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Struggling to Fit the Pieces Together

Sometimes this happens: small pieces of things over time influence me but they are random and don’t make sense, until the final piece is found and I see how they all fit together.

Over the past three or four weeks, I have been struggling. I know what depression is and how it feels, and this is partly that, but not exactly. It is more the process of seeing who I am at this time in my life and realizing I do have regrets, I do feel trapped, I do wish I had made other choices. I will turn 50 next year and this just keeps hitting me, over and over. When my dad was my age, he only had about nine good years left before his dementia started. My mom was 75 when she died.

Five sevenths. 5/7. I keep seeing it, a fraction, a narrowing pie chart, 8:35pm on the clock.

I want to give myself grace. I want to say I made the best decisions I could within the context of my life. I want to let myself think “no one life can have everything.” I run the checklist in my mind:

I have a husband who has evaded death more than once (more than thrice, truly) and at least once a week we hike together.

I had four amazing kids and I get to have Elliot in my life.

I was blessed to own a home where I raised my kids safely, cooked meals, baked cookies, grew flowers, raked leaves, shoveled snow.

I have a handful of close, true friends who I value with all my heart.

I got to travel a little bit. I’ve put my toes into the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Sea of Cortez, sobbed in art museums, walked inside European cathedrals, ate slices of pizza on New York City streets.

I have run marathons and half marathons, climbed Half Dome, hiked countless miles.

I lucked into a job that allows me to use my skills and interests in ways that sometimes feel like they are helping my community.

I know I have had many good, fantastic, amazing, and truly lucky experiences in my fifty years.

But I still find myself mourning—yes, mourning. That is the word for what I am feeling.

❦ ❦ ❦

One of those stupid “choose two” memes.
It was a list of ten compelling things you might have in your life, and you’d respond with the two you would pick. I don’t remember all of the options—I would’ve chosen wealth and a healthy body—but one I can’t forget: One million followers. I scrolled through some of the answers and was shocked at how many picked that option. My mind keeps going back there, trying to understand (not judge). Why is social media fame important to people? Am I motivated by wanting more followers? Why do I spend time on Facebook and Instagram? I will always say I don’t really care about my miniscule numbers, but if I am honest I am still bitter that I am not one of the cool girls on Insta or a successful blogger. Given the actual choice in reality, I wouldn't pick a bunch of followers over other things, but there is still some part of me that wants to be seen in that way.

Running friends are racing again.
I swear…over the past week my Insta has been filled with running friends doing amazing things. Finishing marathons, running solo virtual marathons. 50Ks and 60Ks and 50 milers. Rim to rim to rim runs. Hard things that they accomplished and I am proud of them and happy for them. But then I turn my thoughts to my “hard” things…this week I will bump up from five one-minute running intervals to seven. I am finally walking without a hitch if I concentrate, so my next goal is to walk correctly without thinking about walking correctly.

Even a 5k feels out of reach for me right now.

Do I want to run races for the likes? Not really, although I would share. I want to run races for the experience of it…for the training and for the day itself. For dirty ankles and tired calves and a runner’s suntan line on my thighs. But mostly it is for that feeling of confidence in my body. In knowing I could get myself home on my own two feet if I had to. In trusting that my legs are strong, if not fast, and take me to places you can’t get to in a car.

I miss that desperately because it was a thing that made me feel like I had succeeded in something. I mean, I will never win a race. I’m not fast. But knowing I had challenged myself and then risen to it—knowing I had accomplished something—gave me a way to feel proud of myself. I can do hard things.

No: I could do hard things. Right now I can’t.

So where do I find any positive thoughts about myself?

Reading Oona Out of Order
This is a time-travel novel, of sorts. For unknown reasons, the main character, Oona, begins “leaping.” At midnight on each New Year, she finds herself as herself, but her body and her life are in a different, random year.

Just the kind of novel I love.  (Just the kind of novel I wish I were talented enough to write.)

