I love you … whale fart.
I’m not sure when it started, but as I tuck Izzy in to bed each night, we touch noses and say something. We take turns and without hesitation, she tells me to go first. It started with a word, but it has since turned into phrases and then laughter that make her sisters beg for another round of tuck-ins. Tonight as we wrapped up our nose-touching time, she said “I love you”. And in the same breath, as I’m holding my chest back from erupting, she continues, “whale fart … I love you whale fart. I love whale farts.” Izzy can hardly contain hers and Abby’s high pitched squeals. I climb down from her top bunk. Kids, dude.
We recently drove up to the small, coastal Oregon town of Port Orford. Eric’s grandma (Grammy) passed away a few weeks ago. Family from California, Arizona and Minnesota gathered there with friends to celebrate her life and her legacy in the arts community both there and what she left behind from their time in Point Richmond, just across the bay from San Francisco. What – A – Woman! Story after story was told about the time and energy she poured forth into artists, musicians, poets and writers alike. Every month, Grammy would open her doors to countless talent, both forming and near-perfected, to share their tale. Her living room, adorned with a multitude of instruments. Her home, perched on a small hill, surrounded by coastal trees and shrubs, an idyllic view of the Pacific Ocean. Her kitchen, filled with about one hundred tea options and a handcrafted bowl of those petite raspberry and blackberry candies with morsels so oddly hard, that they stick in your back teeth. I had heard of these open houses over the last nine years. We’ve received kids books and poetry, jewelry and pottery from some of the attendees as Christmas gifts. I’ve known a handful of the stories and names as if they had been in my own living room. During Grammy’s memorial, one man stood at the front, book in hand and gathering himself to speak. He recounted his first open house and the hesitation he had to share what he had written. “None of us have it together. We’re all a work in progress, so share that.” Her words to him that day were a launch pad. A humble push into the community as a newer resident. A hopeful pat to an aspiring writer. A casting into the final acceptance who he was at that very moment. Continuing to gather his thoughts, he picked up the book from off the stool perched beside him. It was a book he had written, and this man began to read an excerpt. One that caused the whole room to chorus in laughter and simultaneously nod our heads in relevance. Because of that day, and the words she spoke to him, he read from his book.
The drive home took ONLY twelve hours. Most of that time was spent as the marker and snack dispenser. A fraction of the time was spent answering questions and filling in gaps about death and fire drills and friends at school. We talked about forest fires and our time spent playing at the beach. I blew their minds, and possibly struck a circuit of fear in them, as I pointed to Mount Shasta and said “It’s a REAL volcano!” No less than 79 times did they ask if it was erupting. They’d take turns claiming to have seen lava, and it soon became a competition.
After the second or third consecutive potty break (because of course no one actually has to pee at the same time the other sister does, oh Lord, steer the ship), it was quiet. I kept going back to that man’s story of his first time sharing publicly what he had written at one of Grammy’s open houses. I get caught up a lot. Mostly it’s in my will and aim to be perfectly presentable. I don’t often want to say something or do something, go somewhere or meet with someone unless I have the sense of togetherness. It’s not always my thought of being judged by others, as much as it is this deep-seeded need to prove it to myself. I’ve got this.
It doesn’t come from voiced expectations of others. I’ll only meet you for a walk if you’re showered with a full face of make up, mmmkay. Nope. Nada. Doesn’t happen. It doesn’t come from an editor or publisher asserting their demands in my ears. I don’t have either of those. It doesn’t even come from my children! I get caught up. I get caught up competing and comparing myself, my purpose, my dreams and my footsteps with others. I see what Esther is doing in the Old Testament by LITERALLY SAVING THE JEWS, and what Rachel Hollis is doing with top book sales and now a clothing line, shaming myself for not doing more. I get caught up, people!
But then I hear a man share simple words spoken to him that changed the trajectory. I’ve attempted to align my footing to that of others, always resulting in feeling less than. And it’s seemed to have shaped this untruth that because I don’t actually have it all together, I needed to at least portray that I did. Ooooh my goodness. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting believing the lie that I shouldn’t write today unless a publisher picks it up for a book contract. It’s ridiculous to clean my whole house when a best friend comes for coffee. I’ll probably still do it though because I CANNOT STAND A MESS. Get behind me, Satan, and hand me my vacuum!
A few times through the New Testament, Paul (who wrote a lot of it), refers to Christians being the Body of Christ. He mentions that though we are all one, united Body, we are still individuals. Not all of us can be the left foot. Not all of us are led or meant to lead a nation. Not all of us can be the mouth. We are not all called to be renown speakers or inta-influencers. We were not created with the same skill set or soul desires. Friends, there is no other you. Being who you are, all of who you are, and having the intent you do doesn’t have to align with the influencers we follow. Have I been so busy comparing my story with others’, that I’ve completely lost sight of my individuality? I don’t think it’s that dramatic, but I do think there’s a certain truth and agreement there. None of us have it all together. Not even the Hollis’ of the world. My friends, you are where you are and who you are for every reason.