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This Writing Life…

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Maya Angelou.

I was surprised with the recent publication of my essay, “Harnessed”. It wasn’t only the fact that I finally felt a writer, meeting the literary criteria of a journal. It wasn’t simply because this was a fresh piece of prose, put to the page late July in Benjamin Busch’s class at Sierra Nevada’s MFA program. There were painstaking hours spent with this work, in my early journals while in the Air Force, and later, marinading in my heart to brave up and pen it to paper. Once written, Busch asked us to surgically hone our narratives to less than half, to something so concise that only the essential story would remain.

This was tough work. But the edit did not surprise me.

What caught me off guard was the response once the piece published. The out-pour of support through texts and emails. Messages from those who knew bits of my story and secretly rooted me on from afar. Those I grew up with and those only recently met. There were also those who were concerned.

“I didn’t know you still carried so much anger, so much hatred,” someone told me.

I didn’t expect the conversation to open this way, but I realized there is a grand misunderstanding about how someone might process their own life. For me, I no longer held rage and the fact that I could write or talk about aspects of my life was proof that I was healing.

No, I haven’t written everything down about my journey. No, I don’t know that I will be able to share portions of myself, submit them for publication, even if I do draft them into an essay. No, I may never be able to open up, even to myself, and ink out the darkest times. I’m okay with all of it.

But that conversation prompted me to reach out to my family and close friends and tell them to not worry about me, that finally speaking out and breaking my own silence was a good thing, not a sign of my past wounding. The funny thing was that in the dialogues that followed, we finally cut through the quiet and talked about something that had remained unspoken. Most of them shared how they worried for me over the years and how they prayed for me and wished, somehow, they could’ve stepped in and intervened in my suffering. It was the type of talk that helped us all.

I’m thankful “Harnessed” made its mark in Gravel and out into the world. I’m full of more gratitude that in doing so, it changed and encouraged those close to me to know that I am doing all right. My hope is that it will reach those I may never cross paths, those who may have faced or are enduring similar circumstances and that, in reading this short piece, they will know that they are no longer alone. They will, I pray, have a glimpse of hope.

https://www.gravelmag.com/rebecca-evans.html

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This Writing Life…

Three chapters revised. Twenty-nine to go. Though at this juncture, there are two chapters that I think will be entirely cut as they really do not contribute to this story. The thing that I’m loving about this process is the time that has passed since I wrote the early draft. I’m far enough removed from the material to truly rewrite and revise.

Favorite line in the last week: “She presses Zach to her chest. His heart against her. She slows her own breathing and tries to feel, maybe even hear, the little extra click in his heart.”

For other writers reading this blog, feel free to offer your input. The one aspect that I’m most struggling is the POV. I’ve gone back and forth between first and third person (limited). It is nonfiction, and I know that traditionally, nonfiction work is in first person. But I like the feel of the “hero” being un-named and in third person for numerous reasons and creative ideas.

For the remaining goals in the last week or so:

  1. I’m counting anything fluid that I consume as “water” from here on out.
  2. I’ve done either core strength, stretching or meditation daily.
  3. My weekly family excursion was to Hagerman. This was extremely exciting for my youngest son who wants to be a Paleontologist. He loved the fossils, the teeth of ancient beasts and their eating habits. We ate at the Snake River Cafe and had a picnic along the river on our return home.

The backyard “oasis” is complete! Writing and creative space near a few chimneys and firepits along with my garden and flowers. The chickens are happy. The pugs are happy. The Chiweenie and Bearded Dragon seem to be living a life of bliss.

I need to carve four hours a day to writing. This is my goal. I know, realistically, I cannot write four hours in a row…but the sprinkle of time throughout my day is what I know I need to get the job done.

Wish me luck. Offer help. Keep on writing.


Relationship Status

(Published Idaho Family Magazine 2015)

hat-pic-2014

Just like that.  You can change your “status”.  Instantly you can become single, in a relationship or remain vague and announce to the world “it’s complicated”.  Yes, I’m referring to the social media site, Facebook, the place that has become the definer for our existence.  Our status has become an extension of whether or not we are indeed alive, or if we have “arrived”.

It is easy to get shuffled in the jumble.  Easy to be part of the hype of looking like we have it “together” or are funny, upbeat or even, heaven forbid, normal.  Personally, I’m weary from the upkeep and am pushing against the urge of proving who I am because I clicked the “save” button on my profile.  Instead, I long for a relationship status that doesn’t seem to fit in, but meets me in the space I’m residing right now, midway through my life.

“In a relationship with….ME!”

That status isn’t an option.  At least not on Facebook.  Yet it should be.  Especially for a few folks like me.  I’ve spent the last almost-five years announcing to the world that I am single.  This means different things to different people, pending on the angle.  To some it might mean that I am completely unattached.  To another it might be defined that I’m in a relationship, just not married.  And still to another, it could come across that I’m so broken I’m not relationship material.