There is a scene where Oona’s mother is dying, and she tells her daughter some graceful and grateful things, to keep with her once she is an orphan. I sobbed as listened to this scene (I was reading it as an audio book) because I also had one last conversation with my mom as she was dying, but it was neither graceful or grateful. She was dying but she was still disappointed in me, and so I had to pause the audio, sit on the rug on my kitchen floor, and weep. Because my mom is gone, because I don’t get to go back and fix things, because I let her down so much that even in death her love for me was qualified. I wasn’t who she wanted me to be and I will know that for the rest of my life.

Maybe my people love me because I am kind to them and don’t always bash them with my opinion.
This is a memory of a conversation I had in the fall of 2020, when we were deep into the pandemic and the US election and a fractioning of my extended family. Unlike most of my family (on both sides), I don’t have grandchildren. I don’t have in-laws. And my political beliefs are different than many of theirs. But to be told so bluntly that the only way I can be loved and appreciated by others is to stay quiet, to pretend to be something I am not…it continues to eat at me. I can hear the tone of that statement still, and the words come to me at odd, random moments. What they mean is that I am unlovable the way I am, and that other people have big families they matter to because they are lovable.

That someone I love told me that makes it even worse. What do I do with this knowledge?

Two Instagram posts.
Isn’t this crazy that the two missing pieces were on social media, when it is often also social media that sends me spiraling? Nevertheless, here they are, the two pieces I needed to finish this small puzzle.

1.  A runner I follow wrote a post about the challenges she has overcome, but how she still sometimes compares herself to others. Then she realized that challenges are only about yourself. The people running 6-minute miles are strong in visible ways, but many others are strong in ways that are harder to see. But we are all still struggling with something, and what matters is pushing forward. My hard thing, small as it seems, is still something I am striving to overcome, and I still get to take a sense of pride in that, even if it’s invisible on social media.

2.  This morning, I stumbled upon the IG of an artist, Annie K. Blake, who passed away earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. I am not an artist but I am deeply drawn to art, especially that done by women. Her page touched on some of my insecurities—she belonged within the Utah artist community, she was seen and known—but as I scrolled and looked at her images and read her words, I found myself (again!) crying on the floor of my kitchen. Not because of despair, though. I mean, I didn’t even know about her work before she passed away, but I will never get to know her at all now, but it still wasn’t despair, not really. It was a click, somehow. Maybe in the fifty years of my life I haven’t accomplished anything of merit. If I died tomorrow I would leave behind no art and many of my goals unfulfilled. Maybe I only have a couple of decades left, maybe even fewer.

But I also felt a…a lightening, perhaps. A shift in my mourning. Because at least I am alive today.

❦ ❦ ❦

I don’t turn easily towards optimism. I want to be hopeful, to look on the bright side of things, but it isn’t a natural part of my personality. I have a hard time letting go of negative experiences but am highly skilled at downplaying the positives. That means that my mother finding me disappointing in the end and someone else telling me I can’t be loved unless I act like someone I am not doesn’t feel like a bruise but a tattoo.

It means that yes: I did train for and finish a marathon while recuperating from whooping cough. I did qualify for regionals by competing with a freshly-sprained ankle. I have continued to increase my uphill hiking speed even as my age increased. I've done many hard things in the past. But I still need to prove to myself that I can do hard things by continuing to try to do other hard things. I can’t rest on my past hard things.

But since I know these things about myself, I know I have to work to see experiences in other light. To seek out different pieces of knowledge that aren’t only dark. That the puzzle only comes together with both, with self-doubt and self-belief, with shadow and sparkle, with despair and hope.

I am still struggling. But this little puzzle of random things I have assembled lately helps remind me that it is just that: a process, not a destination.

Maybe there will still be good within the last 2/7ths of my life.

Book Review: Thirst by Amelie Nothomb

If you reproach your departed loved ones with not appearing before you, do not forget that you are the one who needs them and not the other way around. When we truly love someone, do we require that they sacrifice themselves for us? Isn't allowing those we love a bit of selfish tranquility the finest proof of our devotion? That takes less effort than you might think, merely trust.

In truth, if your departed loved ones remain silent, be glad. It means they have died in the best way. That they are having a good experience of death. Do not infer that they do not love you. They love you in the most wonderful way: by not forcing themselves to go into unpleasant contortions for your sake.

