first time we went ice fishing he responded to what I thought was a snow pants catastrophe with, “Green pants are real good. Just bring your smile. I’ll bring the rest.”
I packed an extra coat, socks, and a scarf because I was afraid that I’d get cold on the ice and start crying. Naturally as a grown woman when I get too cold, I cry.
What I forgot to pack that day was the barbed wire fence which protects the fragile parts of my heart. For years I hid behind that barrier because my heart had already endured losses that I almost lost myself to and I couldn’t imagine voluntarily submitting myself to the wrath of [...] dating.
Oh, even the word makes my blood curdle, and brings my swallowed iced latte back to the back of my throat. Excuse me while I vomit.
Dating is like letting a burglar into your home for a glass of wine before they put on a mask and run out with your peace of mind, except mine drank Bud Light. Cheers!
He was handsome. The kind of handsome that had green eyes with matching amber rings hugging his pupils. The kind of handsome that listened to me ask a dozen questions covering eight topics in about four seconds only to respond with, “Which one of those did you want me to answer?”
None. I was just pleased he listened.
He was the kind of handsome that didn’t care if my hair had been in a snow cap all day and matted to my skull with six layers grease, or freshly washed and smelling like Suave’s mock ocean breeze.
He was kind, and gentle, and patient; and
I wasn’t afraid because he was the kind of handsome that made me feel safe.
Like when I thought everything was going wrong, but he made me feel like everything was probably going to be actually okay?
I’m about as smooth as peanut butter before it’s made into peanut butter, which is actually just peanuts. Yeah, I’m about as smooth as peanuts. So, our first date went something like this, “Look, I think you’re adorable, but we work together and I’m afraid if something goes wrong I just… wait, you think I’m adorable too, right?"
Of course we are.
Before he walked me to the front door I made him promise he wouldn’t kiss me because I was afraid. Then one day we watched a movie on his couch and propped up on an elbow he looked down at me. His eyes met mine and then glanced at my lips; and like a loon in the forest he began his descent with confidence and ease.
Naturally, I pulled the blanket over his face and rested his head on my chest whispering, “Yes, but not yet.”
A few weeks later he teased me about my gas tank being “more empty than it should ever be”. He leaned across the center console, leaned into my space, and in shock pointed out that the gauge was below E as if he was concerned that I’d run out. Psh. I don’t run out of gas!
Well, except for the one time, but the wind was against me! Everyone runs out of gas when the wind is against them.
As he lingered on my side I looked at him and about as gracefully as peanuts launched into the air from a bag that was pulled open too hard I kissed him!
Then, just to make sure it counted, I kissed him again.
I said in the beginning that sleepovers were wrong, but he was the kind of handsome that made falling asleep to a movie seem pert near all right. The first night we walked to his bedroom I paced in circles like a cat at the end of his bed while rubbing my arms thinking, “This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea. Seriously, Fred, this is a bad idea.”
“Are you nervous?” he interrupted.
“What? No, I’m not nervous. I’m just getting ready that’s all.” With nervous laughter, more pacing and a look of defeat I sighed, “I’m a little afraid.”
He pulled back the blanket, opened his arm, and tapped my spot invitingly with his hand. I hesitantly tucked myself into his side and in a moment it was like I had never, ever been afraid.
And whoever says that was a bad idea was right because over night I went from a girl with determination and drive to being completely satisfied with never getting out of bed again.
We went on walks, cooked food, watched movies, and never once caught a fish, but we laughed. The moments when we laughed are the ones that I treasure most because although listening to the lub-dub inside a chest is nice, trusted moments of vulnerable laughter are priceless.
“To love is to be vulnerable.” Right?
Whether I’m just young and naive or too easy to please, or maybe I’m exactly how someone in their twenties should be; I fell in love. Not love in the sense that the way he made me feel was something to behold, but rather the sense that I could desire his best. To will his good.
But vulnerability isn’t easy for someone with a broken heart and although he was handsome, his once love broke him and he is afraid.
