The Blooming Heather

The first time that my parents visited Scotland, they brought me home a necklace. It is a very special kind of necklace. It’s called a heather gem. It is made from heather, that beautiful, purple plant that grows all over in that magical part of the world, and as such, each piece of jewelry is completely unique and individual.

all gems.jpgI was 14 years old.

It also happened that at that time in my life I was also in a very, very dark place. It was the first time I can remember feeling completely and utterly broken.

To make a long story short, my best friend decided one day that I wasn’t worth it. One day she was my best friend in the world. More of a sister to me than my own sisters. Closer to me than anybody in the world. In a way, she was my entire life. And then very quickly it was over. She was gone.

The story is long and not very complicated, but honestly, it was just hard. Plain and simple, it was so hard. I had to rethink my whole life in so many ways. We had been friends for so long and our lives were so tied together that I didn’t really know how to exist without her. To add to it, I didn’t really get any explanation. I didn’t get any discussion. She just turned off.

I remember my parents taking this trip to Scotland, and how excited our whole family was. Many of you will remember that my family is Scottish. It is something we’re very proud of. So when my parents finally took this trip, it was almost like the completion of something for our entire family. Even though we didn’t all get to go, we were all so happy about it.

I remember holding the necklace in it’s purple and white box. I looked at the shiny stone that had once been a plant. It was beautiful.

I wore that necklace every single day for years. It came to symbolize a lot of things for me. Mostly it helped me remember that I was more than the black moments. It helped me remember that there is something inside me that reaches further back and further forward than so many shattered pieces. It helped me remember every day that I didn’t need to be a different version of myself than I was. I only had to be me. And that was enough. heather in highlands

Years later, I got the amazing opportunity to visit England. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to Scotland on my visit. But it was beautiful. If it were a poem, I’d say that my soul recognized the land.

And for some reason, I’ve had all of these thoughts on my mind tonight. I remembered the first time I learned what it feels like to be completely broken by the one person you thought you could trust. I remembered when I first got that necklace and the way it was somehow able to bring me back to life with all it symbolized.

Even though that time in my life was hard, I honestly don’t remember much of the hurt.

I just remember this incredible feeling of emerging. Of becoming somebody I could be proud of. I found dreams and let myself bask in the hope of them. I think that was the moment when I really started to become who I truly am.

And it was beautiful.

 

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Not-So-Open Notes

Dear L.P.,
Please stop sliding into my DM’s unexpectedly.
A small sliver of my heart wants you to stay there.

Dear Rosebud,
Let yourself bloom, baby. I can’t wait.
The world’s not ready but that doesn’t
matter. You are.

Dear Team TB,
Get out of your own way. Don’t be afraid
anymore. Just shine.

Dear JH,
I get you. Not everybody does.
Not everybody will. And that’s
okay. Forgive and grow. Be brilliant.

Dear Fellow Fangirl,
I love you more than all the things. I
love watching you conquer the world.
Don’t stop, okay?

Dear JHH,
It’s okay to feel. You’ll never do it. You’ll
never be that person. And that’s okay.
Keep being unashamedly you. But someday
I hope you understand that if you do feel its okay.
I love you.

Dear Former G.I. Joe,
I just want you to have joy. Real joy. There
is a difference between fun and true joy.
True happiness. And someday I want you
to remember that the truth isn’t easy,
but it’s worth it.

Dear Track 10,
Just shaking my head for many reasons. And
smiling.

Dear Pocket Square,
Hope is never lost.

Dear Superhero,
Everyone falls. I know you can get back
up. The little girl in me still fearlessly
believes that you can do anything.

Dear Dreamer,
There’s a reason you’re here and that you
are who you are. Please don’t doubt the
beauty and goodness in you. You know how to
fix anything. It wasn’t a mistake.

The Grace House

The Grace House

below the little house
at the top of the hill
are cottonwood trees
that cast shadows
across the silvery road
and for a moment they
hide all of the reasons
that I am driving
to the house

• • • • •

my sister’s hugs
have always been
the perfect balance of
fortress and lighthouse
comfort and strength
when I walk in the door
her excitement is soft
and she smiles

• • • • •

the guest room is
full of rosy light and
plump, gray pillows
Lucy wags her tail
and crowds my feet
as I leave all the reasons
in my suitcase

• • • • •

William has a red box
full of small Legos
that we dump out all
over the master bed
red, yellow, and blue
against white blankets
and he always wants
a house or a bike

• • • • •

Gus wobbles on tiny legs
sometimes giving up
to crawl even faster
other times he hugs
my legs tightly for
just one moment as
he walks by me in a
small second of needed
love amid play

• • • • •

two dainty, white cups
live beside the stove
after bubble baths and
bedtime stories my
sister fills them with
steaming water and as
the peppermint steeps her
husband smiles goodnight

• • • • •

our words mingle
together with the tea
and the cups make soft
clicking sounds
we’ll do this more than
once in the calm of the
night and unpack all
of the reasons

• • • • •

I have reasons for coming
and she for asking me to
but they all gather close
in a cup of herbal tea as we
transfuse both wisdom and
a special love that exists in
the realm where others don’t