"What is your favorite kind of book to read?" is a question I am asked often, as a librarian and a life-long reader and a person who tends to bring up books a lot in conversation.  This is actually a difficult question for me to answer because my real preference— "anything well-written"—sounds snobby and also sort of vague but incredibly precise all at the same time. I can't bring myself to just say something like "fantasy" or "historical fiction" or whatever. 

So I try to turn the question around on the questioner. "What do you love to read?" And while it is totally unfair of me, seeing as it is difficult for me to answer that question, I have a very-very-much unfavorite answer:

"The scriptures." (Or, "The Bible." Or, if we're in Utah, "The Book of Mormon.")

Probably this says a lot about me, and perhaps it is horrible of me to even confess, but, I confess: I don't enjoy reading the scriptures. I get caught up in small details that don't make sense to me. (Like, if the sun was created on the fourth day, why are the time periods before that also called "days"?) I get annoyed by the things that happen and the choices people must make, by the violence and, most of all, by the patriarchal view of the world. I cannot relate.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the reason for reading scripture. I even understand figuring out how understanding those ancient stories might make me a better person. There are scripture passages I love and I even have a favorite scripture (Isaiah 12:3). There are many stories in the scriptures that I love as well.

But I don't love reading the scriptures.

What I do love, however, is a good retelling of a scriptural story. (I also love retellings of mythologies and of Homer's and Virgil's epics and of Shakespeare and even of Austen under the right circumstances.) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is one of my all-time favorite novels; Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve gave me a profoundly altered understanding of my relationship to God, and I still sometimes wake up from dreams about Noah's wife inspired by NaamahI have favorite poems about Mary and Eve and Sarah and Bathsheba.

ThirstLast week at the library, I was going through a pile of new books, sorting them into groups depending on which display shelf I would put them on, I came across a thin, blood-red book called Thirst, by Amelie Nothomb. I read the inside cover: "In a first-person voice as entertaining and irreverent as it is wise, Northomb narrates Jesus's final days, from his trial to his crucifixion to the resurrection." And I read the first page, which describes the trial of Jesus. The first witness is the couple from the marriage at Cana, who complain that Jesus's miracle humiliated them by its timing, forcing them to serve the better wine after the inferior and making them a laughingstock. Other recipients of his miracles also testify, complaining about how they were unfair or changed something else other than what was intended.

I read the first two pages in one rapid gulp and then I decided the book would not go on a display shelf yet, but come home with me for a few days.

This is a short book, only 92 pages. But it changed me irrevocably.

It fits my requirement—"well written." Christ's voice in this book is unique, both sardonic and sincere. He reminds me a little bit of the Adam in Twain's book, except there is no silliness, just wisdom in his type of innocence. 

But it also fulfilled the thing that my absolute favorite books do: they put into words—by way of story, character, plot—ideas I have considered but not been able to put into words of my own. They answer a question I have been struggling to form. They help me see the flaw in my thought, or give a clue to understanding. Truth, I believe, is like the broken mirror in the fairy tale, scattered around the world, sharp and perhaps dangerous but always worth seeking, and sometimes a book is a piece of the truth.

Lately I have been thinking of the scripture Matthew 7:13, considering what "narrow" means. I haven't found the exact way to explain my thoughts yet, and Thirst does not reference that scripture, but it still helped me understand the impulse behind this question, which is really the question that has guided me for the past five or six years: What does it mean to be a good person? What is "good" anyway? The Christ in this novel has ideas on that, and he shares them, and these ideas helped widen my path of thought.

There are many quotes and ideas I could share from this slim novel—Christ's interaction with Simon of Cyrene is such an amazing moment, for example—but the one that first shook me hard was this. Christ is thinking about the couple's testimony, because the miracle at Cana is his favorite, and about the miracles he performed in his life. He tell us: "Later on, I gave it some thought, and I did not approve of my wondrous feats. They gave the wrong impression, this was not what I had come to deliver; love was no longer free, it had to serve a purpose." Christ's love—in the novel but also in the sense that I am just beginning to understand it—doesn't exist for miracles or even for saving us, but just as what it is. Love. Love. That is the reason the way is narrow, because it is simple.

