"Are you OK with messy?" asked Rebecca almost as soon as we'd begun. I wondered if there was something about my appearance that revealed my pension for cleanliness and perfectionism. It's like she knew I had spent a considerable portion of our time camping in Wyoming two days before trying my damnedest to rid our tent, sleeping bags, and cooler of the sand from our beach campsite. Am I that transparent, I wondered?
Of course, not everyone in Jake's life sees the virtues of depth over ample breasts. "Come on, Jake," says his buddy in gym class. "You talk like you're hard up. You got Caroline, now she's a wow-man." It would be a stupid kind of funny if it wasn't still true thirty-three years later.
Because, on the one hand, it's a precious little word that when we speak it, can save us from giving too much of ourselves away. On the other hand, hearing it can feel like a giant slap in the face. It signals the end of the line for dreams which are still just babies, infants we cradle and protect.
Last summer while on a hike with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, my uncle Kris declared, "I can't remember the last time I saw this many butterflies." He told us the eery and disturbing disappearance of butterflies where he lives in Omaha, Nebraska.
My journals contain everything from recorded dreams to to-do lists, from my daily struggles to the deepest hopes and longings of my heart. It turns out all of these hopes and longings unfolded alongside my daily struggles, usually right under my nose and some times even under my pen.
"To grow is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often," said John Henry Newman. I'm not looking for perfection, just some fun, a winning hand, and the knowledge that who I was yesterday doesn't have to be who I am today.
"Oh, I'm going to a concert tonight," announced Micah yesterday afternoon. I love these moments when an ordinary Monday is sidelined by a surprise. "There's a duo playing at the University of Wyoming called Sally and George. They describe themselves as a modern day Johnny and June Cash." Enough said. My evening was booked.
After Tuesday, it feels as though something very dear and beloved to our country has been lost. Call it decency. Call it integrity. Call it an abiding belief in the dignity of all people, regardless of race or religion or gender. Like grief-stricken parents some of us find ourselves searching frantically for that which has gone missing.
As I write this, I recognize that in many ways it's a simple story. A man falls in love with a place and then a woman. He spends the remainder of his days putting this love to paint. But there is also, for me, something incredibly moving about his declaration, a promise to himself.
I knew the space was safe, and intended to be a therapeutic spa experience, but it was far outside my comfort zone. In the months leading up to our trip I weighed whether or not this was a challenge I would accept. A small knot of anxiety formed in my chest each time I contemplated it.
Some part of our life may be ill-fitting but we've lived with it for so long we no longer see that it's too big for us, or too little. Or maybe we know something doesn't fit but we've lost our confidence and don't see the point in trying. I say to you, please do. Be better than the smallest, most fearful version of yourself.
This, I decided, is a testament to how far negativity, complaining, and scarcity will travel. Even in a remote, picturesque place, home to caramel colored dairy cows and Edelweiss, one has to be reminded to leave behind the all too common habit of seeing how little there is in the world.
There is a delicate balance, I'm learning, between hard work and toiling, persistence and slaving away. One gives us energy for a new day, the other sucks the joy out of everything. The answer lies somewhere in the not so tidy grey area of going after what we want and letting go.
I'm continually amazed at how often I come across this idea that perseverance trumps talent. History likes to remember geniuses. They get held up as the gold standard for what it takes to accomplish something truly magnificent. But it's more often the scrappy, determined types like Burnham who make the most difference in the world.
I've noticed that many people at the rec center don't talk to my friend. I don't know if it's the cart, or the squinty eye, giant sombrero, the tube socks that go up to her knees, or the curse words. Or some combination of those.
I suppose Micah and I also shared this awful tidbit of information because we’ve grown just a little bit cocky in the three years we’ve lived in Wyoming. One buys a can of bear spray and participates in the local “Moose Count Day” and suddenly she think she’s an expert.
It's a bit like playing the lottery so one can quit one's dreadful job rather than filling out job applications in search of a more fulfilling life. There's a temptation to believe in luck and legends over one's own ability.