Entries Tagged as 'All Posts'



Last summer the BBC kept reporting updates that came to my news feed daily about a mother orca who was seen carrying her dead calf through the water off the coast of Vancouver Island. She was spotted just after my first miscarriage. I processed my loss as she did. I followed along. The behavior isn’t unheard of in killer whales, but observers seemed to agree that this particular mother set a record in her grief. She carried her decaying calf for 16 days before she finally let its body sink into the sea.


Months later I found myself standing in my bathroom with my sister’s arms around me the night before a D&C. She had to lean forward to hold me, her belly swollen with a lively little girl, three weeks away from birth. “What are you feeling?” she asked me.

I cried out in anguish as if I’d been shot — no, please. Not feeling. Anything but feeling. — My face contorted and I lulled myself back into numb control with slow, quivering breaths.

“I feel like there’s a dead baby inside me,” I said. “I need it to be out.”

I thought about that mother whale again months later as I drove with Trent along the coast toward Maui Memorial Hospital, bleeding too much for anything to be ok, feeling an odd kind of relief that at least the worry was over this time. The sun was soft and bright and I watched the water from the passenger’s seat, wondering how I would tell Scout and Finn that another baby was gone, searching the horizon for hints of an orca, a breach, a sign. I didn’t see one.

I have two, beautiful children—children I conceived, carried and birthed with relative ease. And with both of them, I felt the magic of the process. I felt joy and fulfillment in growing them inside me, feeling their movement, their weight. I reveled in them being part of me.

I wanted the chance to bask in it all one last time, to soak in the experience of growing one life inside another. And here I am, nearing the end of a healthy pregnancy with a viable baby readying herself for birth. But I haven’t reveled in anything this time. There are moments I’ve felt robbed of those feelings and moments I’ve felt ashamed of their absence. But rarely have there been moments when I have, as I used to, felt awe.

I’m a different person than I was. I can’t recreate anything. I can’t go back. I can’t erase the blunt, desperate urgency I once felt to have closure any more than I can erase the frantic need I once felt to cling to what might have been.

But I can, at the very least, give this baby what I am now more ready to give her — her own life. I am less enamored with her life inside mine, both in the womb and beyond it, and more impatient and curious to see where she will swim. I am antsy this time to let her be her own person, not an extension of me, not my creation. Death has taught me this. It’s opened by eyes to a reality I’m sure was always there — that these children pass through me much more than they are created by me. I control so much less than I knew. They are not my masterpieces. However amazing they might be, they are barely mine at all. Which is just as well. I have waters to swim too.

Common Place


The first miscarriage felt like the practical fulfillment of statistics.

The second felt senseless.

My reserves were used up in processing the first one with grace—such grace. Grace that sapped my energy, because it carried the weight of all of my pride in it.

My heart had nothing left when the second one hit. It turned immediately to violence and beat itself to a pulp in my chest, one sucker-punch at a time, pangs of unexpected breathless pain randomly for weeks.

It still happens.

On the one hand—the graceful hand—I am genuinely more grateful than I was before for the two chances I had to so easily, quickly, seamlessly conceive, carry and deliver two children, to nurse them, to have a body that cooperated.

I didn’t know I was lucky. Not really.

And on the uglier hand, I am angry at the wastefulness of it all. And confused at what to do next, staring down the barrel of another year, wondering how to move on.

Yes, but how?

And how do I quiet the voices in my head? The ones that say to deal with these questions privately. And the ones that say I shouldn’t even be writing this until I’ve had three miscarriages—yes, at least three before you can even talk about the subject. Especially since you already have two kids. You don’t even know.

I don’t even know.

All I know is that those statistics make the waste sound overwhelming. So much wasted time, wasted nausea, wasted hopes, preparations, daydreams. Those statistics make it all sound so commonplace, but the pain can be blinding, so where is it? Where is the common place? Where is the waste transformed into connection?

I don’t even know.

But maybe it could be here.