So, as abruptly as this is about to end he parked outside and said he was too stressed to be more than friends; which I would understand if I could, but I can’t, so I assume while all along I was packing my smile, he did not forget his barbed wire fence.
Stop thinking about not being able to pay rent next month or having to plan for the future. Stop thinking about how your palms seem to never stop sweating and whether or not you’re being casual. I tell you the truth, you’re super casual; so just -
Feel my hands hold your shoulders and watch my sandals step forward. Now my hands lift your chin from that shameful downward gaze, and as your eyes inevitably look up remember to breath. Feel my breath of life in your hair as I lean in closely and gently kiss your forehead. Feel my hands hold your cheeks, and open your beautiful eyes so they can try to look into mine.
Now, listen. I am love itself, yet I am in love with a woman who is as fierce and as fragile as an ice storm. A woman who pretends to be unstoppable knowing that she is among the weakest, if not thee weakest, and chooses to not stop. A woman whom we made for greatness. I am in love with you and I am always delighted to hear your cries both joyful and broken.
Don’t look away from me. Broken is just one more piece of that woman I am in love with. Broken and beautiful and basically one of the biggest messes I get to find joy in! Yes, you are my joy! Not that I need you to have it because like love, I kind of am joy, but I want you to be my joy because I love you!
Your golden wheat at sunrise colored hair floats in the atmosphere
As overgrown prairie grass sways in the Chinook.
The integrity of a developed cottonwood is know from far off;
So too is the strength of your shoulders.
Your lips match the delicate sweetness of wild roses,
And one touch would only leave me wanting to pick more.
We could arrange an entire bouquet,
but Instead I'll laugh nervously and chunky-thigh dance out.
A Rock and a Hard Place
I Made a Mistake of Living Life Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
I draw a happy face on my rock with chalk and name him Hank. Then a rain storm rolls in and washes him away, so I draw new friends and give them new names. Maybe Jack or Jill because they know what it’s like to try their best and still fail. The rain storms keep coming and my new friends melt away like crayons in a car on a hot day. It doesn’t take long before I run out of chalk and all that's left is the same rock that actually represents the loss we all lost except unlike my sisters who lost a mom, I lost a thought.
It’s not my fault that I can’t bring myself to cry when I think about the glimmer in her eye when she smiled. It’s not my fault that I don’t feel a skip in my heart when I think of her cackle of a laugh that could be heard a mile wide because I don’t know what that sounded like; I’ve only heard it described. Don’t get mad at me when I can’t cry or ask someone in the sky, “why?!”. It’s not that I can’t sympathize, it’s that I can’t bring myself to forge despair for a human that I held close to my heart before my memory was strong enough to keep her there. The memory of mom was gone before my long term retention was turned on, and that’s not my fault. I’m sorry you don’t understand.
The hard place across the way is actually nothing visible, but rather ideas that start forming like a snowball at the top of a forgotten peek somewhere across the ocean of reality inside my mind. The thoughts are nothing to begin with, but as they tumble and roll they collect both velocity and mass. Then, as a four door pick up that doesn’t clear a curve and collides face first with death, these thoughts crash into my frontal lobe making themselves known as the reason I’ll always be alone. The lies of this anxiety tell me that everything is wrong whether it is or far from, and my tummy turns to knots while my finger tips go numb. I’m terrified of thunder and I avoid late nights because that’s the worst time to wonder.
But the thing about rocks and hard places that I didn’t know is that they’re only as big as I let them be. I can force myself inside of an eight ton boulder and scale to the summit of a brick wall, but I can also put a pebble in my pocket and step over the curb because life does not end with a hearse.
Follow me here.
So, you know that state between sleeping and being awake where you think so hard about how badly you need to shower that you can almost feel the warm water rinsing days worth of filth down the drain only to open your eyes and realize you’re still lying in bed with the same invisible pain? You know you have to get up to use the bathroom, but maybe you can forget about it just a little bit longer because the weight of your sheets is compressing your nervous system just enough to make you feel a little better. Not enough to throw your razors away, and not enough to make you eat that day, but enough for three or four seconds of peace before the foreign outside air kisses your body and makes goosebumps grow underneath your lanugo.
