Definitions at 1am

wistful(having or showing a feeling of regretful longing)

restless(unable to relax or rest either emotionally or physically as a result of anxiety or boredom)

lost(unable to find ones way, unable to cope with a situation)

broken(having breaks or gaps in continuity)

disconsolate(unable to be comforted)

© Rachel Svendsen 2015


Grey Shadows

The music lilts through the house, soft and sweet. The electric piano sits with its back to the front window, its plug nestled into the wall just below that of the light peering overtop of the music rest. Several large oak trees shade the view of the street out front. The woman at the keys stares at music with unseeing eyes. She knows the tune. She wrote it.

The brightness outside the window dims. Grey shadows swallow the light from left to right with alarming speed. Raindrops fall, sucking the blue from the sky on their way down and splatter it into the grass. Everything is turning ashen, losing color, even the music, which fades from innocent beauty into a melancholic sigh. Raindrops fall from her eyes as the tune melts from joy to sadness. It isn’t the tune she wants to play, but somehow she cannot lift the rhythm or modulate out of this minor key.

The pattering rain gushes. Wind whistles through the trees, bending and snapping branches. The clouds part with a flash of lighting. The lights in the house go out.

With the loss of power, the music ceases. In the dark a faint click plods along, gentle rhythmic thumps and springs of weighted plastic keys. She’s still playing. The darkness of the storm swallows her wholly, until the melody she knows is barely an echo in her head. Her fingers know their part. They continue to obediently move in hopes the power will soon return.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

Odd Forms of Romance

My husband is not poetic. He’s sincerely romantic, by that I mean he buys flowers, lights candles, and takes me on impromptu date nights. His sincerity is invaluable to me. What I’m trying to say is that, he doesn’t SAY romantic things. Usually it’s just, “I love you” or “I love you more than anything”. The look of devotion in his eyes says the rest. But he’s not the guy who takes your hand and says, “Oh my beloved angel I adore you! Your brown locks are silk. Your lips are the food of my being…blah blah blah”. You know, that kinda slop. The slop that most women like to hear on occasion. The occasions for Tim are rare, but every now and again he will throw out something or other that will melt me like an ice cube in a microwave.

We have a little game we play with each other that I call “I love you more than…”. We throw the phrase back and forth to each other. Example:

Tim: Guess what?
Me: What?
Tim: I love you.
Me: I love you more.
Tim: More than what?
Me: More than hummus.
Tim: Well I love you more than chocolate.
Me: Well I love you more than Mr. Bean.
Tim: Well I love you more than…

…and so on and so forth until we decide to knock it off or someone says something stupid and we both bust out laughing. One of the times it went like this…

Me: Guess what?
Tim: What?
Me: I love you.
Tim: I love you more.
Me: More than what?
Tim: More than I did yesterday, but not as much as I will tomorrow.

My heart sang, my eyes got all soft and mushy, and my lips curled into a dreamy smile. I’m pretty sure just typing that story out made me stare at my laptop in such a way as to make it think I’m finally noticing its new haircut.

The other night I had another one of those experiences, but it took on a form that I never would have expected. We were visiting our neighbors and by the time we got home I had a terrific migraine. Usually my migraines are super treatable for which I am excessively thankful. If I take a hot shower they usually drop down to a dull thud. If the thud is dull enough for me to fall asleep I wake up 100% in an hour or so. Because we were out, this one went too long unattended and I ended up vomiting from the horrendous pain. Timmy’s a darling. He held my hair and hugged me. Then tucked me into bed with a fuzzy blanket, a cup of tea, and a heating pad on my forehead. I’m such a baby when I’m sick. I put on his tee shirt and buried my face in his chest while he read to me. My stomach was still churning.

Me: Bubby? (That’s his nickname.)
Tim: What’s wrong babe?
Me: I’m gonna try not to throw up on you.
He stroked my head and whispered in a gentle completely sincere voice: I don’t mind if you throw up on me.

Those words are slightly comical and by no means poetry, but for some reason my heart sang, my eyes got all soft and mushy, and my lips curled into a dreamy smile.


Ahhhhhhhh…pedicures…where to begin? How about a cold winters day with a good friend?


Tara: You know what? We need some ME time. Do you like pedicures?
Me: Sure
Tara: Want to go next week?
Me: Sure

Now I wasn’t lying, I DO like pedicures. I usually splurge and go once or twice a year during the summer when my feet come out to play. I enjoy them about as much as I find them incredibly uncomfortable.

I know I’m paying to have my feet rubbed and painted, so obviously I want it done, but I never seem to go to the same place twice. This means a stranger and I are about to get uncomfortably close for at LEAST a half hour. During this time, said stranger will be washing my feet, clipping my toenails, and rubbing lotion on my legs. Perhaps it’s better to always have a stranger. Then I can mentally trick myself into thinking that I never have to see this person again, like an impromptu drunk make-out session that you regret in the morning with a vehemence equal to that in which you participated in it the night before. If you see the person at work the next afternoon it compounds the discomfort.