A Good Enough Place to Start


Everyone says I was just like her when I was that age—smart, imaginative, bold, fearless. And it’s not just a feigned humility I feel when I hear that—I remember it. I remember believing that I was capable of anything. I remember it being a given that I would write a best-seller, and win a Pulitzer, and be crowned Poet Laureate Queen of the Universe and also, for good measure, star in the Broadway musical I wrote and produced myself. As a four-year-old girl, those weren’t just dreams, those were realities waiting to play out. And now as a 30-year-old woman, I am tightly wound with insecurities, culminating in my one great fear: that my daughter will grow up to be just like me, that she’ll grow out of her confidence, that she’ll see me and learn doubt, that she’ll one day be 30 and paralyzed.

Instead of writing, I read reviews of books about writing and put them on hold at the library. Instead of writing, I research creative writing MFA programs and casually email admissions officers. Instead of writing, I Yelp new coffee shops that might make good writing hang-outs. Instead of writing, I Instagram. Instead of writing, I generate business ideas that have nothing to do with writing but everything to do with ways I know I can succeed right now. Instead of writing, I fill my life with hobbies that have nothing to do with writing but everything to do with trying to fill the void of it. Instead of writing, I let fear swallow me whole.

I’m afraid of not knowing what kind of writer I want to be. I’m afraid of being pigeonholed into one thing, stuck there forever. I’m afraid of not being taken seriously. I’m afraid of spending time and money on something frivolous. I’m afraid of choosing a path that isn’t useful, that doesn’t solve anyone’s problems or make the world measurably better. I’m afraid of being consumed by my creative pursuits, staying up all night long down a rabbit hole or wandering into a dark, heavy space and then having to get up and make lunches and be present with people who need me. I’m in a phase of life when people need me every day. I can’t be somewhere else. What if writing takes me somewhere else? What if writing takes me into the bottomless pit of failure? What if stay down there? What if I’m no good at this? I can’t bear the thought of being no good at this. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I realize, in reading back this cloud-parting word-vomit, that I’m already in the pit. And that failure, as cliché as it sounds, is better than never trying. In fact, I said that exact thing to her just yesterday when she was practicing her letters, her left hand curved around a glittery purple pencil, her notebook pressed against knees scabby with inhibition.

I have to make her believe me.

Het Begijnhof


I’d been wandering through giant stores in swarms of people, going up and down escalators in a trance-like state, committing to nothing, not even really sure of what I came to get. I’d been craving alone time, banking on it as the solution to my problems. But being alone wasn’t giving me any relief.

The problem was me.

I combed through thousands of clothes, sparkly dresses, purses, pumps, stressed about the fact that the afternoon was waning and I was empty-handed.

I bought a sweatshirt.

My head pounded as I walked through a cloud of cigarette smoke, into the rain. I headed for home, restless and annoyed, weaving through strangers. I passed a familiar bookshop and remembered a quiet courtyard a friend had told me was nearby. She’d said it was hard to find, but for once, the first doorway I went through was the right one.

It led down a short tunnel with pretty gold mosaics rounding over my head. I emerged in oddly shaped courtyard, jagged angles of well-kept buildings smashed together, windows going skyward, different panels and trim on each, but the glass was all perfectly clear. Raised beds of grass, fresh spring-like green, surrounded a tilted brick church. A content little bell tower clutched the grey above and stark yellow leaves spotted the cobblestone, wet, glossy, more alive than dead. It was quiet, as promised.

I stopped to read the sign, which told a story I mostly already knew. “Het Begijnhof” dates back to the 1300s, and has been, for centuries, housing women seeking sanctuary. It was mostly a home for Catholic women who didn’t, for one reason or another, want to take vows of nunhood, but wanted similar things—stability, sisterhood, refuge, protection, peace. They had more freedom than in a convent. They could raise children here, they could leave and marry, or leave and not marry. Or they could stay. Even when Protestantism was militantly enforced in Amsterdam, Het Begijnhof was largely left to itself, and today it’s still occupied exclusively by women. “91 apartments is all the world can give,” I thought. I stood in front of a statue of a “lay nun,” standing determined, skirt in hand, and wondered from what the current residents were seeking refuge.

It doesn’t take much imagination.