• • • • •

she is older than me
but often asks for wisdom
I simply wish that
I could hold the soft
strength and love that
she protects me with

• • • • •

in the cool grace of her
home my sister repacks
all of my reasons
but now they are rose gold
instead of midnight blue
I help her weed the beds
of her reasons and reposition
the sun

• • • • •

she planted bits of lavender
that quietly spread until the
garden mists with purple sprigs
she presses her hands together
tightly and smiles proud and
happy excited for the growth
William does that, too

• • • • •

she holds a depth that is
similar to my own
a universe attempting to
fit inside flesh and bone
the spaces have collided
but know now that they
extend one another

The Pilgrimage Road

The Pilgrimage Road

At first we stepped onto it
because wilderness was less wild
and more uncertain
And we thought we’d been promised
enlightenment instead of fear
in miracle prayers

Protected by our blindness
we traveled the pilgrimage road
holding our trinkets
Prior to our journey we wanted
to transcend the uncertainty
we thought we might rise

They told us ahead was hope
urged us to forget the disquiet
in marvelous prayer
The road grew ever wider
and the stops became less frequent
soon we did forget

Memories were pushed away
because we no longer needed them
on this crusade road
Men, women, and their children
traveling the pilgrimage road
did not need reasons

The road became our houses
filled with our baubles and trinkets
we found new meaning
There was no need to look back
without mirrors or memories
just our daily road

But in the blind forgetting
a danger heavier than fear
more than confusion
Bright sunlight burned dark to ash
spread it under flowers we past
still we didn’t know

All along our faithful road
lay crates and baggage forgotten
soon to become ash
Abandoned by forgetting
we didn’t need remembering
we didn’t need fear

Boxes of why forgotten
and left where we couldn’t remember them
we did need reasons
By the time we remembered
too far down the pilgrimage road
it was much too late

The Meaning of Words

I don’t recall much now. Small black words marched across white pages every day. Ink stained the tips of my fingers. I dropped a folder of reports in a small basket at the end of every day and watched pins move across an entire wall of maps. Sometimes forward. Sometimes back. Often stagnant.

I never read the reports. None of us did. We were paid to type them and nothing more. Eventually letters and words stopped forming meanings in my head. They were only clusters of lines designed to be understood by the people on the other end of the pins.

Some days were incredibly black and white. And others created countless variations of gray. I was one among many. Another head bent in concentration. Two more heels clicking on tile floors. One more body in and out of the large, square building that swallowed the meaning of words.

Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.

A Different Kind of War

A Different Kind of War

It is a different kind of war we wage when it comes to love. For in finding our center of gravity we also let go of everything that ties us to the floor of certainties. We don’t realize how many puzzle pieces are missing until we find the soul who owns them. Within this completion is a sense of peace unheard of. Within this wholeness dwell the innermost truths we never dared to whisper out loud, but only dreamed we would actually feel someday. And within this orb of unheard truths we step forward together, hand in hand, heartbeats syncing. We don’t know what is around the blind corners, but nevertheless, we do not let go of each other. Because if nothing else we have discovered that the world makes no sense if we aren’t together.

It is a different kind of war we fight when it comes to love. There are monsters behind those corners, and they attack our orb of pink gold light with weapons made of shadows. But I will fight back to back with you against these attacks and the dark places, those innermost truths my weapon. And if our light sputters and we lose some of the battles, we still press forward hand in hand: always stronger together. Perhaps a day will come when I am not strong enough to fight. When thick gray fog rises to obscure the intricate ties that bind our hearts and souls together. If this should happen, please find me again, and hold me in the home of your arms. Until the beat of your heart beside my ear heals all of the broken parts and makes all of those ties even stronger.

It is a different kind of war we face when it comes to love. As we continue forward we will glimpse peaceful cities and rolling fields so vibrantly green, and perhaps we’ll jump into rivers and dry off again under brilliant rays of sun. We will not always have to fight shadows and monsters. But if a day comes when we enter a dark wood and you should lose your way, remember that I will find you. Or if you find yourself facing an impenetrable wall on all sides, know that I will not stop until I conquer the wall brick by brick. And if it should happen that you fall inside yourself, trapped at the bottom of your soul, never forget that I will always reach for you and pull you back towards the light. One day there may be problems I cannot fix. But I’ll hold you as close as I can while I fight ghosts that haunt you. And keep you safe until morning.

It is a beautiful kind of war we declare when it comes to love. And we know it isn’t a constant war, and in the end, the plenty will outweigh the famine. Perhaps there will be days when I wear a white dress that tickles my feet, and we’ll visit hilltops or orchards of apple blossoms. Or perhaps we’ll find a peaceful library with a nook containing just enough pillows. You’ll read something French and I’ll stick to the Postmodern. And the days like this will make it easier when the white turns to red, and we find ourselves in battle again.

I visited a cathedral once. And saw rows of standards taken into battle. Flags that had seen so much death, and had somehow made it home. Now they hang in places of sanctuary and God. A testament to their victory, to the preciousness of what the fight was for.