I read the library's copy of this book, but I will be buying my own. I will reread it and underline all of my favorite parts. And then I will get obnoxious with it, I think. I think I will loan it to my friends. I will ask them to read it, too. My copy, I mean. And underline what they love. And tell me how (or even if) it changed them. 

Some books come into your life at exactly the right time. For many people, this happens with scriptures. For me, it happens with literature. In this sense, some books are a sort of scripture for me, sacred writings that help me understand how to be in the world. Not all—not even many—books are sacred like this. So I am always grateful when I find one. 

Book Tag: Reading Habits

I found this book tag on a blog I also recently discovered, Read by Court  and thought it looked like a fun list of questions to answer. If you are new to my blog allow me to warn you: “brevity is the soul of wit” is a bit of wisdom I have a hard time actually using, but I’ll try to keep my answers short!

Do you have a special place at home for reading?

Dare I confess: I do a LOT of reading in the bath tub. Not really because it’s my special place to read but because in a house full of boys, I am most likely to be left alone in the bathroom. But tub reading is a life-long habit for me. When we built our house my mom suggested putting a light over the tub because she knew of my proclivity and I’m grateful for that bit of advice all the time! I also read in bed, in the front room, or at the kitchen table. In the summer I like to read outside on the lawn chair.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Yes! In theory I love bookmarks and I actually own many, but I will use whatever is near. Often it is little bits of scrapbooking something-or-other acting as a bookmark. I also have piles of images I’ve cut out of Folio book catalogs that I use for bookmarks.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop at a chapter/or certain amount of pages?

I can just stop reading. I learned this skill when I became a mom.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Is it even reading if you don’t start with a snack? One of my favorite things when I was pregnant is that my belly allowed me to combine three things I love: I’d get in the tub with a bowl of ice cream and a book. I’d nestle the bowl between breasts & belly, hold my book with one hand and the spoon with the other. Eating, bathing, reading all at once!

Multitasking: music or tv whilst reading?

I don’t require silence when I’m reading, so if someone’s watching TV or listening to music it doesn’t bother me at all. But if I’m alone I would turn it all off.

One book at a time or several at once?

I usually have one novel I’m reading in physical form and one I’m listening to on audio. And I am always working on a poetry book or essay collection.

Reading at home or everywhere?

I wish I felt comfortable reading anywhere. Like, wouldn’t it be great if I were at a party and feeling my usual awkward-and-unskilled-at-mingling self, and I could just find a corner somewhere and read? But I think that is generally socially unacceptable. I did sometimes bring my book to family parties at my in-laws’ house, and since they were both readers I don’t think it bothered them, but it did bug Kendell. I do always bring a book (or three) with me on trips.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

One of the things I loved when I was a teacher was reading out loud to my classes. And I loved reading to my kids. But if I’m reading for myself, I read silently.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

If I start to read ahead it’s usually a sign that I’m not enjoying the book. The only book I’ve actively skipped pages in was The Martian, where I mostly skimmed the science-y stuff. Also I have been known to read the last pages of books.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I’m not really OBSESSIVE about keeping the books I own in perfect condition, but I also try to not purposefully damage them either. Is a book simply a story-delivery mechanism, or does it hold value as an object? It depends, for me, on many things. Like, if I’m reading a hardback book I’ll generally take off the slipcover. But I also feel like the books I own are records unto themselves, meaning the process of reading it is part of the book itself, and incidental “damage” is proof of that book’s existence inside of my life, so I actually LIKE if it looks like a book’s been read.


Do you write in your books?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I annotate and underline. When I finish a book I often write the date on the back flyleaf and my thoughts. Or if it’s a book in a series I make a list of what I think is important to remember for the next one. If there’s a story about where I got the book I’ll write that somewhere (“I bought this at a used bookshop on Charing Cross Road” for example). Many of my books also have random notes in them, like “eye doctor, 9:30a.m.” and if the book in question went on a trip with me, I write that too and also try to leave some trip-related memento in its pages. And, yes, to answer the unspoken question: I do dog ear my books. (But not the library’s!) Not to mark my page, but to identify pages I want to return to.