I went inside an open door in the building across from the church, into the hidden church, the one the women used when Catholicism was forbidden. Nobody even goes in the real church anymore. I pulled back the hood of my coat, my boot heels awkwardly clicking against the footrests of the wooden pews. It echoed.

I sat in the back.


I’ve been in this place for a while now, days into years. I remember God. I remember the feeling of basking in love and light. But I’ve felt lost from it for a long, long time. At first I didn’t know myself in this—I’d been unquestioning for so long. But now it’s God I don’t know. I’ve had to start from scratch, using the tools I was given as a child to build a house of faith I can live in as an adult. But building a house is hard in a city so full of well-established houses, a city continuously fiddling with locks and dams to keep from sinking into the sea.


My eyes had been closed for a long, long time, tears streaming from underneath unflinching eyelids, unpatted, unprimped, dripping off my chin, neck strained, face to the ceiling.

This is how I pray now.

After a while I opened my eyes, and there in the chapel where tourists come to check their phones, and I had it out with God.


It’s a beautiful story, isn’t it? That through centuries of wars and revolutions, there’s been this little courtyard where women could live peacefully in a place between vows and violence. They’re safe to be in-between here. That’s the sanctuary. It makes me want to believe, for the first time in a long time, that God is in control.


I sighed, stood up, and went back outside, checking my phone, wiping droplets off the screen. Dinner time. Better get back.

I walked to the other side of the courtyard looking for an exit, and there he was—Christ, Jesus, carved in stone, hands softly on his chest, one finger pointing to himself, maybe as if to remind people that he’s important in all this—“It’s me you’re looking for.” Or maybe as if he were wondering if he himself belonged—“Who? Me?”

“So you’re here too,” I thought. “Hi.”


I stopped for just a second before someone motioned to me to move. They posed for a picture with him as I walked away, back through the golden tunnel, home through the sinking city.


30-year-old woman writes emo blog post after midnight


I grew up fantasizing, not about the career I would have, but the career I would give up. For years, I imagined my moment of glory—not the moment I was accepted to the perfect prestigious graduate program or landed the job of my dreams, but the moment I turned it down. The details of the achievement were always vague but the details of the sacrifice were excruciatingly precise. I always gave up everything. Heroically. That was my fantasy.

For years I’ve looked at my post-college life as a big disappointment. I became a mother—something I’ve always deeply, sincerely wanted to do—but I didn’t give anything up for it. I didn’t have some great achievement hanging in the balance, there to point to when my intelligence or talent was called into question, or when I doubted it myself. I wondered why I didn’t live up to my potential in that phase between graduating and having these babies. And then one day it hit me—as it turns out, vanity isn’t all that motivating.

Everyone likes to talk about “fulfillment”—Does a career make you feel fulfilled? Then have a career. Oh, motherhood alone is all you need to feel fulfilled? By all means, focus on that.—And I hear this talk and quietly wonder if they’re all full of it. Does anyone really feel fulfilled, as in complete? Whole? Maybe in moments, yes, but in life at large? Do you really live out your days like that? Thinking, “Nothing is lacking here.”

Maybe some do. Maybe I’m broken. Or maybe we should all just stop talking about sacrifice like it’s a badge of honor and fulfillment like it’s a Facebook status. Sacrifice is just a byproduct and fulfillment is a wave and I wish to God I’d known that 15 years ago. Now, I just fantasize about floating back and forth in peace.

The Afternoon After


I feel like I’m on fire.

I started burning in the night and here I am the next afternoon, still burning, writhing, praying for the flames to just consume me already—please, just consume me—so I can rest

and lazily write some kind of message in the ashes.

Words in the dirt. Poetry in the smoke.

But the burning won’t stop. And I wonder—oh, I wonder—if maybe I will always be burning. Maybe this is how I exist on the other side of the unthinkable.

I hope I can make use of the flames in my chest, because maybe this is just who I am now

the girl who burns.

Resisting the Urge to Picket the Princess Castle


I wish it wasn’t so often that I want to quote something beautiful, but can only attribute it to some striking voice in the blogosphere that I read somewhere at some point. But now is one of those times.

