"In the midst of winter I found in me an Invincible Summer." - Camus ...On exploring strength in its many forms:
strong people, strong writing, strong curiosity, obsessions, stances, and loves.
Strength as a concept wide enough to encompass fear, truth, vulnerability, and joy.
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Evelyn Marie Rice, 15 years later
Today marks the 15 year anniversary of my mother’s death.After struggling for 7 ½ years with chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis, she passed away.Being that it is now 15 years hence, that’s actually twice as long as the length of her illness.But illnesses are the kind of sprawling reality that takes up more time and space than actual time and space.And it really doesn’t seem to matter how much time passes, there is still a void of mom.She was far from perfect, and actually really resented when people tried to portray her as a suffering saint when she felt more suffering than sainthood.But she was wonderful.
She was creative and funny and embarrassing in the way mothers should be.She cared so much, I am still trying to learn the courage it takes to show how much you care about things.She made goofy dinners like chili boats, which consisted of Fritos floating atop chili.They were awesome, and I will be making that for lunch.She handmade the Christmas presents, each year more challenging than the last.Birdhouses, jeweled ornaments, crocheted snowflakes.When I was seven, she gave me a dollhouse she made from a two-shelf bookshelf, and had filled it with handmade items like miniature rugs and a master bedroom complete with checkbook box bed.
She gifted me with a love and respect for imagination.And books, a relationship with books that could carry me forever.
Living with her pain, and the inevitable ways illness changes a family (changing children to caretakers, living with being unable to help as much as you want to be able to, knowing that the end of it is a terrible way out) shaped me irrevocably as a person.Losing her shaped me too.I remember one of the many complicated feelings I had after her death was a great sense of unemployment.There was grief and relief that her suffering was over, but also an enormous unmooring of my sense of purpose.It seemed utterly frivolous to have to finally just focus on myself.There is a beauty to experiencing time in crisis so that you can only live each moment and can’t see past the next one.Having lost the crisis, suddenly I was faced with having to think about time in a longer fashion.Now that I could grow up, what did I want to do, who would I be?I’m still learning that one.
These changes are the most formative I’ve ever experienced.And every year I learn something more from them, unlock more of the power of growing and becoming.
Today I am going to honor her by writing.She would have liked that.She’d be glad that I’m a little better than she is about letting myself enjoy it.
I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from
complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple
sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not
had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a
parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have
joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you
differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the
sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than
almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that
initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.
Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember
her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…
I inadvertently found myself in possession of an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Strout's newest book, Anything is Possible. It's set to drop on April 25th.
Scrabble's response to the title:
Does this mean I can eat ten times a day?
It's a companion, a follow-up if you will (but not a sequel) to her last novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. Which was fantastic and spare and a perfect example of Strout's phenomenal carefulness in her writing. I loved it for all those reasons. I love Anything is Possible for completely different reasons.
It's a collection of linked stories, not unlike Strout's Olive Kitteredge. Each of the stories showcases a particular character referenced in My Name is Lucy Barton. In My Name, conversations with her mother over the span of a few days reference a host of do-you-remembers, and whatever-happened-tos involving offscreen characters that are delightfully interesting in their own right. Anything is Possible is full of these ri…
I make a decent attempt at gratitude on the regular, but I love how this season makes me think about it specifically. Even in the midst of all the holiday hoopla and the days of generalized anxiety we currently live in, there are genuine reflections of thankfulness everywhere. Way more so than say Valentine's day prompting people to really reflect on their love for someone. I've been keeping a list in my notes app on my phone to record the things that are currently immense suppliers of joy in my life. Here's an incomplete list:
My dental hygienist.
This is not a product placement disguised as gratitude. This is my genuine, heartfelt gratitude for a woman I see every six months who I have complete trust in, and who makes an otherwise unpleasant experience as humane and awesome as possible. Yes, yes, my dentist is also great. Absolutely. But making a teeth cleaning a pleasant experience is a gift not many hygienists possess. It's a combo of demeanor, the exact right amou…