(“Hello Tanya! I’m here for my monthly wash-my-grubby-feet-and-message-my-hairy-legs session.” (Okay, I did shave the night before, and I am a regular bather. I’m talking worst case scenario.))

Everyone has hobbies. One of mine is to make everyday social situations awkward. We show up at the place and walk in. A bunch of women smile at us and say, “Yes?”

“Mani Pedi,” Tara says, whipping her coat off with a self confident flourish. Then turns to me.

My eyes widen and I whisper. “What do I do?”

She cocks her head. “Tell em what you want.”

I look like a doe in the headlights for a moment then blurt out too loudly “Mani Pedi?” They’ve already moved to the pedicure station to run the water. I guess they read minds.

Time to pick out nail polish. I decide to jump out of my box and pick neon yellow for my toes and black for my fingernails. Tara tells me I’m going to be a bumblebee. I cock my head then laugh two minutes later.

I walk towards the chair. The stranger about to rub my feet turns to me and smiles. She has a pleasant pretty face, so why is my stomach turning? I realize it’s not her face that matters, if she looked like Quasimodo I would be just as apprehensive. I peal off my shoes and socks, feeling like I’m beginning a striptease. I can barely remember how to climb into the chair. I can almost hear her asking, “Is this your first time? I’ll take it slow.”

She dips my feet into the water. It’s warm. I tell myself to relax.

“The seat massages.” Tara says.

“Oh yeah?” I reach for the doohickey in the pocket. The loose arm of the chair drops down like a guillotine, blocking any plans I had for escape. The remote falls to the floor with a clatter about as subtle as opening a cough drop in church. I manage to draw it up by its tail and look at the buttons.

I pick one at random and lean back. Preprogramed mechanical hands with ball baring knuckles try to push me out of my seat. They start just above my head and roll down towards my shoulders. WRENCH WRENCH WRENCH I’m sliding down the leather chair. My date pauses mid-toenail clip to share a laugh with the woman beside her.

Okay, maybe they aren’t laughing at me while I fumble with the remote, desperate to avoid any further nerve impingement to my neck and spine, but how should I know? They spoke perfect english, both of them, but they also spoke perfect Spanish. I would love to be bilingual. I envy anyone who is. But it’s disconcerting when they turn to each other and chatter away. Is it egotistical to think they’re talking about me? I prefer the term “Self-conscious”. I had a boyfriend who once told me that I have freakishly long toes. I’ve never forgotten that. (How do you say, “would you look at her freakishly long toes” in Spanish?)

She brings out a holster thing and places my ankle inside it. Then, with a loud sigh, she vigorously files the bottom of my feet. This part is almost as bad as when they run that little picker thing under your toenails to clean them. One makes me feel like I’m a grubby little street urchin, the other makes me feel like a scullery maid being cleaned up to dance with prince charming. I love going barefoot so my feet are…tough? Call em tough. She rubs with abandon, not as long as most of them do, perhaps she saw it was futile and gave up quicker than the rest. She dropped my hobbit foot back into the water.

I tried to relax during the massage. This feels good, I told myself. My mind wandered. I lost my mantra and began to wonder if I had missed any spots when I shaved.

The foot ordeal ended. The manicure followed. These are relatively painless, except I find it difficult to stare into the eyes of the person who just seconds earlier massaged my feet. Plus there’s the whole hand holding thing and…meh maybe I’m overthinking this. Just like when I get my hair washed at the hairdressers. (If I close my eyes does it look like I’m enjoying this TOO much? Should I leave them open? Okay I’ll open them. Oh GOSH! Armpit!)

I paid before she painted my nails. Good system. Then you don’t have to screw up the new paint job digging through your purse. I sat down with my nails under the dryer and realized I didn’t tip the woman. I tapped my freshly blackened nails, contemplating how to accomplish this. In the end, I gingerly unzipped my bag, nuzzled the mouth open with my nose, then extricated my wallet with my teeth. I’m sure they’ve had plenty of freaks like me in there. I was nothing o write home about.

I hope.

The next morning I hopped out of the shower and noticed I missed a spot on my knee when I shaved the night before. I yelled aloud, “Oh Crap! Did she notice?”

I’ll bet she did. That’s probably why she never called.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

Contentment with Snow

I am one of many people on the East Coast of the United States that is longing for winter to be over. I’m not going to say I have it as bad as most, if I lived in Boston I’d need to be institutionalized, but it’s cold and unpleasant. I miss Spring, the warmth of the sun on my bare skin, laying in the grass, resting beneath the oak tree after a three mile run with my husband, taking walks into town in the evening, when the breeze cools to a delicious temperature, just cold enough to make the warmth of my husband’s hand extra special.