Somewhere at some point in the vastness of the internet, I read the gut-checking words of a mother talking about her fears. She threw a question out into the universe and it lodged itself in my soul—”How do I teach my daughter to question without forcing my questions upon her?” And this, I believe, is the big hairy question you take on when a feminist becomes a parent. How do you teach your child to think critically about the world without attempting to create a minion? Minions sound really nice, to be perfectly honest, cute little feminist minions, but they’re a bit self-defeating. I’ve never met a minion who had a mind of its own, which is sort of the whole point of minions and the whole antithesis of feminism.

It’s also the question I’m mulling over tonight as I think about my very verbal two-year-old daughter’s current obsession with “butiful dresses” and all things princess. After one viewing of one princess movie—ONE—she was hooked and now Elsa is on speed dial and Anna is the topic of her constant conversation. There are good things modeled in princess movies. I’m not here to hate on them categorically. I’m just here to wonder why those aren’t the things she seems gravitate to, and mostly, to tremble in fear at the swift consuming power of Disney over my child.

“I be butiful,” Scout said as she bounced into my bedroom this morning, wearing the dress she’d insisted Trent put on her.

“Yes, you are beautiful,” I said, “but being beautiful doesn’t really matter much. It’s more important to be smart and kind.”

And later, digging through my makeup bag, she repeated a version of what I told her. Dabbing a brush on her cheeks—”I look butiful and smart.”

“Well yes, little one, but it’s not about looking smart,” I thought. But I didn’t say anything.

I didn’t say anything, because I don’t know what I’m doing here. And I’m not sure how to navigate all this. And as much as I want to prevent my daughter from falling victim to lies about ideal beauty standards and warped priorities and wacko gender stereotypes, a feminist robo-child who repeats what I say, but doesn’t internalize it for herself, well … that’s no better.

So for now, I trust in my trying. I’ll fill her world with stories of girls and women, real and imagined, who are smart and kind and brave and beautiful, the kind of beautiful that matters. And I won’t picket the princess castle, because making princesses too forbidden only enhances their power. I’ll also trust in my daughter. She’ll figure things out. Because wow, she is smart. And strong. And if you’d seen her point that stern little finger between your eyes—”YOU be da prince,” she commands—well, you wouldn’t argue with that.

Everybody Hurts


Tonight I went to listen to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” because I wanted to connect with the humor in my situation. I wanted a darkly funny thing to get me laughing, and what better than such a stupid kitschy song? But then, it spoke to me. That’s how bad I was feeling. The kitsch wasn’t kitschy at all. And I found myself sobbing to it on repeat, rocking my colicky baby to the beat, bouncing in catharsis in a night that was “(mine) alone.” And maybe there’s something funny in that. Please let there be something funny in that. I need a good laugh.

My baby is colicky. I haven’t wanted to admit it—not to myself, not to anyone—because admitting that my baby occasionally cries inconsolably for no reason at all means admitting that I also couldn’t take credit for my last baby, the one who never cried at all. Admitting that Finn is a “hard baby” means that Scout, my “easy baby,” was truly just the luck of the draw. Of course I said that all along, but somewhere deep down, I think I took credit for her being so “good.” I let it boost my ego and admitting that things are different this time around means letting that ego be shattered.

And shattered it is. I am humbled. Please let it be that I am sufficiently humbled, because … well … I’m crying to R.E.M. over here and I have to face another day of potty training in the morning. In my worst moments, I find myself feeling that this isn’t what I signed up for, and in my best moments, I’m sure that it is. And the strange thing is that my best moments, the ones where I am my best self, they aren’t always the same as the best moments of the day. Sometimes I’m my best self with pee all over my floors and spit up all over my clothes. Sometimes I rise to the challenge. And sometimes my worst moments, the ones where I ugly cry and pound Fig Newtons and type with one hand, come when things are calm and should be easy. With one little girl finally asleep in her crib and one little boy finally asleep in my arms, I feel sad. And happy. And humble. And human. Mostly human. Cause everybody hurts sometimes.

