His Delicate Secrets


The first time I heard about him, I had a feeling I would fall in love with him. They told me he was 5 1/2, and seemed very bright, although he had never spoken a word.

The day I finally met him, I wore the shirt with the buildings all over it. They told me that he liked to build things, and I hoped it would help him to see me as a friend. I knew he had trust issues. I would, too, if I had been bounced around from home to home for so many years.

He looked at me with serious eyes as I walked toward the table where he was eating. “Peanut butter and jelly, huh?” I asked, smiling. “I like mine with strawberry jam, cut diagonal with a glass of milk.”

I could see him considering this, looking at his own grape-jellied sandwich that had not been cut in any way. He looked up at me, quickly, and I could see the question in his eyes.

“I like grape jelly, too,” I said, softly. “Maybe I can bring one with strawberry jam tomorrow, and we can both share.”

He smiled, so fast I almost missed it, before he stood and quickly walked away.


Magical Wolves and Colossal D-Bags

A billion years ago, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and found myself at a quirky little party in a quirky little neighborhood on New Year’s Eve. I don’t really remember much specifically about the party, other than it was the first home I had been to where they had taken to hanging their bikes on the ceiling to save space.

Oh, and there was that guy who told the magical wolf story.

I’m not sure how I ended up chatting with this guy, but we were sitting on the floor with one other guy, having some beers, and mentally counting down the minutes until we could eat the cupcakes that we had been told repeatedly we may not eat until midnight.

So this guy starts talking about a book he wants to write, or maybe has already started writing, about a family of magical wolves. He had asked if I wanted to hear about it, and I said sure, and off he went. He was clearly really into this wolf story, and I could see how excited he was to be telling us about it. I don’t know a lot about wolves, or magic, or magical wolves, but I tried hard to follow his meandering plot line, nodding where appropriate and asking questions to help keep myself on track.

We were maybe 3 or 4 minutes into his talking about the book when the other guy Just stood up and walked away without saying a word. Maybe he had a terrifying encounter with magical wolves a few years back, and the story was making his PTSD kick in. Maybe, against his friend’s advice, he had eaten the week-old oysters in their fridge before coming to the party, and his stomach was performing a series of unfortunate events. Maybe the mention of the magical wolf mom made him think “Hey, it’s New Year’s Eve. I should go give my mom a call!”

Any of these are totally plausible reasons for his sudden departure, but I have a feeling he got up and left because he was just a colossal douchbag. The kind of douchebag who does the mental math, realizes the story he’s listening to doesn’t involve keggers and the chick listening isn’t going to whip out her boobs anytime soon, so he might as well cut his losses and go off in search of a keg. Or some boobs. Or a magical keg with boobs. Maybe he could write a book about that.

I’m not going to say that I was personally particularly interested in a story about magical wolves. I also am not personally particularly interested in a story about the coming of age of a teenage wizard with an awesomely ridiculous facial scar, but half of the reading world would say that’s the coolest freaking story EVER. I get that not every person is interested in every story.

Here’s what I am interested in: I’m interested in people with passion. Enough passion about anything – wolves, wizards, widgets, or wallabies – to want to painstakingly create a storyline around that thing. Someone with enough passion to turn that story over and over in his mind each day, adding little notes to the margins and creating whole chapters when he sees that there’s a back-story that needs to be told as well. Someone with the kind of passion that compels him to corner a total stranger at a New Year’s Eve party and try to convey every last wolfy detail in all of its wolfy glory, on the off chance that that stranger might also get swept away in the whole wolfy wonder that is the story that is the passion that is his life. That kind of passion is magic in and of itself.

When you’re telling a story about magical wolves, or regular wolves, or something entirely non-wolf related, you’ll realize that there are a few basic kinds of people in this world:

1. People who listen, engage, and support.
2. People who pretend to listen, or at least graciously excuse themselves, because they want to seem polite.
3. People who just roll their eyes and walk away.

