Mostly I feel like running. I would run for days if I could. To feel the pressure of each breath, to feel that hard place in my chest beating incessantly in a way that was controlled only by the beating of each hard step, foot to pavement, and then again, and then again. Until I couldn’t any more.

Mostly I feel like running. I would run out to this pond I found once, only it reminded me of no pond I had seen before, it was really a lake with the potential to be an ocean, but the sign said it was a pond, so pond it remained, even though, if I had been consulted, I would have asked the non-pond pond if in fact it was a pond or if it felt more like a lake with dreams of becoming the ocean, or perhaps it felt like it was an ocean in hopes of being a pond, or even further, perhaps it actually felt it was a desert, despite the so obvious moisture that filled its crevices, obvious of course to those only with the benefit of seeing this non-pond from the outside, a luxury this non-pond, lake, potential ocean, possible desert never had nor could dream of ever being able to create.

I would run to this difficult to name place. Once there I would strip of myself and dive immediately deep, amongst the algae and the water plants that would have, in any other world, kept me on the shore, constricted and contained, I would brush past these plants to hit the muddy bottom of this place, pushing my hands deep within and hoping, expecting, wanting and needing to feel the earth in its nascent state, to the possible places where life begins, where life began, until that incessant beating in my chest returned, reminding me, calling me, pushing me to either go further in this task or return once again to find temporary relief in the uncertainty of all that remains above.

Mostly I feel like running. Only then can this pressure, this intensity of understanding, confusion, doubt, and truth, only then can the pressure of these items be relieved and replaced by the limitations of physical ability and desire to replace burden with burden, building of course until something has to give.

Once, while I was busy enjoying my non-pond pond a stranger appeared and asked rather innocently if I was enjoying this beautiful gulf.

I looked out as though I was seeing it for the first time.

Eventually I said yes, it is a rather amazing gulf, and I have been enjoying it quite nicely, thank you. Becoming aware that my pond, my non-pond, lake, almost ocean yet desert had been none of these things. It was a gulf. And yet it wasn’t. It was this stranger’s gulf. It was still my pond/non-pond/lake/hopeful ocean/almost desert place that I just easily gave away to also being a gulf.

That is about the amount of truth I hold.

That is about the amount of truth we all hold. If we are looking out, and there is a clear sign that says what we’re seeing is a pond, and I see a lake and you see a gulf, we both get to see our lake and our gulf. My insistence on the existence of a lake doesn’t detract or deny you of your gulf. Sometimes, in a potential universe that I hope may someday exist outside my mind, I believe in a small intersection where your seeing of a gulf and my seeing of a lake brings us both to a realization that we are instead looking at the headwaters of something grander than each of us was able to see on our own. That the existence of your truth and my truth can complement not conflict, and allow for new truths, new paths, strangers no more, allied and capable of slowing the ever charged ever energized never ending desire for running, possibly finding a moment sheathed in a time within a time where for, just a moment, the sweat tears are wiped away, and the sun, a sun that has overwhelmed me in its intensity, exists instead to provide an internal warmth and comfort. If even for just a moment.

If for just a moment I could give up the expectation that for this enormously orchestrated event to occur you must even see my lake. Should you never see my lake, and I never see your gulf, we could still get to that moment, lying in the sun, basking in a realness that can only exist when you’ve relieved yourself of the burdens of carrying your own truths, exchanged for the truths of a stranger, exchanged again for the truth of a place that doesn’t even really exist nor can be drawn on a map to be returned to again and again.

Again and again I am in pursuit of a moment, one instance of solace, a moment that will require years of work, effort, steps, timing, and all the acts of dispensing and replacing the truths that have been told in a way that honors even the un-truth truths and doesn’t allow the darkness held within these un-truths to merge with my identity, my soul, my being. And yet, my desire to separate truth from un-truth is a naiveté that must also be confronted and exchanged. Still, the potential for discovery of this moment is worth the effort involved, to uncover even a glimpse of a small space in this universe where there exists a sign that says pond but is your gulf and my non-pond/lake/potential ocean/possible desert, and we are strangers no more, running no more.

doubt, benefit of the

When I was in college I was a part of this amazing group of students (aren’t college students always amazing?) Well no, we were authentically amazing and we had gathered for the summer to serve our university by ushering/greeting/welcoming/helping/teaching/confusing and congratulating the upcoming class of freshmen, and their parents.

I had signed up for this.
I had interviewed for this.
I was excited for this!
I had no idea this would involve waking up so early.