Finn’s Birth Story


I want to remember the feeling of safety that washed over me when I nuzzled my face into your dad’s hands. I gripped his wrists in anguish and bore my forehead into his palms. He stroked my hair with his thumbs and glided down my neck and I felt less alone in the pain. It was the only thing that brought me comfort when you made your way into this world. It’s a feeling I find myself chasing in these days of achy newness, these first days of your life. You were born in the night, little boy, on a wave of fire and ice.

The contractions started hours before the snowfall. At 3:30 in the morning I felt it starting to roll up my back again—heat, a familiar burning. And by the time the sun was up I knew that what I’d feared was true—that again it would be back labor, that again it would be long, that either the shape of my pelvis or fate’s cruel hand had forced another baby into a posterior position inside me. It was all too familiar. I resigned to labor with the devil I knew.

I had contractions all day about ten minutes apart. Sometimes they’d speed up and give me hope. Sometimes they’d slow down and make me anxious. But they kept on coming, the waves of burning, as the snow starting falling just like they said it would. Your dad made Pho and a mess in the kitchen. Your nana made a snowman with your sister behind the apartment. Scout made all of us laugh, ruling our roost and reining our hearts alone for one more day. And through it, my back was slowly burning.

We put Scout to bed with a foot of snow on the ground outside her window and I immediately tried to go to bed myself, to rest while I still could, but it was already too late. I bounced on a ball and watched TV, breathing through the fiery waves. I called the doctor to check in about the weather and he told me what I didn’t want to hear—that it wasn’t time yet, that I should stay home longer. Annoyed, I turned off the TV and told Dad to sleep and went to the living room. I sat in the rocking chair and rocked in the darkness, listening to Nana breathing on the air mattress, knowing she was awake and doing the same. The doctor called back and told me he’d go sleep at the hospital, just to make sure he could get there in the snow. “Come when you’re ready,” he said. And I felt a little stronger, more content to let hours pass rocking, rocking, rocking as my body was engulfed in flames.

When one contraction brought me to my knees and made me cry out, Nana spoke up in the darkness. “You should go,” she said. And I did. I woke your Dad and laced up my snow boots and we made our way to the car. The bite of cold air was a welcome change. I gulped it in.

The car got stuck almost immediately. The wheels spun underneath us, and I felt your Dad go frozen in the drivers’ seat. He pushed on the gas and they spun again. I started to panic and sobbed, “please, please,” over and over, an audible prayer. God would have to fill in the blanks. I saw a dark figure come out of the building and into the parking lot, and then another and another. Neighbors. Saviors. They said things like, “kitty litter” and “traction” and heaved and hoed while I sat in the passenger seat, clutching the handle above my head, trying to stop my mind from wandering into worst case scenarios.

We moved. Dad jumped in. Relief spilled out of who knows where and we drove on icy, deserted roads as fast as we could to the hospital. I got out of the car at the main entrance and a shocked security guard, shoveling the sidewalk, ushered me in to the ghost town lobby. He looked at me like I shouldn’t be there—didn’t I know there was a blizzard outside?—and then told your Dad that with a good Irish name like Murphey he’d better have one hell of a cigar to celebrate at the end of all this. I walked to the delivery room, taking breaks to breathe through the heat waves, and the rest was a blur. It always is.

For two and a half hours, I was burned alive, full of doubt that my body was capable of anything but its own destruction. “At this point, bad is good,” one nurse told me, so I forced my body up and clung to your dad as the heat waves rolled in on top of each other. It felt worse. I knew that meant progress. I would drown and gasp, then find the surface and steady my breath.

You started crowning as I stood in the corner. I screamed, “I can’t! I can’t!” but I already was. The pain was blinding, deafening. The doctor rushed in and gave me instructions and I repeated the words out loud, comprehending nothing. I pushed. I felt powerful and helpless, trapped and wild. And six minutes later, there you were, lifted up to my chest. I collapse beneath you.

The pain, the burning, was all consuming. And then it was gone. So quickly it melted into love and sweet relief. Pain isn’t supposed to work like that. It wanders away slowly. It leaves ghosts. It clings. No pain has ever consumed me then deserted me that way. But that night it did. It vanished so swiftly and completely that all I was left with was a strange kind of dream, a memory of your dad’s hands softly holding my tortured face, and you. I’m still trying to work out what I’m supposed to learn from a pain like that. I know it has something to teach me.