The thing is, you never know which kind of person you’re talking to until you start talking. Until you take the amazing leap of faith to start telling your own magical wolf story. It’s an almost revolutionary act of self-love and self-support to share your passion with others. And it totally sucks that sometimes those others are just going to be colossal d-bags.

I wonder where the book-writer is today. I wonder if he wrote that book, and is enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing a project one holds dear. Maybe he met a girl at a coffee shop, and told her about his work in progress, and she had tons of amazing magical wolfy ideas herself, and they found that in writing the book together, they also wrote the first chapter in their own personal love story. Or maybe he left that story half-finished and moved on to another passion, another project that made his heart scream “Yes!Yes!Yes! This is how you should invest your time!”

I love that this admittedly weird guy put so much focus and energy into telling a complete stranger a completely absurd story because he was just so in it. It’s an almost tangible thing when people are so passionate about something, and I can feel their excitement and energy just pushing at me, inviting me to feel it and get excited by it, too. And that’s awesome. So freaking awesome.

I feel sorry for the d-bags in stories like this. I feel sorry for them because they probably don’t have a lot of nurturing, supportive people around them, because nurturing supportive people generally don’t invest a lot of emotional energy into d-bags. But mostly I feel sorry for them because they get up and walk away from moments like this. They don’t feel the push of energy. They can’t feel or recognize it because they have never felt that push come from their own heart.

I wonder what that’s like, to not feel that kind of passion about anything real. To have your excitement and energy all wrapped up in tiny little things that just feel big because you make them big. I wonder what it’s like to feel so content with who you are and what you’ve done that you don’t want to do more, be more, create more. To think that the money you have and the things you own are the sum of your wealth. That’s gotta suck. And I just don’t think any amount of words about magical wolves could fill up a life that empty.

Reading and Writing and Losing Time

There’s a story going around online called “The Last Taxi Ride.” It breaks my heart a little each time I read it. It’s about a cab driver who is picking up his last fare of the day. The woman he picks up is elderly, and tells him she is going to hospice, where she will soon die from cancer. She has no family left, and wants to take a scenic drive on the way to hospice. The cabbie drives her around for hours while listening to her memories of buildings they pass. The story ends with him dropping her off at hospice, and reflecting on how glad he was to have been the one to pick her up, to have been able to share that last beautiful drive with her.

So, I finished reading it this time, and instinctively started to go to snopes.com, so that I could find out if the story was true, or just another online fable that people had turned into fact.

Here’s where my personal magic happened – I stopped myself from checking out the story. There’s only two ways that could have ended: I could have found out that it was true, which I already believed it to be, or I could have learned that it was fabricated, which would have robbed me of the story I had built in my own head.

I’m still not sure what my lesson is here, or why this seems so important to me. I just know that, like most people in the world, my instinct is always to go online, check things out, find “facts” or other things that will validate or entertain or inspire or anger me…for what purpose? I have trouble just taking things at face value, just enjoying them in their singularity, without running to the internet to shove more information in my crowded head.

I’m disappointed at myself for not writing much (ok, at all) right now. I’m disappointed at not sewing more, reading more, connecting with loved ones more, genuinely relaxing more. And yet I throw time directly down the internet drain constantly. I justify that I can’t really focus on anything, since I’m caring for two very busy and wonderful and loud boys…but if I have 3 minutes to be online, I have 3 minutes to jot down some words, or sketch a pattern, or mail a card to a friend I have been missing.

It’s so clichéd that people need to unplug more…but clichés are clichés because they are true much of the time. I need to take control of my moments, each tiny little one, before they all add up to years that have slipped out of my hands. That’s not the life I want to live. That’s not the way I want to remember these early years of being a mom. I want to feel joy, not regret, when I look back on this time. I want to read stories like “The Last Taxi Ride” and be inspired to write, like I did here, instead of turning to the internet and getting my soul sucked out.

I own every moment of my life, and each one is precious. I want to start acting like it.