When do you find yourself reading?

I don’t have a set reading time, so just whenever I have some free moments. If I’m eating alone for whatever reason I will usually read then.

What is your best setting to read in?

Just somewhere comfy. I believe that books and quilts, like books and snacks, go together, so I like a quilt around if it’s possible.

What do you do first, read or watch?

I have actually grown more and more reluctant to watch movie adaptations of books I LOVE. (Like, people who know me assume I must adore the TV adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale, as it is my favorite novel, but, no. I don’t need more story than was included in the book and I’m actually kind of irritated it became a TV show.) It just so rarely happens that the movie version actually jives with the images I have created in my own head that I have started avoiding them. But if it is a book I am only sort-of interested in, I will see that movie only after I read the book.

What format do you prefer: e-book, audiobook, or physical book?

I really don’t like e-books. I like the book in my hand if I’m using my eyes. I have read a few e-books on my phone but I don’t own a Kindle. I do have a growing affection for audio books though. I listen to them while I am quilting, cooking dinner, cleaning around the house, or working in the garden. Also on long runs when I am training for races. I mostly listen to fantasy novels. Also, if I want to read a sequel to a book I don’t remember as well as I would like, I will listen to the audio of the earlier book before starting the new one.

Do you have a unique habit when you read?

I don’t know if it is unique, but I tend to find myself twirling my hair while I’m reading.

Do book series have to match?

If I’m buying the series then yes, I would prefer they match. If I’m reading the library copy I don’t care. Honestly, though, I rarely buy series. I do have my own copies of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Time Quartet, and I bought a lot of YA series when my Bigs were teenagers, but generally I don’t have enough shelf space for all the series.

How do you decide if you’ll read the library copy or buy your own? (I added this question because the previous questions made me think along these lines.)

If I think I’ll read a book more than once, I will buy it. I tend to buy more poetry, essay, and short story collections than fiction. I will always buy Margaret Atwood’s newest books. If I want to have a relationship with the book itself, rather than only reading the story, I buy it. I also really like it when a friend borrows a book I own.

If you read this far, now you know all about my reading habits!

How Fiction Can Save the World (aka: Welcome to my TED Talk)

Back when the dufus was in charge of the country, one of the qualities that made me despair was his lack of interest in books. Anything remotely literary seemed invisible to him (and thus his budgets which attempted to defund libraries and museums). He often said things like “I don't have time for books” and he didn't read things like memos or briefings or of course not newspapers.

Much as I despise starting any blog post with any reference to the orange dictator, this one must begin there because his disparaging view of books—and my disgust and annoyance at a president who doesn’t read—forced me to think about my relationship with books. Specifically fiction, because that is what I read the most. I asked myself the question: Is it really so bad? Does it matter if the leader of the free world doesn’t read, or am I only bothered because books and reading matter so much to me

Yes: my perspective is skewed toward favoring people who read. This is because I am a life-long reader and have always found solace and happiness in books. But of course I have also learned, over the course of a lifetime, that people are different. People can not love reading and still be good people. (One example: my husband. Another: my youngest son.) However, there is a difference between everyday people and the person who is elected to be the president of the United States. A different skill set is required.

Is being a bibliophile one of them?

And more specifically: fiction. The books he talks about having read are almost never fiction (aside from All Quiet on the Western Front) but "books about China" or whatever he was being grilled on. 

Does the president need to love fiction?

I could point you towards dozens of scientific studies about the impact of reading fiction on our brain and our behavior (here is just one)  but my reasons are more personal (and so admittedly more subjective).

I believe that fiction can save the world.

Hear me out.

Fiction saves the world

When you are a fiction reader, you are often immersed in a psyche other than your own. Through story you get to experience other human experiences. I will never be an orphan who must move from India to England, or the daughter of a Baptist minister who is dragged to the Congo by her parents or a teenager living in Toronto forced as a teenager to befriend the girl who bullied her in elementary school. But each of these stories have left an impression on me. They've taught me something about what it means to be human in this world, something I could never have learned otherwise in my average, everyday life.