We were snowed in at the hospital for more than a day. No one in, no one out. The three of us just slept and snuggled with snow drifting down outside the window, warm in the light, light in the warmth. We marveled at your 9 lbs. and 8 oz., your arm rolls, your blonde hair. It all surprised us. We tried to pick a name for you, tried to discern a lifetime in a little face, and did our best, which is all we can ever do, I’m sorry to say.

Phineas William Clark Murphey, may I do right by you. May you keep surprising us. May you learn from your pain. May you find soft, strong hands to hold you and sweet relief to fill you in this world you live in now. I love you, little boy. May love be enough.

Read Scout’s birth story here.

Dear Baby Brother


Dear Baby Brother,

Your official due date is a week from today and I am not ready for you to come. With your sister, I was ready before I was halfway through and by the time she actually came at 42 weeks, I was going mad. Now, I’m going mad from the panic that you’ll get here before my to-do list is finished and my heart is open to all the changes you’ll bring. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ll be ready this time. My to-do list is growing, not shrinking, which is what always seems to happen to me when my heart is avoiding itself. I think I’ll have to hurry up and make my peace with the fact that you’re coming, ready or not.

What do I want for you, little brother? I want you to have a name—which right now isn’t coming as easily as we thought it would—and an identity all your own. I want you to be more than just Scarlett Murphey’s little brother, which I’m sure of course you will be, but right now, with my world so consumed by your spunky sister, it’s hard for me to fathom. Can I confess something to you, little boy? I haven’t thought much about you these past nine months. I wanted you. We wanted you so surely, but as soon as you were there in my belly, the world just went on spinning. How will you fit into our world? I can’t work it out in my mind exactly, but I know you’ll fill in holes I didn’t know were gaping. Your dad says he wants you to be a sensitive man of wisdom, a leader, and a linebacker. But if your sister turns out to be the linebacker of the family, which indeed she might, that’s cool too, he says.

And me? I want you to be my teacher, little boy. It’s about the only thing I can sense about you, but I can already feel that you will be. I can already feel the magnitude of the growth you’ll bring to my scared little soul. You will make me better, whoever you are, and you will do it by forcing me to face things long before I feel I’m ready.

See you on the other side, little man.



New Year


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I had a lot of goals in 2015. I had a whole Google Spreadsheet full of ambitious, detailed New Year’s resolutions ranging from reading a carefully curated self-determined book list to jogging 500 miles, a particularly laughable goal considering that the only time I’ve jogged with my B.O.B., the Subaru of jogging strollers, was when I was desperately trying to catch a bus.

I did—with the positive peer pressure of my mom, sister, and grandma who shared this goal—memorize a poem each month, but aside from that, I accomplished nothing. Nothing on the spreadsheet at least.

When I think about what I want to accomplish in 2016, all I’m sure of is that I want to be my best self.

But then I think, “No, wait. Maybe I just want to be kind to myself.”

And then I think, “No, wait. Why are those two things in conflict?”

They’re not. Or rather, they shouldn’t be. But my “best” self—the Sam who is thoughtful and creative and adventurous and brave—is also a perfectionist and a brat. She’s rather shaming of her own shortcomings. She’s good at spreadsheets and bad at forgiveness.

This year, I’m stepping into January nine months pregnant with an immediate future that seems sure and looks bright. Trent will graduate in May. We’ll move to Texas in the summer. He’ll start work. We’ll raise babies. For the first time in a long time, I woke up on New Year’s Day with my ducks seemingly in something of a row. At least until our plans get messed with—which, of course, they assuredly will—my energy doesn’t need to be sucked into my usual black whole of fretting about the unknown, which leaves me with plenty of strength for creativity, bravery, and adventure. And kindness, for myself included.

My goals this year are simple.

Rather than commit to a creative writing schedule like last year, and then flake and hate myself for it, I’m going to commit to listen to NPR every day. I’m going to make an effort to engage my brain in a simple way. And something tells me that if I do, the writing will flow out of me on its own.

