11 Parts, Daring

11 Parts, Daring


daring (adjective)
: venturesomely bold in action or thought
daring (noun)
: venturesome boldness

As a little Iowa girl I am not sure of all I see. Trying to hone in on the feelings, it was hard to understand the fighting, the alcohol, the church, the god talk. I spent so much time feeling like I did not fit. Why? I discover Maya Angelou, I am the only one that I can see to ever check out her book and it feels like a dare and so I devour it. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings lights up something inside me. Our gravel roads lie at different coordinates, but our longing, our desire to speak is the same. Voice. I find mine as she tells me how she finds hers.

I leave that Iowa town and head north to Minnesota. So exotic with all the lakes and blue politicians. I learn about a guy named Paul Wellstone and there is talk about wanting something better, for everyone. How daring.

How about that I date an Asian man to stir the pot?  VonMany. So exotic to my grandfather. Can’t you date a white guy? Contrary to the whispers from friends and family, it was the eyes, not the skin, that drew me in. They were full of  kindness. I have always been a sucker for kindness. Is that daring?

Fly away. I wanted to fly away and I did. I went to Cameroon, Africa, by myself at the age of 23 to see VonMany as he served in the Peace Corps. I needed to know, really, was he the one? It turned out he was not, and how would I have known without daring? I had to sleep wrapped in mosquito nets all alone and ride buses and avoid pickpockets and beggars and endure shots and a few days with sketchy food to understand, it was not the world he lived in that was not for me, it was him. I dared to ask the question and though I did not like the answer, I found it.

Safety. Isn’t it daring to want to feel safe? The first half of my life, 25 years, felt very insecure. And then I lived alone for three years. I learned a bit more about who I was. So silly to think I’d learn it all, but I did get acquainted with me. And then I met a different guy. He made me laugh and dream and laugh some more and if I could have just kept one thing in my mind- he is for me- I could have had more happier days. But I am getting there. He is still for me and I him and his eyes and his laugh remind me to see me as he does.

Each time I tried to have a child, I dared the universe. Make it happen. It did not. Again and again and again there was loss. How does a person bear such loss? How did I? Did I dare? I must have. I dared the universe to tell me NO, but it did not and then came Thing 1 and more loss and Thing 2. Daring. Ha. This seems like so much nothing after the parenting journey I have been on now.

Letting go. My babies are not gone, but they are developing so quickly into their own selves. They are becoming more and more of who they have always been and what is daring is that I let them be. I can harp/remind/henpeck with the best of them but what is daring is to let them fly. Let them figure it out, let them do what they must to make their own way. I must let go and the daring is my own. Can I let go of all I have carried? Will I feel free? Ever?

My mental health is no joke. It feels daring some days to operate a car when the fantasies of driving off the road, the cliff, into a lake pop up. How do I ever get from point a to point b? I am a walking dare.

I often say what I am not supposed to. Large workplace environments are difficult for me because systems drive me crazy. I ask the questions no one wants to and the silence, the blank stares, once I have let some cat out of the bag,  infuriates those who are supposed to have the answers. Do we dare address this thing? Of course not so don’t ask. I just can’t not ask. How dare I?

I have done the exact opposite of what is recommended, especially in the realm of health. I cannot tell you how many times I go for this or that because it seems proactive and then I get recommendations and I do…..nothing. I am married to family physician and he tells me I am a terrible patient. I am hard-wired to not follow directions of most kinds. I guess the truth is the school of hard knocks is really the only true medicine (except for my antidepressant) I understand. This is either daring or stupid or a little of both.

I think this word suggest only grand ideas elicit daring actions. Except to me, in my experiences, what I feel is that things unfold and I go from one thing to the next based on what seems right at the time. I could easily paint a picture of daring but really it was just me moving through my world, reacting, or not, to what was before me. Often, I say yes or no based on where I feel lead. It is not daring to listen to yourself. Or is it?

What is Beauty?

There is beauty in knowing when not to compete. There is beauty in knowing when to dig deeper and there is beauty in knowing when to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. There is beauty in observing and there is beauty in diving right into the mess. There is beauty in not knowing anything but the deepest knowing which is all will be well. There is beauty is being able to see that the disease has you locked down or fired up and there is beauty in just watching it all unfold. There is beauty in feeling it loosen its grip on you and there is such profound beauty in the rest granted as it leaves. There is beauty in stillness and there is beauty in movement. There is beauty in acceptance and there is beauty in saying I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS. Had I never watched a commercial, read a magazine, or scrolled through the internet, I think I might have come to all this a tad bit sooner for all the messed up messages given about what beauty is and yet? There is beauty in understanding things take the time they take.


Below is a photo I stopped to take when I had no business taking it. I was running late for work, my tires were screaming for air, and the gas tank was on empty. It was -10, but I could not stop looking at the sky, watching it unfurl before me. There is beauty in doing the wrong thing anyway and feeling grateful even later when you know how it ended. I had to borrow money for gas because I left my purse at home, I had to stop to get my tires filled, and all of this made me one hour late for work. I was the only adult in the writing center that day and when someone pointed that out, I laughed because I knew better.

Project Letters

In October, a friend asked me what I'd planned to do for my 50th birthday. At that point, I hadn't given it a ton of thought but I did know this: I wanted to somehow show my gratitude for people who have shaped how I see the world and/or for how they show up in the world leaving me inspired and better for knowing/meeting them.

And so I decided I would write 50 letters before I was 50.

It was a lofty goal because writing letters if done well, takes time.

I set about making my list, thereby taking a trip down memory lane which found me all the way back in elementary and Sunday school.

I ended up going through each decade of my life. I have moved five times and held twice that many jobs. I have always noticed people. It's just who I am. I am naturally curious about what makes people tick and anyone who goes the extra mile or has gone a bit out of their way, not just for me, but for a cause or someone else is someone I tend to remember. And so all of these things combined made it not that hard to come up with well over 50 people and the list grew. In fact, I have the determined I will not really be done. Why should I end showing my gratitude, my observation of a job well done, a moment of inspiration, or even just a simple communication that says 'I see you.'

But this was never about numbers. It was about just taking a bit of time to mark the fact that I have not made it to this decade without a little help and whole lot of inspiration from my family and people I've only met online and people I spent an intense amount of time within the trenches of work or parenting or school or some combination of the three.

I think my favorite thing about this whole experience is what I call "the pause". When I am writing a note by hand, I have to think carefully before I write. It's very different from just throwing words down as fast as I can on my keyboard. I like that pause, the thinking before crafting the words. And I like how it takes me back to the person and for just a bit, I am with them again. I like seeing a person in my mind and trying hard to express what I see in them with words.

I might be a bit weird and I am pretty ok with that.

The unexpected joy of this experience has been the little notes and pieces of mail I have received in return. To have someone say, "Thank you! You made my day!" was the icing on my 50th birthday cake.

The truth is I had no idea how selfish of a project this was. It has been me who has benefited the most by simply recognizing people who have shown up on my path who had something to teach me simply by being themselves. Each time I see this, it is me who grows a little bit braver in getting closer to the person I want to be.

It was never supposed to be about me, and yet again, I was wrong.