You know the feeling when you're lying on the couch eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, which should leave you as relaxed as a ham, but the tension in your chest is winding so tight that if you don’t exhale that inhale exactly right it will snap? And then what happens when the tension snaps? You never know. Never knowing adds to the tension because you could be shot into a fit of hysterical laughter or be 94% convinced your life has absolutely no meaning, but either way the only logical solution is self destruction, and you don’t want to die but you can’t bring yourself to admit that you’re not fine so you lie until the only person you’re fooling is nobody.
Still with me?
These feelings for me are real, but the rocks and hard places are only as big as I let them be; in fact I don’t even have to carry them because someone volunteered to do it for me. He said “I love you Freddie-Leigh, so I’ll give up my life to set you free.” He came down from Heaven fully aware of His Father's will. He washed Peter’s feet knowing the next day he’d still be killed. He healed the woman who bled, the man who couldn’t see, and although I wasn’t around then, He knew he’d heal me.
The only reason I can live with the realities of this world is because my peace does not come from deep breaths and meditation. It comes from the Son who poured himself out as a selfless libation. Now I drink of the living water and sing praise without hesitation because He came to heal the sick and to shed love on me, a sinner. Now nothing on Earth or anywhere ever can change the fact that my eternity has been bought by the blood of God, and my friends that life is bought for you and the whole world too!
I didn’t know it way back when quite like I do now, but I Jesus is life. So, no matter what rock or hard place I’m stuck between, my true joy for eternity is found in the King.
Leigh inside a rock for the fun of climbing inside a rock.
Type thirteen letters then erase and re-begin.
Type the same letters again and again.
Delete em’ all once more and take it from the top.
Type thirteen letters then stop.
I just heard a text message come from my phone. Did you know I still hold hope that it could be you saying, “hello”? It doesn't make a lot of sense for me to hope when it's been 18 months since you told me you'd call even though I was on the other end of that line yelling, “No, don't!”
“Don't call me. Don't text. You think you know me? You don't.” I was stupid and young, but mostly dumb. I didn't know how I could love you when I couldn't even love myself.
I said you were clueless plenty of different times, but at the same time over on your side you were already calling Freddie-Leigh, me, “mine.”
I was stupid and young, but mostly dumb. I wanted to say that twice so you'd remember and not forget, so when I bring up being panicked and deciding to jump ship you might understand that it wasn't what I wanted to do, but rather all I knew.
I have to admit that there's something I've wanted to tell you since the day we met. I knew it that moment, and in every interaction since. I knew it when you hugged me at the bowling alley and then again after you accounted for me being a half hour tardy.
Fun fact! Do you remember the first time I ever messaged you? I said, “Fun fact bears can climb faster than they can run.” I remember because I thought long and hard about what’d I’d say to you. Didn’t want to mess it up too soon and leave what I knew could be true in ruins, and then what happened?
We became friends. We took everything so slow, which was great because we were both young and needed to grow, but I became restless and said “Let’s get this show on the road!” I dropped the ball. I built a wall. I said “No, don’t call.”
Remember a few stanzas back when I mentioned there was something I had known in the past? What I meant is that from day one I knew that I might want to spend the rest of my life in love with you, but I'm a scaredy cat and didn't think I'd ever be able to tell you that, so I cut off the head of our relationship with one swift swing of an axe.
Now I feel like what we had resembles that headless chicken Pat talked about at camp. I've been holding on to something that should have been tossed months ago, but like that guy feeding his chicken with a dropper I just can't seem to let “us” go. I probably don't even know who you are anymore, but dragging around the thought of who we could be is making my heart sore, so this chicken either needs die or see a doctor.
Now, there's probably a box with a key that we can shove all this in and then lock. Call it a case closed, but I'll say it again, I hold hope. I'm not saying take me back and pretend everything's okay. I'm not even saying I’d want it to go that way, but as hard as I try I just can't make the past change, so all I want to say is thirteen letters and then it's your play.
Please, I'm sorry.