For me, single status once meant that I was in transition.

Our cultural pulse convinces me that I’m defined by my status.  In other words, WHO I am with (in relationship) defines me.  So not being with anyone, well, that becomes a statement of lack and abandonment.  Instead, “who am I when I am with another” should be a more accurate definition.  Who do I become?  Am I enhanced in this relationship?  And with those types of questions, if I’m fabulous when I am single…I’m fabulous regardless.

Back then, my singleness, at least to me, was a state of numb-limbo – someplace between relationships and marriages.  Until a couple of years ago when I began believing I was just too busy, too quirky, too analytical, and too….well, you can insert your own adjective here…..  I was simply “too much me” to really deserve being embraced and loved by another.  I arrived at acceptance.  Single status would simply be my life.   I convinced myself that being single forever would be just fine.

Deep down, I never bought my own sales pitch.  I just became busier to avoid becoming lonelier.  Busy insured that I would have no room in my life or my schedule to be unsingle.  I did take a brave step here and there – an attempt to dip my toe into the vast waters of the dating pool only to feel the icy chill and hurriedly seek the safety of shore.  Dating to me was a cluttered, risky business.  Unsingle seemed to suit me.

In my youth, I remember jotting a Dream Guy List.  You know this checklist even if you’ve not written it on the page – you most likely created a mental one at some point.   This is the list that kept track of the traits you thought mattered in a potential partner.  Someone spiritual.  A good provider.  A sense of humor.  Loves to read.

In the middle of my life, that checklist dramatically changed.  It is shorter.  Much shorter.  What remains when I filtered through the surface and short-term satisfaction are about three items:

  1. Character/integrity
  2. Honors G-d
  3. Loves me and my kids

The rest of the stuff was really fluff, but you’ll have to make your own new list.

So here we are, with my new status, my self-relationship, partner-to-one.  Now I need a new approach to this checklist.  I need to ask, does my new partner, me, measure up to my own checklist?  In other words, am I datable to me?

Almost.

The part that trips me is the “loves me”.  Attention is required here on the first part of item three.

The first step to change is the awareness that something needs to change.  The second step is action.  I’ve made a plan for this Valentine’s Day.  I’m taking myself on the town.  I’m making me breakfast in bed and writing myself a love letter.  In fact, I’m going to spend 2015 falling in love with me.  The head over heels kind.  All of me.  My quirks.  My edginess.  My analytics and my flaws.  I’m planning to send myself flowers too.  And in the evening, I’ll light a few candles and play the perfect song, just for me.  I’ve even written myself a poem.

Later, I’ll design a pillowcase with all the things I love about me written in brilliant fabric markers so I can “sleep” on my own acceptance.

What I’m only beginning to realize is I’ve not really been single at all.  I’ve been rejecting me, beating me down and neglecting me.  I’ve never really been alone.  I’ve been with the one person who loves me unconditionally all along – I’ve just lost sight of her along my journey as I tried to measure up.  I’ve had the one person who will never abandon me right here.

I’m inviting myself back.  Rebecca – meet Rebecca – the new love of your own life.  Status complete!


She Rises

The wobbly first step appears to be the most difficult, but becomes the most exhilarating.  Something unknown, yet the toddler fills with life.  Her curiosity erases her fear.

She launches.

The awkward first blast from the sprinter’s starting blocks looks embarrassing, but is alive with excitement and anticipation.  Blinded with wind in her eyes, yet the young athlete pushes forward, overflowing with determination.  She shows no shame.

She blasts.

The clumsy first dance on the eve of a social gathering seems humiliating.  Experiencing young love, the girl sees only the eyes of her date; the one she hopes will be her first real kiss–the kiss that counts.  She is complete in her thoughts and her dreams.  She understands no judgment.

She floats.

The unstable brave step out of an abuser’s prison proves a shattering event, but grows into a move based on faith.  Horrified that she has found herself in this place, she slowly allows self-forgiveness.  She realizes she can move on and heal.  She knows no limits.

She rises.


Her Garden

Her garden.  This was the place she returned when there were in-between moments that needed to be filled.  And the place she grew into a habit, something she could count on.  It gave her a sense of letting go and controlling within the same breath. 

When she left her marriage—suddenly, abruptly, unexpectedly—she took her sons and their medicine and left her life behind. 

Over a year had passed before she realized she missed mostly her garden.  As she brushed ashes off herself, blinking away sweat and fear, she began to rebuild a life, rebuild a home and rebuild a garden. 

It was only recently that she finally saw the dirt.  She dug until it hurt beneath her nails, nearly drawing blood.  The earth was hard, clay-like, not a good foundation to nurture anything tender, such as a seedling.

