Sundown, Moon Rise

I pray sometimes. To whom? To what? I am unsure. I call it the Universe but maybe it is God, maybe it is some sort of higher power. The Universe and Mother Nature are higher powers in my eyes but the point is I pray sometimes. Does it help me? I can’t honestly say that it does. I think it’s something organized religion imposed upon society to make us sleep better at night and feel better about all of the so-called sins we commit on a daily basis. But that’s just me. In no way is this follow up a judgment upon other people’s beliefs.

I still don’t believe in luck – I really never have. Sure, I use the expressions, “I was lucky” or “You’re so lucky,” but I’ve never believed in coincidences and for someone to be lucky implies such happenstance. There are no accidents in this life – I wish I could say there were because God (or the Universe) knows how much I despise that exhausted expression that, “everything happens for a reason.” Alas, it does and whether we know and/or like the reason is an entirely different story.

Interestingly enough, I just returned from a six-day trip to my hometown of Kansas City where religion and praying and God are everywhere – even the local diner! I have complete respect for people’s beliefs except for when said people try and shove their beliefs down my throat. I love living in a country that is built on an idealistic foundation of diversity and acceptance. These ideals aren’t obviously well received or practiced in all corners of this country but the concept is there and well practiced in many places like the place I call home, Los Angeles, and we have to begin somewhere.

I am grateful for parents who never forced me to attend church but left the choice up to me, a mother who expressed her experiences and aversion with organized religion but never made me feel bad for being curious. I’ve attended Catholic mass on Christmas Eve, fell asleep in the fetal position of a pew at a Midwest, mostly white congregation of a Baptist church, pretended to feel the holy spirit at a Methodist worship service, ran out of a predominantly black Baptist church into the cold, winter night due to an anxiety attack, and been told I’m going to Hell unless I ask Jesus into my heart. This all resulted in the formation of my own spiritual beliefs – beliefs that allow me to feel peace in my soul and resonate on a higher level for me than monotonously singing Christian hymns ever did.

After lying next to death, my spirituality wavered. I began to lose a lot of faith in everything including some lifelong convictions and myself. Thankfully, spirituality is also what picked me up after so much loss, what taught me that the loss and the disappointment are worth it most of the time. My mother used to repeatedly iterate, “the price of love is grief,” and that couldn’t be a truer statement. But, I would much rather love and lose than never love at all. I would much rather experience the grief if it means I get to experience the joy, the butterflies, and the connections. And if all I’m left with are great memories, then it’s worth it.

I still want something of substance to last longer than most things in my life have. That is a sentiment I can only describe as human. I am constantly telling myself, “Life is too short. Go for what you want, Linds. Ask for what you want. Take initiative.” Lives are so full of regrets and while this may be unavoidable, having a life full of chances taken and an abundance of loss is a life well lived and precisely the true story I intend to tell even in my death.

A Righteous Revival

I once laid in bed with death, right next to it – our skins touching, my body’s warmth against its eerie absent-like coolness and my weary head upon its betraying shoulder. I managed to whisper a few nonsensical words to its deaf ears and shed a few tears in its unwelcome and untimely presence. I once vowed my life – the one I’m living right now – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health to another living, breathing human being in the attendance of other living, breathing human beings. I once allowed death to fool me into longing for its bittersweet company but I’m still living that life. I no longer vow it to anyone – not another human being, not even death – only my self.

I just want something to last longer than I, I thought to myself as I stepped into the…

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After a While Comes the Dawn

I stumbled upon a handwritten poem in one of my mother’s journals this morning, a poem by a woman named Veronica A. Shoffstall.  I’m guessing my mother read it in the Ann Landers column of the newspaper back in 1999. Many people would write this incident off as mere coincidence but I don’t believe in coincidences.  Every single step we take, every experience we have to call ours in the great span of history, every single person we encounter – it’s all connected be it minutely and quietly or in a grandiose form, shouting from the designated summits in each of our personal journeys or somewhere in between.

As I read this poem, I heard my mama speaking to me, answering those questions from Nine Lives and reminding me that a part of her is still with me. She’s in the short, peaceful interludes of my thoughts, poetically interjecting with journal entries that reflect a woman who was still learning how to be alone and still discovering that her strength was limitless. She was learning, practicing self-discovery and perhaps, feeling that familiar loss of hope in humankind and true, unconditional love.

I hope that seventeen years ago my mama had someone to discuss life’s perils and disappointments with, someone with whom she could trust and rely on. I hope that she wasn’t just having to say goodbye.

After a While Comes the Dawn POEM.jpg
My mother’s handwritten journal entry

After a while you learn the difference

Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean learning

And company doesn’t mean security

And you begin to understand that kisses aren’t contracts

And presents aren’t promises

And you begin to accept your defeats

With your head held high and your eyes open

With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child

You learn to build your roads on today

Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans

And futures have a way of falling down in midflight

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers

And you learn that you really can endure

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth

And you learn and learn…

And you learn

With every goodbye you learn

©Veronica A. Shoffstall