If you ask me if I’ve ever had a crush on a smart guy, I’ll tell you this.
You divulged something recently that took me back to fifth grade. The time travel was swift and I felt a little dizzy. But I’m glad I went on that quick trip and saw that eleven year old girl again. She was so awkward and entirely uncomfortable in her “taller than all of her classmates” skin. It’s hard to be a wallflower when you tower over the rest of the class. She hated being one of the first ones to wear a bra and never really knew how to style her weird hair full of cowlicks and frizz.
But seeing her confirmed that some things never change, even after all these years. Like who can make your heart flutter.
It seems silly to think of him in that way now, but back then? I was smitten. He was smart and taught us science. That much I remember. I don’t know if he was the reason I came to love science in the first instance, or if he just confirmed it wasn’t odd that I already did. But he definitely played a part. A long lasting one. Lifelong.
His hair was slicked back and he wore a leather jacket on those cold New York mornings. I seem to remember him having a motorcycle, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I mean, how could I? Maybe he mentioned it in class. Or maybe I just like to imagine it being that way. I’ve always been a sucker for the guys who were smart and also not afraid. Brains and badass.
He was also way too old for me. Impossibly so. No matter. You can’t help it, which is what I’m trying to say. I understand what you told me and why you blushed. And why you can’t even explain it yourself. Sometimes you won’t be able to put your finger on why someone makes you feel all tingly, but sometimes you will. Remember that feeling. Maybe it will be someone who makes you laugh or maybe it will be someone who can read poems in French. Maybe it will be someone who gets excited about the Pythagorean theorem or maybe it will be someone deft with a whisk or a wrench or a pen. Your heart will let you know.
But for me? It was a science guy. Still is, though a different one now. I wonder if it will be for you too. And if it is, I want you to know I get it. Oh, how I get it.
Does your first crush resemble who you ended up with later in life? I’m curious!
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
If you ask me how I sometimes glimpse the future, I will tell you this.
It seems as though we are no longer allowed to have specific notions or dreams about our children’s futures other than the broad strokes of good health and happiness. We are discouraged from being too hopeful, too precise when envisioning end results. No assumptions, no pigeonholes. No expectation of history repeating itself. No living vicariously through our own unfulfilled wishes.
I understand this. I do. I fully assent to giving you this freedom you most certainly deserve. To do otherwise would be utterly unfair. Yet I admit that I do not always do it with ease. I get ahead of myself and start down paths that are not mine to travel. My thoughts trespass into distant fates and futures that belong to someone other than me.
These are the frictions inherent with being the mother of a girl. I want things both ways. In the end, adverse truths must coexist.
But if I was allowed one indulgence, just one, it would be love. I hope you find love. Maybe you won’t ever get married. I’d be content with that, so long as you were. As much as it has brought me joy, I know marriage as an institution is not the be all and end all of everything, especially not happiness.
Except I’m a woman who has built love around this very frame. I admit that it informs my view.
A taut white canvas tent stood at the ready, tethered deep into the ground. The mid-July sun inched down the nape of my neck and eased behind sturdy mountains, the twilight air cooling in its wake. Fields of crimson poppy colored the periphery around gentle hills of green grass. A storybook ending was about to unfold in panoramic fashion.
I brought a hand to my eyes to shield my view. And perhaps also my heart.
I cautiously peered through slightly open fingers, like I always do when glimpsing what’s ahead and yet to be.
I stood there and wondered. I simply, silently wondered about you.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
If you ask me how to listen to silence, I will tell you this.
Silence is more than a lack of ambient noise. It is an act.
To decipher the unnerving quiet of silence, listen very closely. Interpreting the void is not always easy.
Your ears might get hurt. And maybe your heart.
Sometimes it is a deafening defiance. A hand well played when someone does not want to scrimmage anymore, especially if the game gets dirty or the rules are too rigid. It is a resounding no to the options presented, an out loud unwillingness to respond to the demands of another. Doors slam. People walk away. New terms get created by words gone unsaid.
It might be the deliberate distance carved out of the bedrock of trust and vulnerability, the windless divide more expansive than you’d like. It takes shape in different ways; slowly by pick axe, swiftly by excavator. Discourse is difficult across such a wide chasm, especially when someone you care about or want to know better is on the other side, back turned, fingers in ears.
Or perhaps it is a trick. Watch what happens when you wait a beat or two before you respond or ask the next question. Too much silence can be uncomfortable. We are all prone to fill the void. People start to slip up. They divulge more than they wanted to. Too much information is revealed. Latent bias and flimsy arguments will scream out if you let the meter run. Ugly sides come out from dark corners. Raw feelings buried deep claw their way up to the surface. Some call this the truth.
But there’s also this: the sweet silence of contentment.
It is not timid or meek. It roars. The vibrations beat in measure with your heart. The harmony of peace joins in with the melody of joy.
When do you hear it? Listen during long car rides with someone you love. Listen while you watch a sunset together. Listen while you putter around the house within arm’s reach of each other. Listen while you cut vegetables in tandem. Listen while you wait for your server to bring your dinner to the table. Listen as the hours tick by, wordlessly.
Your first instinct might be that you’ve run out of things to talk about, that common ground has vanished. You fear there is nothing there anymore. You question whether the bond is breaking and twisting apart. Is this the sound of an unraveling?