Weeds choked out beauty and flowers clumped together as though they had support within a multitude.  Tree branches hung low, blocking out the sun and creating a mowing hazard.  Areas in the lawn were barren, cracked wide as though the bowels of the earth yearned for something from above.

The square foam would protect her knees from the hard ground.  She tossed it down, knelt and began.  Her hair drawn away from her face with a scarf made her look older than her youthful mid-forties.  She smoothed back the wet strands stuck to her forehead, smearing dirt on her skin. 

Dig the hole.  Fill with water.  Gentle settle in the roots.  Add some food.  Add fresh soil.  Begin again.

One plant at a time, she built out of nothing.  Early next spring, when it came time to till, she would fill the plot with water and encourage her children to take mud baths before the homemade compost was added.  She promised this more to herself than her children.

For now, she had already mixed the compost and began mixing it into the soil, breaking clumps of root into sand and setting rocks gently into an empty terra-cotta pot.  The belly of the earth was white ashes and she had to dig through this and replace the cinder with rich, black dirt.  Somewhere inside she knew that gardening was more about growing good soil than bearing fruit.  This was true of her life as well.

Weeks passed before she could finally run her hand over top the lavender, sprinkling the scent into the air.  The cracks in her hands now stung, deep and dark from dryness.  She took the soft earth into her hands and rubbed, polishing away dead cells.  Then she pinched Rosemary, Sweet Basil and Lemon Thyme off the plants and rubbed the herbs into her palms, creating a mulch balm of her own.

The leaves on the pumpkin plant resembled elephant ears and they divided her perennials from her vegetables.  Only one pumpkin sprouted to life this time.  After another year, the garden would almost maintain itself, growing into something more than she imagined at the start.  It would have its own life and plants would regrow on their own terms, in their own way.

The start of weeds and tiny grass blades poked along the edge and beckoned her attention. 

Each morning before her children woke, she sat with coffee and tended her garden.  This morning was no different.  A small basket at her feet filled with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes.  She only took from the herbs as needed for cooking, but usually brought a pinch of Stevia inside for her afternoon tea.

She squeezed her eyes and tasted the saltiness of her tears, unaware that she was crying.  Her skin stretched tight from a sun burn, her scalp was tender to the morning rays.  She heard her youngest wake, felt a foreign smile touch her lips and walked towards her home, towards her life.


What Others Think

The following is inspired from a writing exercise from a David Whyte workshop. My Writing Muse, Ron in Indiana, added a twist to the exercise with the ending to the prompt. Enjoy.

It doesn’t matter what others think because they do not hold the desires of my heart in their minds. They only hold their old blueprints, judgments, opinions and value systems.

It doesn’t matter what others think because their ideas are based solely on their exposure. They have not endured my journey through my eyes, so they cannot truly understand the place I am emerging from.

It doesn’t matter what others think because they can only respond to life out of their own history, from their limited experiences. Though compassionate, not one of us can truly step into anothers’ footprint.

It doesn’t matter what others think because I must hold true to what I believe first. If I operate out of the need to please others or avoid conflict, I will lose sight of my path and surely let go of my purpose.

It doesn’t matter what others thhink because man’s thoughts are often not in alignment with God’s thoughts. We are frail humans, broken, undiscerning and off course. I must keep my focus on doing that which honors God. I must call into my movie only the situations and people who guide and help me do this.

Yet, in a sense, how others think can matter, but how they behave when they walk along side you matters even more.


Getting Back to Self Care After Baby

(published in Hedra News)

I delivered Julian just two months ago and like many new moms, these first few weeks were more of an adjustment for me than they were for him.  After all, he only needed to leave a safe, warm, uninterrupted and secure environment where life was a warm bubble bath and all was content.  I had to re-learn how to live a life already full of many passionate things and re-introduce, very slowly, only those things that are most precious to me.

Having a new baby gives me one great new opportunity.  The opportunity to say “No, I’m REALLY too busy right now,” and have others actually believe this.  As I’m saying NO to the extra committees, board positions, creative ideas, get-togethers, parties and side-bar commitments – and by saying NO, I’m also saying YES – utilizing this time to be my very best and offer my very best.

The most important step for me (and I’d love to hear from ALL women out there, not just those who have new babies) is to affirm my need for self-care.  I cannot be my best if I’m feeling my worst.  I cannot achieve inner contentment if I hate how I look and feel.  My plan has been simple and today I’ll share my first step with you:

GETTING BACK TO SELF CARE AFTER BABY – Step One:

Rest.  Decent sleep is probably the most overlooked fitness plan in America.  But good sleep helps our bodies (and minds) handle stress, burn fat, repair damaged cells (and after delivering a baby – there’s some repair that needs to take place) and think clear.  If you’re not getting adequate rest, look at ways you can begin to get better sleep.

My coaching question to you is HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?  And how will you know when you are?  Please share your ideas here and with friends – and as sisters, we can help one another begin to operate at our best!


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