In a sense, the word for this is compassion. But it is something bigger than that. It's not only that I felt awful for the experiences Adah goes through in the Congo. It's that I learned something from her about the way it sometimes seems impossible to put yourself into the world, but sometimes you must anyway. In one way, this validates my life view. In another way, it challenges it. It forces me to be braver than I might be otherwise.

Reading fiction helps you understand that your experiences are not the entire range of human experiences. In fact, there are many billion different things that can happen to a person, far more than any one person can ever understand. And in those experiences is knowledge. Understanding this helps me decenter myself. My reality and wounds, my struggles and successes, are only one out of a myriad possible outcomes of a life.

How would understanding that influence the president? It might help him to understand that the whole world doesn't exist just so that he can exist. The world—the United States—an individual community in one of those states—even just within one house: the president's importance isn't because of who he (will we ever be able to write "he or she"???) is but because of how he can improve humanity. His story is only one of the stories and there is an infinity of other experiences to be had. So maybe it's not really compassion so much as it is humility. 

And what if we all had a little bit more fiction-induced humility? Perhaps then we would understand our role on this earth at this time. Our one small life hardly matters, except for the good we can do in small ways. Sometimes "saving the world" just looks like a five-dollar bill given to a homeless person, but if we all knew our importance—both small and yet infinitely powerful within the realm of our smallness—we might all save the world just by acting as individuals.

I am not a gay man, a transgender woman, a Jewish or Muslim or Protestant or atheist person, but reading novels through those lenses has helped me catch a glimpse of what those perspectives are like. I have never been to China, India, Brazil, the Andes, any part of Africa, but I have come to know tiny bits of those places (and many more) through novels. I will never be a biologist or an astronaut, a midwife or a stockbroker, but characters who are have taken up places in my heart. I don't get to walk in Middle Earth or Narnia or on the surface of Mars, but I can create those landscapes in my imagination and then find parallels for them here on earth. 

If I have learned that my American, white, middle-class, spiritual-but-not-religious way of looking at the world is not the only way, then I have also learned that my answers aren't the only answers. I have learned that despite differences in age, identity, nationality, race, religion, gender, and all the other markers we think make us who we are, we are all people. We all love, hurt, desire, worry, strive, succeed, fail, start over. We love our families and our friends and our homes and our landscapes. We all want to be loved.

What if the president understood that? What if he had learned that America isn’t the center of the universe, that his wealthy white male perspective is not the “normal” that everyone else deviates from? How much good might he have done to help other countries if he weren’t so obsessed with putting America on top?

What if he learned through fiction the power of imagination? The enormous expanse of possibility once we look beyond ourselves?

What if he learned about beauty and other beautiful things: courage, loss, perseverance, forgiveness...

The fact is, the United States had a president who not only didn’t read, but was illiterate in the true grace and elegance of the world, which isn’t found in gold toilets, glitzy race cars, and enormous fancy properties. He failed to save the world. He failed to save anything, but left only destruction and ugliness behind. Is that only because he doesn’t read fiction? Of course not.  But would reading have changed him (and thus the world) for the better? Absolutely.

But the rest of us? The billions of people alive right now? We can read. Fiction, yes. And poetry and essays and histories and political ideas and memoirs and the history of salt if you want. Reading is a form of learning, and the compassion, humility, empathy, imagination, understanding, and a myriad other forms of knowledge we gain from it help us become better people. They will help us each perform a billion different small acts of world improvement that, put together, might just save the world.

