rain.

It is a quiet rain. 

Rain that stops and starts in between glances.
Rain that allows so much sun to shine through I think this must be how a mirage begins

and ends.

—–

One night we danced, the rain falling. Dishes in the sink, it didn’t matter. He took my hand and quickly we were outside, he pulled me in, closer. Easily he made me laugh, as drops landed, all around, the rain a sweet percussion to the melody he hummed in my ear. Water streaming our faces, I spoke softly—

“Don’t leave me.” 

“I know how to love you,” he said immediately, “please let me.”

Inside again, the linoleum gleamed under the fluorescent light, our faces flush, our future here somewhere. We turned in tandem to the sink, my washing, his drying, our task made easier by the togetherness of the moment. 

—–

I peered past the accordion style doors of my not walk-in closet to see him intently messing with the alarm clock, when from it burst a rhythm that instantly made me want to hear every note, every lyric, breathe in every beat of this unexpected music.

He was immediately in front of me. Feet close to mine. I pushed my toes under his. What a feeling this was. 

Try it sometime. It throws you just off balance just enough—you have no choice but to lean in, hold on. 

I leaned in. 
I held on. 
I felt his steady heartbeat pick up just slightly and his hands on the part of my arm just above my elbow and we moved together, to each other, to this new rhythm, to this song we’re hearing this time, for the first time, and I felt a small part of my hurt, my pain, my sorrow….I felt just the tiniest part of it heal, regrow, as if it were part garden lizard that had just lost its tail, and the tail knew, but not the lizard, not only that it could grow back, it would.
 
We danced there, between the closet doors, as the song thankfully repeated itself. 

When I looked up to his eyes, there was a softness. I could sense his fear, afraid I might grow tired of this closeness. I leaned back just enough to throw us both off balance causing him to stumble forward and knock us both against the wall. I wiggled quickly away and ran to hide in the close kitchen, hopeful he would be soon behind. When his footsteps didn’t appear I peered cautiously around the corner only to shriek at his immediate and intentional silly-scare.

I pushed him playfully and once again I was in his arms. We returned to our dance and my tears came gently, staining the light blue of his shirt, small shields of a happiness never expected. 

—–

In those early mornings he would wake me with kisses on my head, soft whispers of “good morning beautiful” and “I love you so much.” Now, years later, these moments are also prayers, sweet verses memorized from a lifetime before, soft remembrances bookended with an embrace that pulls us back and propels us toward another five minutes safe from the world and its worldliness. 

It hasn’t always been this way. 
I could say a lot about the way it was before, but 
I wonder what good it would actually do. 
But it’s true, 
it hasn’t always been this way. 

I remember one time he proposed to me on a 3×5 card. 
Once in a voicemail message I didn’t listen to until three weeks later. 
Again after an episode of The Office.  
And that time when we were just staring at each other a little too long. 

I said of course,
no. 

And I said no because…
it hasn’t always been this way. 

And when one is accustomed to things being not the way they are now, one is certain things are destined to be once again in just a different state of not being the way they are now, even if the new way is a different version of the old way.  

It makes sense. 
It does. 

Somewhere between the orchard and the ocean everything changed. 

I found myself carefully organizing his lunch box so he would see the small heart I drew on the lid to his salad bowl.  I bought the chocolate he liked and I didn’t eat it all when he wasn’t around. I stopped watching the next episode of our favorite show until we were together. I learned how to bake zucchini bread so he would have something additional to smother his butter on. I pretended not to notice when he used too much butter. I learned how to back into a parking space because he told me it was safer. I watched every Star Wars movie just to learn the references and then casually use them in our conversations. I tried to be a morning person. I cleaned coffee grounds from the french press without making a big deal about it. I bought the gum he liked from Amazon after not finding it in all the stores around town. I read the book he suggested. I let him teach me how to make eggs when I thought I already knew.

I started telling him things that mattered.

I told him how my heart seemed to never stop hurting
in the very small parts you were never supposed to ever feel. 
I told him that maybe I could never be free to love again. 
I told him I didn’t think we could ever be free of all our everything. 
And he 
he just
he was 
just. 

He stayed. He kissed my forehead. 
He told me I would be free to love again
and he wanted to be here when I could.

And he was right
because it did happen
and that night, when most were running from the rain that fell all around, 
we stood still 
and enjoyed the reminder of our dedication to something greater than ourselves
and I knew that he knew that I knew tonight he would ask me his question again. 

—–

It is a quiet rain. 

A rain that stops and starts in between lifetimes and
decisions and possibilities and wishes of maybe a time 
when there would be no rain. 
But that would be silly,
to have no rain.  

It’s the rain that brought us here.
The rain giving us life. 
The rain on our side. 
The rain making 
everything 
new. 
Over
and over 
and over 
again.

(un)comfort(able).