But I did, we did. There were probably twenty-ish of us. And we had spent the preceding semester preparing for this summer of service. We took our Myers-Briggs tests, we did our trust falls, we did the travel on a bus to an out of town conference for workshops and skits, we literally sat in a circle and sang kum ba yah (or a Dave Matthews song, it was probably a Dave Matthews song as I’m certain someone had a guitar), we memorized the university handbook and course codes and pre-recs, and what to tell parents when their kid chooses a liberal arts major, and for the only one in our group that managed to be in this group without already knowing the school fight song, we practiced the school fight song and the ten other chants/songs/dances that you would need to know to make it through a school football game without getting kicked out.

Then it got real.

6 am every day for six days a week for 12 weeks is hard for a seasoned adult let alone a college kid. But we were committed. Well, I think we made it to day three and then someone was late. For this, he received angry eyes from our bosses, but nothing more. The next day, three more of us were late. And all the sudden we had ourselves a problem.

It was quickly explained that each time someone was late, the entire group, all twenty-ish of us would have to come in five minutes earlier the next day. But five minutes for every minute that person or people were late.

Wait, that’s not right. (right?)

The group of three was three minutes late, so we had all just lost fifteen additional minutes of sleep for the next day.

We didn’t say this sort of thing back then, but if we did it would be: efffffffff.

So we did what all college kids are good for– we gave it the ol’ college try and somehow each of us managed to get there the next morning

The morning after that I was early. The, I could sit down and eat a leisurely breakfast and still be early kind of early. Probably because we were meeting in my favorite part of campus and I knew we would be near the restaurant with the tator tots, ahem, I mean hashbrowns.

But instead of a warm breakfast of hashbrowns and diet coke I went to run an errand for my boss. She had forgotten something extremely important in her office and asked if I wouldn’t mind running to the opposite end of campus pleaseandthankyou to retrieve it. In the summer. In Florida. In this humidity. (yes, even at 530ish in the morning.)

(internal sigh) “Ohsure, notaproblem” I said, and off I went.

By the time I had returned I was about 15 minutes past the scheduled meet time.
OH if lookscouldkill.
No one noticed me hand our boss her papers (I would later wonder if she really even needed those papers). Everyone was focusing on doing the math of 15 x 5: Carry the two and oh yeah, that’s 75 additional minutes!!! Oh noo.

Even though I knew I was actually early, even I got anxious because our boss was not addressing this very dire situation, she just continued on with the morning meeting.

Wait for it. Wait for it.

Her speech went something like this:

So you may have noticed that one of your team members was late this morning. (One of your team members? Seriously, they all focused their dagger eyes on me when I came in, just say my name.) Well, what you didn’t realize is that your team member was actually here early, early enough to run an errand for me. You see (in what I would now call her Don Draper voice), I sent your team member on an errand, but you didn’t realize this. Instead, when she came back, all you did was judge her. You judged her and started blaming her for something when what you really should have been doing was waiting, waiting to hear why she was so incredibly late to our meeting. What you should have been doing was giving her the benefit of the doubt.

And there it was: benefit of the doubt.
Such beautiful, freeing words.

I felt proud, honest. I did in fact feel like a team player. It felt amazing to have more benefit than doubt.

Benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt.

These words would continue their echo into my life, for the rest of my life.

I think it is easy to use this idea both poorly and appropriately. I remember dating a guy once and he suddenly stopped returning calls and not being home. I also seem to remember a hushed phone call the last time we hung out. I offered this relationship so much benefit and so little doubt because I wanted him to be interested; I wanted to be wanted, I wanted no doubt.

Then once in my first teaching position I had a student not turn in an essay assignment. I was prepared to be strong in my refusal of late work. I had plenty of cause with this particular student to have a whole bowl full of doubt, and I had the spoon to dish it out. But at the last moment I had the idea to just talk to him after class. When we spoke I learned his family had been kicked out of their apartment three days before and his father was back in jail, again. No apartment, no computer, certainly no ability to concentrate on the literary devices of our Zora Neale Hurston novel. I think ZNH would offer plenty benefit of the doubt in this situation, and I exhaled a silent prayer that I had been given enough grace in the moment to offer what little benefit I was carrying around.

Benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt.

I hear it whispered in so many occasions. I find it (sometimes) easier to offer to my friends, and then I hoard benefit of the doubt from my family, especially my husband.

A friend forgets a lunch date, fine no problem: Benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt, benefit of the doubt. My husband in his after-work-mandated-shopping-trip forgets my bananas and brings only milk: he must not love me and wants me to fail.


Yes, this is for serious.

I struggle with the effort it takes to offer this benefit, when I have needed this benefit on too many occasions. The idea that someone may not have been intentionally trying to push me down, keep me out, stifle my creativity, smash my hopes and dreams, let me down, or forget my bananas takes a physical strength that I often am unable to summon.

Certainly there are people not willing or interested in being my champion. Sure. But the rest, the other 98.9% of those in my life, are generally in my corner. Can I be the champion to others that I so earnestly seek?

