courage, dear heart

2018: I set my Nalgene and books on a table by the window, claiming my seat. The windows of Peak Place Coffeehouse look right across the valleyed city towards the mountain; view well suited to name.

“Iced coffee with cream, please.” I tip fifty cents, exchange my greetings with the barista; we know each other.

Something prompts me to record the moment. I hold my camera up, trying to capture the beautiful mountain logo next to my coffee. My usual coffee; my usual tip; my usual seat. I don’t often photograph what I’m eating or drinking, no matter how aesthetic, but the moment seemed stirred with significance. I remember.

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2015: I have worked at this new bank for two weeks; maybe my discomfort and weariness is foreshadowing as well as adjustment. Every moment of work is a tense one, it seems to me. I come in early for a meeting, and leave to get coffee nearby during the hour before my shift. The keyed up nerves from work encroach on my sleep. However early I begin my day, I am already tired from worry the night before. I photograph my coffee, feeling my anonymity in the city with every patron’s glance that does not turn my way.

I put the photograph on Instagram – is it the only place people know me now? – and caption it desperately “That morning. That weariness. So: Courage, Dear Heart.”

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2018: I sit with this creamy coffee and savor the stillness inside. There is no desperate murmuring of courage quotes, no clinging to hopeful phrases in the wish that they penetrate my skin. I am full of hope. Courage is my quiet constant anthem. I have come through, I marvel softly. I have come through those years to life and life abundant.

Coffee drunk for hope tastes of temporary sweetness, part-time courage. Coffee drunk in triumph plays the tang against the cream and all that is sweet is sweeter still in victory. Have I ever had such good coffee?

Have hope. Your breaking heart was meant to be whole and God writes stories that put the pieces back together. Maybe it will be these three years of trying before you remember who you are but don’t you give up, darling.

Don’t you ever give up.

review

I went for a barefoot walk yesterday. It forced me to be more aware. I noticed the old, roughened sidewalk outside our home, the broken gravelly walk beside the Missouri Synod church, the fresh new sidewalk a few blocks away. I imagined the prickly dry grasses, the packed full gravel of alleys. I began to notice other things too, with my senses so heightened. The fresh pine scent of a new fence around a corner house. The rocky shadows as clouds gathered around Pikes Peak. The way my legs itched to walk and walk and walk, muscles begging for exercise.

I pondered too, while I walked. In some smooth sequence of thoughts which I have now forgotten, my mind moved from the sidewalk textures to my aversion to review.

I’m not a perfectionist, but I am very success oriented. I’m wired to read social environments, to understand what other people value, and to try to be that as well as I can. It’s a comparison trap but one that’s always changing. If introspection and writing are what’s valued,I want to be the most introspective writer. If outdoor skills are in, I want to be the one acquainted with the most trails, the girl who makes her own granola for hiking snacks. If I don’t think I can do something well or impress a group on the first go around, I don’t usually try.

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I hate to be told “That’s good, but you can do better.” All my rough drafts have to also be final edits. My first thoughts on a new topic must be airtight considerations.

I once heard that reading your writing out loud is the best way to catch errors in flow and grammar. It’s true. I hate it; or at least I used to. Now I’m slowly learning the power of double checking.

I view and read each of my blog posts as a preview before I publish them. I don’t catch everything but I do find a few improvements, errors, better ways to express myself. It’s still a challenge; I’m still a stubborn people-pleaser sometimes. But I’m learning. I’m learning how to practice, to let myself grow into skill instead of hiding anything that’s not immediately perfect. Mediocre is not always an insult; sometimes it’s a phase in between poor and excellent. Good work takes several practice rounds, multiple drafts. A series of photographs may reveal only one keeper. That is good. That is growth.

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So, here’s to the in-betweeners, the ones who are practicing, who aren’t giving up even though they aren’t there yet. Tell me, what are you practicing?