It is worrisome at first, yes. But that’s not what you’re hearing.
What you hear is sotto voce euphoria. It is the polishing of stones you’ve collected together over the years. It is the heart armor being surrendered and placed softly on the table. It is the vivid glow of true colors blazing before you. It is the expansive horizon to wander with one’s own thoughts, some of them telepathically shared with a knowing glance.
It is the permission to just be present and know it is sufficient.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
If you ask me how to measure life, I will tell you this.
To measure how small you are, look up at the night sky. Wait for a clear night when a new moon idles by. Remember to bring tissues; tears might be in the forecast. Then, as thousands of tiny glittering lights come into focus against the black overcoat of night, let infinitesimal rest softly against your rib cage. But be sure to set insignificant free—it has no place in your lexicon. Let space and time fill in the edges around you and put things into sharp perspective. Feel the boundless, overwhelming weight of mystery and wonder land heavy in your feeble arms.
To measure the how sturdy are the anchors of friendship and love, make a chain. Link every moment you brush up against each other in mutual thoughts of kindness and affection. Sometimes, you have to look carefully for each link. They are often welded from the quietest of voices and almost invisible gestures. Some chains are longer than you imagine, letting you drift far but never away. These are the ones that can withstand the weathering of time and tears, storms and sunny days. Hold on to these. They are the strongest.
To confirm your calculations that life is finite and far too short, walk through the tall, dusty stacks of the biggest library you can find. Crane your neck and stand on tippy toes. Stand strong against the truth that you will never, not ever, be able to read all those words. Then calibrate your aperture. Set it to precious. Read only the books most worthy of your time. Know they will be enough.
To gauge the majesty of this great Earth and the singularity of your existence upon it, spin a globe. Let your finger touch down near the poles, glide across the Tropics. Marvel at the magnificence. I should warn you: a latent wanderlust might take relief in your heart as you course the mountains and oceans. But do not dwell for too long about the places that will forever remain unseen, conversations with faraway strangers never to be spoken. They are a faulty yardstick. Grandeur is always best viewed against the landscapes and people where you have touched down and stayed awhile.
To measure the warp speed of time, have a child. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. I offer it as mere suggestion, but I honestly have not found another way. Two lives, separated by decades, strolling in tandem through time—it is a nonpareil adventure. Some days, your watch will stop unexpectedly. You’ll tap the timepiece with an ear angled down, checking to see if it’s still working. And then, moments later, you will look up and wonder who set it so far ahead of where you just were. You’ll question why it’s running too fast. You’ll understand why you’re often left breathless and wanting more.
How do you measure a life? Do you focus more on the grandeur or the granular?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
Funny how we live parallel lives with others sometimes, isn’t it?
Last week, M took her first field trip that required a school bus. Their beloved teaching assistant is a high school student, and she invited them to her school to look around. The children were all so excited. They only went across our city to get there, but it was an adventure all the same.
Yet the only real report I got after the trip was about how one of her seatmates, whom also happens to be one of her closest pals, was relentless in wanting the window seat. M had to sit in the aisle seat both ways. She was clearly upset by this turn of events.
“Why didn’t you guys just switch on the way back?” I asked, thinking this age group is usually capable of reasoning like this now.
“Well, A wanted the window seat on the way there. But she sat somewhere else on the way back, and so then it was just C and me in the seat. I got the window seat first but then C was crying and whining to me that she wanted the window seat for the ride home. I was getting annoyed, so I just let her have it and then I didn’t get a turn,” M explained.
“Oh. Well, that was nice of you to give it to your friend. Maybe next time she will do the same for you,” I offered.
M’s bus rides will be far and few between since we don’t use one to get to school, so I think this is why she was disappointed by the field trip. I’m not sure how much stock M put in my bit of optimism for future courtesies, but at least it gave her some ray of hope, I think.
We flew to Charleston, South Carolina this past week as a family.
Here’s the truth: I hate to fly. It is not the potential for mechanical failure or plunging deaths that makes me uneasy, surprisingly. No, it stems from claustrophobia and the skepticism that everyone else on board is mentally sound enough not to pull a nutty 20,000 feet above terra firma.
And, it seems, I’m much better when I fly by myself and am not responsible for the well-being and entertainment of others traveling with me. The main way that I cope with air travel is by getting a window seat. If I can look out the window and tune out with some music or just plain old daydreaming, I am a much more relaxed passenger.
Except this trip, there was only one window seat among our three tickets. Guess who got it? Not me.
It wasn’t even a question of who would get that prized seat. M wanted it, and since it was the most looked forward to part of this vacation adventure for her, I yielded. It’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? I didn’t whine like her friend, and so I am pretty certain she is completely unaware of how much I extended a courtesy to her in this instance. I don’t really like to have a cocktail while flying (migraines), and so my best bet was white knuckling the aisle seat across from M and her dad, hoping that Seat D (the window seat) next to me was filled with someone reasonably sane looking, and pretending to read the mounds of books and magazines I had with me while what I was really doing was counting down the minutes to touchdown.
But you know what? When your daughter says with utter glee and excitement—and much louder than the plane’s engines—”We’re leaving the Earth! We’re not on the Earth anymore!”, it’s totally worth it.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
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