I struggle to give more benefit with my doubt. I get stuck on the math, sorting out how much time it’s gonna cost me, how many minutes of sleep I will lose, how many bananas I won’t get to eat, and so forth. I am fighting to keep my doubt and offer instead some: benefit of the


I submit this post in honor and memory of the boss I mentioned. She was an amazing light that left us too soon, and I credit her with instilling in me the wisdom behind offering those around us some benefit with our doubt, and some pause with our judgment. I fight for the strength to live this lesson more completely.

May your legacy continue, Rest in Peace.

bottles. (part one)

I wish I wasn’t forced to walk away. I wish my legs would somehow moor me to the spot where he said good-bye, so that I could stay in this one place without trying to go back and live my life – a life that endures his absence while his presence is all around.

Since the world was too cruel to allow me this sort of favor I headed back to my car, turned up my Cranberries CD, and made my way down 9A. I pulled in to the all too familiar parking lot of Total Wine. I left twenty minutes later with eleven bottles of wine. In my own defense, there was a buy one get one free event and an impulse purchase as I headed up to the counter. But if I were living in reality, I would know that a trip of this kind happened all too frequently and that eleven was on the lower end of my average.

I settled back in the car and took care to drive slowly home. Not because I was worried about damaging my eleven precious bottles (I made sure they wrapped them well in the store), but because I dreaded pulling into my driveway, seeing his truck, knowing it probably still smelled of his morning cologne and held his coffee cup, where the marks from his lips were still visible. I dreaded even more opening the door and having to get on with the business of getting on for the next six months without him.

When I opened the door to our house the aroma of flowers– an enormous bouquet full of yellows, pinks, and fuchsias, surprised me. My heart sung as I wondered how he was able to sneak these in, but the handwriting on the card stopped me. They weren’t from him. They were from her.

She was always so thoughtful. The best thing I had ever done was to give her a key to my house. I loved coming home and finding that she picked up the mail and set my favorite magazine on top. Or to see my dog playing with a new chew tow, beside a bowl of clean, fresh water. Sometimes she even put her leftovers in my fridge, an odd yet welcome in gift my world. She even once had my new ceiling fan installed so I didn’t have to waste an evening on it and could instead watch something really important on T.V. like, Desperate Housewives.

The flowers were a nice touch, and only slightly stinging that they weren’t from him. That he would have the foresight for a romantic notion such as flowers on this day was a hope that I would eventually release six years down the road. But flowers are flowers, no matter whose intent and these were beautiful. I picked up the phone to call her and say thank you, but all that came out was an unintelligible mess. She said, “I’ll be over in ten minutes.” And I knew she would be over in five.

With such an amazing friend, it seems like I wouldn’t need so many bottles of wine. But you’d be wrong. Friends, family, everyone, no matter how awesome they are, they eventually go home. In the space between the door closing behind them and the morning sun, that is when I need my wine. Or it needs me. Because at this point, now that it’s in my house, I decide that it needs me to drink it, to fulfill its purpose as wine.

Again, living outside of reality.

One day when I was standing in Total Wine trying to find the cheapest bottle of red so I could buy the one that was a dollar more, a guy told me not to take it all so seriously. (I of course wondered if he meant Life or the buying of the wine.) I had actually been standing in the ‘Pinot Noir’ section. At the time I hadn’t realized this was any different from a Cabernet or Merlot section, I just thought it was all red wine. So this angel of a man told me, “You can’t go wrong with a Pinot. $5 Pinot tastes just a good as $30 Pinot, so find a label you like and enjoy.” I noticed he grabbed a $3 bottle and walked away. What did I tell you about weakness finding weakness? It just happens. So I followed suit with the $3 Pinot and made my way to the ‘Chardonnay’ section, and I say ‘Chardonnay’ because I distinguished between white wines the same way I distinguished between reds. I grabbed a couple $5 bottles thinking I’ll see if this ‘all wine is essentially the same’ theory works out here too.

I’m fairly certain this was my addiction in its infancy.

I’m also fairly certain that I didn’t notice there was any sort of issue, daresay, problem until recycle day and the clank of bottle upon bottle sent up a flare of repulsion down my street and my throat. I was grateful for, at the time, a short driveway and an early start to my day and not having to pretend to ignore the sound of my sins around another human being. Praying also that no one walked a dog or child past my house until the recycle guy came to wipe my slate clean.

Days passed. Weeks passed. Nothing changed. He was still gone. My friend still came by leaving leftover chicken parm in my fridge and her copy of PEOPLE on my counter.
I still bought my bottles.
Why couldn’t I be the person he loved while he was under the sea, serving his country, providing for our family, that I was when he was in port and in my arms?

I had tethered my identity so closely to his that when he was absent, so was I.