Rather than promise myself I’ll jog, which I knowingly despise, I will commit to go for a walk outside every day, even if it’s just around the block. And if I can’t do that, I will at least stretch for a few minutes before I crawl into bed. Rather than push my body into “fitness,” I’m just going to acknowledge it every day, thank it. And something tells me that if I do, I’ll find a desire to see what it’s capable of.

Rather than vow to cook healthy dinners from scratch every night of the week, and then survive on guilt and frozen burritos, I will try my best to help my little family sit down for breakfast together every morning, say nothing of what we eat. Something about the sitting, the connecting, the ritual, will start our days and our eating habits off right every day. And something tells me that if that happens, I’ll find more joy in cooking myself and more gratitude in Trent cooking for me. His contributions will feel more like signs of a partnership and less like signs of my personal failures.

And last, but not least, I will not keep a spreadsheet, mental or otherwise, of said personal failures. I will not give myself harsh performance reviews every time I get a Google Calendar reminder to “Check 2016 Goal Progress.” I will not be such a psycho about Google Calendar reminders at all. I will engage my brain and get outside. I will stretch my body and fill it with goodness. I will be thankful for my partner and the two little ducklings in our messy row.

And I will write.

The One Where I Don’t Know How It Ends


It’s been almost six months since I last wrote on this blog. So much has happened. I could write about our trip to Europe or our summer in Utah and Texas. I could write about Trent’s internship and job offer. I could write about how we’re moving to Dallas next year when he graduates or how sharply I’ll miss Virginia or how, smack dab in the middle of the coming winter, I’ll give birth to a baby boy. I could go on for days about how much Scout has grown and changed. I could pontificate about what happened psychologically that caused my oh-so-dramatic absence from blogging, but I’ll spare you that much. It’s overwhelming to even try to tackle everything, so I’ll write about something else entirely. I came home tonight feeling an itch to write, so I’ll scratch it and see what happens.

I’m really happy these days. Things are going well for me and mine, but honestly, I don’t think that accounts for most of why I’m happy. I think I’m happy because I’ve been building back what I lost.

I didn’t do it consciously, but a few years ago, when I started to really acknowledge doubts about my faith and questions about my paradigms, I also stopped letting guilt motivate me. I realized that many of the things I did in my personal worship I did because I felt guilty if I didn’t. So I stopped doing those things. Plain and simple. I removed the guilt from my life and with it went the behaviors it motivated. And for the first time, I just let them go. It wasn’t dramatic or even outwardly noticeable, but it happened. I stopped reading the scriptures consistently. I stopped praying every single morning and every single night. I stopped being so stalwart with my church attendance and so rigid in my worship in a thousand other ways. I stopped telling myself I knew things I only hoped for and stopped being afraid to know my own limits. And for a while, I truly felt freer. I felt less burdened, more spiritual. I felt the fruits of the spirit in new ways, different ways. But after time enough to detox my guilt had passed, I also felt a longing to start over.

So I began to do that. I’m still doing that. I’ve been picking up the tenants of the faith I still call mine and “experimenting on the words.” It hasn’t been systematic, just fluid, and it started with the smallest of things, things like who is really up there listening when I pray. I’ve stopped being scared of asking my real questions of God, started trusting the times when the answers that come are unexpected or unpopular among my peers at church. I’ve stopped the cycle of self-loathing I spun inside when I felt different from them. And piece by piece I’ve gathered up the many things that make up Mormonism and weaved them back into my life, with many old conclusions and some new conclusions and mostly no conclusions, just progressions. Progressions without guilt. Progressions with integrity. My “testimony,” as we Mormons call it, is smaller and stronger than ever before. And that’s not coincidental. It is stronger, because it is smaller. It is stronger, because I’m not wasting my energy pretending. I’m spending it learning.

I’m happy these days, so very happy these days, partially because I’ve been building back what I lost, but mostly because I’m building something I never really had in the first place—a faith that is truly my own.

Listening to: William Fitzsimmons, “Well Enough”

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