I grew up giving to Goodwill, or the Salvation Army. We held rummage sales at our church, and my parents would volunteer, which meant I would volunteer. And yet in my adult life, giving away things seemed more of a selfish act, wanting to clear away clutter or free up space in my closet. If some place wanted my leftovers, they were doing me a service.

One Sunday night, I found myself in a church van, with three other people I had just met, plus our church’s pastor, headed out to the City to hand out blankets, jackets, jeans, socks, underwear, and lunches to the homeless. I didn’t necessarily want to be there. I hadn’t volunteered. My husband had volunteered. Then he got sick and suggested I take his place. I went because it seemed like the right thing to do, especially because they were short handed on a night when most of the country was tucked warmly inside their homes or sports bars rooting for two football teams they had some sort of interest in and watching the most expensive commercials of the year. I, however, had a lifetime of not caring about football, so I had no alibi.

All of the serious reasons I didn’t want to go could really be bundled up into one reason of not wanting to go: I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. The first sign of uncomfort was in the unexpected thoughts this stirred in me of my birth story. I don’t know much, but I was told my birth mother lived on the streets in Costa Rica. I think she already had boys, but I was her first girl. Not wanting her daughter to endure that life, its difficulties and vices, she put me up for adoption. I have managed to compartmentalize most of my feelings on this topic, until recently. I am wondering now if they have been simmering just underneath the fabric of my every day life, and this experience enabled a fissure of escape, but I just can’t be sure. I am forced to accept these emotions are here, stirring in me, giving me uncomfort and pressuring me to look into faces that remind me of a life from which I was saved, faces that could easily have been mine, faces that may be my brothers, my mother.

What I wasn’t expecting, was that our night seemed enveloped in grace. These men and women, having almost nothing, were polite, gracious, thankful. They were seeking just a bit of comfort. They asked first for blankets. We only had four that night, and they went to the first four who asked. We helped these men and women, with what we had, as best we could, locating sizes and colors to suit. The hours leading up to this night were full of personal doubt and dread. The first stop we made erased these feelings entirely and I was finally able to shift my focus towards the service we were sharing.

Why must I always approach a new situation by what it means to me? Why must I fixate on my own feelings of comfort or discomfort and inadequacy instead of pausing to consider the intent of the experience?

Service of this sort seems inevitably tangled between personal feelings and motivators and the actual helping of others.  I drove home with images of faces, eyes, hands, all wanting the same thing, seeking to fill a desire for a moment of comfort from a world that, for a wagon wheel of reasons, has led them to this space.

I thought of the men sleep-resting on a sidewalk, taking shelter provided by a building alcove. I talked with a few who were still awake and handed out personal hygiene bags. One man took it and immediately asked for a different one with soap. I thought they all had soap in them. But I looked through my bags and found one with the biggest bar of soap that I could. True joy in his eyes. Immediately I thought of this basic need. How often I wash my hands, the faces of my children, their hands. Take a shower. Wash my clothes. To be stripped of this ability, to the point where when someone hands me a basic needs kit to look first for soap, caused in me a sadness that lingers. I am unable to find a place to put this sadness, to categorize it, so that it can be a “thing I know what to do with,” instead of a “thing that confuses me,” or a “thing that makes me feel guilty,” or a “thing that I ignore.”

When I came home, I washed my hands, my face. I tucked myself into bed beneath my four blankets, the warmth of my husband making up for the slight chill of the sheets. I couldn’t sleep. I felt a glutton of warmth and comfort.

Hours later I woke to cries of my youngest child. I went immediately to his room, scooped him from his crib and just held him, wrapped him in a blanket of fish and turtles made by his Nana. I held him long after his cries went to whimpers and the whimpers back to snores. I slow smelled his hair. I wanted to pause this moment, a moment of true gratitude for this safe, warm place to let my son sleep. Gratitude for a painstakingly uncomfortable choice made by a woman who gave me life, but whom I’ll never meet. A choice that would take me 28 years to understand, and only after holding my own son and feeling both magnitude of love and weight of responsibility for his precious life. Gratitude to be in this exact space at this exact moment and the billions of choices that brought me here.

As I went back to my room, I paused at the top of our stairs, out a window that showed a glistening pavement. I always love when it rains, but this time I felt again that uncategorizable sadness. The first image being of a woman who had done a little sing-song dance of thanks for a weekend of no snow. The second, of a man who had built his bed of cardboard boxes. I thought of how, out of all the jackets we handed out that night, only a handful had any hope of providing shield from the rain that insisted on falling early that morning then persisted throughout the day.

What had started in uncomfortableness was ending in uncomfortableness. And yet, of the two, I will take the latter; the latter having provided me a new context for what matters in service. Giving me the opportunity to disconnect the (un) from comfort. To focus on my (able)ness to give comfort, and to begin to sort through the uncategorizable sadness that lingers.