I did what any reasonable person might: went out with friends, got a hobby, threw myself into my work, scrubbed my house from top to bottom, cried for hours into the neck of the world’s most steadfast and trusty chocolate lab that ever existed, I went to church.

I prayed. I know I prayed for all the wrong things. Praying for another two-for-one sale at your favorite liquor store probably didn’t count towards actually wanting to change one’s life and probably increased my chances for being struck by lightning, but I’m hoping I got points in the ‘hey, it’s a start’ category.

It was a bad start. I kept buying and I kept drinking.

In my emails to him, everything was fine. Letters to him were, ‘miss you baby,’ and ‘holding down the fort.’ I had no idea what he was doing out there and he had no idea what I was doing back here.

When it comes to drinking, there are many categories: social drinking, weekend drinking, party drinking, binge drinking, those who only drink beer, or only drink wine, or only drink schnapps, or only drink when they smoke (I’m certain this is the other way around), or during the ball game, or with out-of-town guests, or if it’s been a bad day, or if it’s been a good day or if it’s a Friday, or never alone or always alone and always to excess.

I fit into all and none of these categories at the same time. The difference being, that when he was home, those glorious weeks or days he was at home, I didn’t need to drink.

So because I can reason down any situation where I might be culpable into zero degrees of separation of him being culpable, I reasoned out this situation to being, yeah you guessed it:
his fault.


Every person has a weakness. I think if we’re lucky, we recognize our weakness and we stay away. But that’s why it’s called weakness, mostly because when we know we need to not do something, when everything in our skull tells us to not do something, we go and we do that thing we know will only make us weaker.

I think what I’ve noticed about weakness is that it is always hanging around. I once thought that weakness just preyed on the weak, like sniffing out a dying animal. But weakness is sneaky. Weakness looks for fissures in the strong. Weakness likes to sit around and wait. Weakness is the most patient son of a B* I’ve ever known. Weakness has certainly been patient with me; I think taking notes on how it can be even more weakness-y. Stalking me with its footnotes and endnotes and running bibliography, to just remind me, I don’t stand a chance.

The worst thing to do if you have a weakness is to find other people with that weakness. But sometimes, you don’t even have to find them, they find you. It’s as if your weakness and theirs have met already, and you are the third parties being introduced to each other. The best thing to do at this point is to run.
But as you know, this is often impossible. That’s why weakness is tricky. Weakness likes to hang out in those spaces you can’t avoid, with those people you can’t avoid. Creating opportunities you must avoid.

I’m fairly certain that we are given opportunities in life to continue to make the same mistakes again and again and again. I don’t think Life wants us to continue to make these mistakes. I think Life is generally on our team. I just think Life is patiently waiting for us to realize a) that was a mistake. And, b) the next time I have the opportunity I will not make that same choice, i.e., mistake.

It’s simple, really.

And yet, every time, I know I want to choose: mistake.

Mistakes feel good. Mistakes make great stories. Mistakes are fun.

The only issue really with mistakes, is at some point, you know it’s a mistake. That teeny tiny voice in the back of your head makes just one little ‘peep’ and ruins a perfectly well reasoned and justified mistake.

The space in between the making of a mistake and the not making of a mistake is what eats away at your core. You have the guilt of even thinking about making the mistake, but the clean slate of having not carried through with it. Here, usually guilt wins out, followed by disgust.

You could spend weeks in this space. Months. Years, really.

I was told once to make decisions outside of situations. Then, when you’re in the situation, the choice will be easy. The choice will be definite. The choice will have been based on reason. The choice will not be a mistake. The problem with this, is that situational projection is a much stronger force. Situational projection being peer pressure, desire, excitement, confusion, emotion, second thoughts, and everyone’s favorite of “oh, what the heck,” or as kids these days say, YOLO.

YOLO, but you’ll have to live with that choice/mistake/regret/weakness always. Maybe I’m being pessimistic. Maybe I should do a little more YOLOing and a little less confounding on all these choices that seem like weaknesses, but maybe are just not so important. What defines me? My weakness or what I am as a result of or in spite of my weakness? Do I get the gold star for effort or the gold star for preservation? Is character developed without having given in to a weakness or is it developed in spite of that weakness, the overcoming of that weakness? Do I get one free weakness fail or if I’m kinda-pretty-certain-I’m-in-weakness-territory-and-keep-going-anyway, is that worse than not realizing I’m in the weakness zone at all?

My weakness is currently laughing at me from the corner.

Laughing at my sophomoric attempt to unpack its abilities and secrets, laughing at my attempt to evade and avoid by setting up a continued dialogue with it, a small effort in the enormous task of keeping it in sight but out of reach.

And yet suddenly it’s quiet.

Weakness: 419, Me: 1.