Friday Library Stories

Fridays are my long days at the library, and yesterday I worked an extra hour. That really shouldn't feel that difficult but man, nine hours felt long even in a space I love.
As the day progressed, though, I found myself paying attention to the good vibes I was feeling. Someone thanked me sincerely for helping him print his document. A cute little girl in a black Friends t-shirt waved at me and said "I love the liberry!" The morning light through the east windows was perfect.
Despite it being a long day, it was also full of lovely little moments, so I thought I'd jot them down.
I helped a patron who needed some copies. He had one of those open and energetic vibes, and he told me several stories about his life adventures. He looked nothing like them, but reminded me so much of my dad and his brothers. They were always ready with a story to tell, and told it with the assumption that A---you knew exactly who they were talking about and B---they were the most interesting stories ever. (Quiet often they were!) And they could always talk about art. This gentleman had that same spunk & spirit &  innate storytelling vibe. I enjoyed his stories and I enjoyed feeling that connection to my dad.
I helped another patron find a book in Spanish! My Spanish is definitely not the greatest but when I manage to help someone in the language they understand best it makes me feel accomplished and somehow more...welcoming, I guess.
Our library tarantula, Libby, is a little bit anti-social and spends a lot of time in her burrow. She was out today though (I think she likes Fridays because when I see her out it is almost always on a Friday). Whenever she's actually out, if there are kids downstairs I'll let them know. One little girl was looking in the terrarium while her mom used the computer, so I walked over to point her out. When she spotted her—a little bit behind a leaf—she grabbed my hand and squeezed because, as she said, "I've never gotten to actually really see her in real life yet!" So cute!
An old family friend—she has known me since I was four—came into the library today and we had a really lovely chat. She told me that she always checks my staff displays and takes home at least one. A few months ago she took The Awakening and she told me it gave her so much to think about in relation to her decisions within the church. As I feel like every LDS woman in Utah County should read it simply for that reason, this made me feel super validated. Also I just really love it when people tell me they like my suggestions!
Another patron this afternoon asked me what the name of the statue by the reference desk is, so I told her  the name ("Incoming") and the story of the piece. In another life I'd like to be a museum docent, please. Preferably in Italy. I love talking about art (even if my knowledge is limited) because I LOVE art!
I survived my long day by just paying attention to the little good moments!

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in more than a year: I met people at a restaurant. I’ve been looking forward to this for two weeks, since my friend, sister, and I planned it.

Just lunch.

Just talking with people I love.

But after so long of not seeing anyone or doing anything, it was…

well, I don’t really have a word for how it felt.

Amy chris becky 5 1 2021

I was seeing faces. I was hearing their voices, learning new stories. Laughing. Tearing up. All over a meal.

We admired bracelets. We brought gifts. We exchanged books. We showed each other photos.

We were together, and I was renewed. Enlivened. Happy in a specific way that involves being loved by someone who has known you for a long time, who knows the shorthand for all the stories, who you can be yourself with. Who you absolutely adore and who has saved you more times than she knows.

But after we finished, after we’d hugged and said our goodbyes, I slowly filled up with…sadness.

Not a darkness, really. Nothing sharp. Just a gentle, persistent ache. And when I got home, I curled up in bed, had a long cry, and took a nap.


I am an introvert. And, throughout my adult life, I’ve had some experiences that have brought me to a choice of withdrawing. I love and value my friends, the real ones, but I have a hard time with casual friendships. In most social situations, I keep my shields up.

I’ve made this little world for myself, where I have my family and my close friends, my running and hiking, my flowers. I spend most of my time writing, crafting, quilting, or reading. Part of my shield is telling myself I don’t need people. I am happy in my own miniscule universe.

But deep down I know: I do need people. Even if I don’t need a whole squad like others have, I need my people. To see and be seen, to tell stories and to listen to them.

I think the sadness came from knowing how long I just put my head down and didn’t have any interactions like yesterday. I survived and I was fine and I could continue surviving and being fine. But I also didn’t have that specific happiness of being with people I love. So the sadness is kind of a retroactive one, I think. For the hugs we didn’t give each other, for all the days we didn’t see anyone else’s face.  For all the times we could’ve used a living, breathing person across the table from us, listening or speaking, but we couldn’t.

For the way we all carried on on our own.


There will be other days. There will be more lunches. We will go shopping or hiking or to the bookstore with our friends. But the blank spaces of last year: we cannot get those experiences back. And we are changed. Some relationships won’t ever be the same. We lost many things during the pandemic in addition to the actual lives that are gone.

Those lost things require—deserve—to be acknowledged and mourned for.