The other day, I took a ride with my Grandmother. I sat in the passenger seat, bundled up in three layers of coats and sweatshirts complete with hat, gloves, and scarf. It was just after 9 and the sun was clear and visible through an opening in the trees over a snow-covered corn field.

The sun’s heat combined with the extreme temperatures turned the snow into ice. Every divot and track looked imprinted and almost fake. The yellow sunlight glittered across the surface, chasing us as we drove past the expanse at 45 miles an hour. The white crystal snow appeared to be simultaneously still and moving, like the surface of a lake being tickled by the occasional breeze. The piles of snow dumped haphazardly by plows and shovels now looked like blown glass ornaments.

I am learning contentment, which is not an easy lesson where I live. I try to keep out of stores when I don’t need anything so I’m not tempted to add to my possessions. I also am trying to be content with time, treating each day, each moment, as a gift. So when I crawled into bed the night before with four blankets piled on top of me and whined to my husband about the cold and my desire for spring, I was immediately struck by a truckload of guilt.

“Never mind,” I said. “I need to enjoy what I have right now.”

Timothy smiled at me. “Sometimes when today is hard, it’s okay to look forward to tomorrow.”

That’s my wise husband for you. He’s right, that’s pretty much the definition of hope. But when I looked out over that glassy field, I wasn’t wishing for spring. I wasn’t wishing for anything more than what I had. All I wanted was to slip off one of my gloves and run my finger over the surface of the snow, to feel the cool sting of ice against my warm living flesh.

What Do You See?

I’m in the living room of my apartment. It’s 5am. I’ve been up most of the night reading “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. I left the finished book and my booklight in the bedroom, lying beside my sleeping husband. He hates to wake up and find I’m missing. He wanders from the bed half asleep, like a child who has just woken up from a nightmare, rubbing his eyes and muttering, “you left me”.

I’ve been slightly absent blogwise as of late. Why? Because I’ve finally hit it. That moment in life where you look around, where you’ve been, what you are, what you know, believe, hope, dream and say, “Crap. Who am I?” My husband calls it an existential crisis. I had to ask Siri what that meant. (Don’t judge! It’s the first one I’ve ever had.)

I was raised to think, feel, be, and do certain things. I’ve had many relationships where I was told what to think and who to be. I acquiesced for many years. Now I find myself looking at the world in a completely different way. It’s as though I’ve suffered for 28 years from a mental stigmatism and someone just handed me a pair of glasses. The world has come into focus but the sudden change left me with a crushing migraine.

One of the biggest changes I’ve had inwardly, is real compassion.

I’ve always been a softie, crying at films or books and crumbling into a hot mess when someone near to my heart experiences any sort of discomfort, but I think I missed what it meant to have real compassion for the people around me, those other lives that you brush with your fingertips throughout the day. I would see things, read things, hear things, and snap judge. A lot of people do this. Everyone probably. But I never realized until recently how wrong it was. Everyone has a heart, everyone has a story. Some guy cuts you off in traffic and you flip him the bird. Sure he could have hit you, but maybe his life is in crisis, maybe he’s just been diagnosed with cancer and flying down the highway makes him feel like he can run away from the fact that his body has turned against him. You don’t know. I don’t know.

Walk a mile in their shoes.

I hate canned phrases. They loose meaning, taste, texture, and nutrients from overuse. Yet this phrase keeps coming back to me lately. Walk. A. Mile. In. Their. Shoes.

We don’t try to see others, not really. When the lady at the checkout counters says, “How are you?” she’s just passing the time of day and expects the canned “fine” in return. A few weeks ago my husband and I were in line at Target. The lady asked me “how are you?” and I replied instinctively with a cheery “fine,” when in reality my heart and head were tangled and screwed into a gordian knot. I’m surprised my lie didn’t merit the tile floor below me splitting open to swallow my mortal flesh.

All that to say, I think I see people now. I haven’t learned yet how to deal with it, but I can see them. The man who holds the door for me at the library and smiles his “good afternoon” more with his grey eyes than his lips. The angry lady at the grocery store who is harassing the checkout girl. The checkout girl being harassed by the angry lady. The man on the side of the road, shivering in the cold, clutching a sign for food.

If seeing is a sign of life than maybe it’s the first sign that I’m beginning to live. If I live then maybe I can use my life to touch the needs in people around me.

So it’s 5am. I’m confused, awake, tired, frustrated, scared, hurt, and alive. ALIVE! Alive with a chance to live my life, not through others, but my own life. A chance to step out and try and touch the needs in other people with the gifts that I’ve been given.

I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I’m not even sure where this post is going! I guess I’m just hoping to be seen by someone. My husband sees me. He knows me. Sometimes I think he knows too much of me. But right now I just need to know that someone else out there sees me too.

Can you see me?