Finding Lila

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Lila

Sometimes, we’re just granted space. Space to work, to play, to find something that was buried but never lost. On this Mother’s Day, I am thankful for my guitar, whom I just decidedly nicknamed Lila. I stole this idea from my husband, Eric, who told me a story one afternoon while we spooned on the bed about his first guitar, Marianne. Without going into too much detail, I was pregnant during this conversation, and we were ruminating on possible girl names. Marianne was one of my top favorites, I suppose because there’s something of the name Margaret in there, and it sounded smart and grounded, two things I wished for a hypothetical daughter, which I didn’t end up having.

Lila came back into my life last night, somewhat planned and somewhat unexpectedly. I’ve been listening to an African American female folk singer, named Lizzie No, a lot lately. Her tunes seem to resonate with me strongly and conjure up my days of driving across country and living out west. Days when I was on the run from nothing and everything.

I’ve been telling Eric about how inspired I felt to learn one of Lizzie’s songs and asked if he’d teach me; he, the much more dedicated musician between us. So last night, after a delightful dinner out at my favorite Thai place in town, Eric pulled out his guitar and began to learn “Crying Wolf” off of the album, Hard Won. Within the time it took to drink half a beer, he was ready to teach me. I was about to learn my first song on the guitar after giving it up what felt like centuries ago.
The marvelous thing about instruments is our fingers seem to fall back into place, as if memory pushed pause long ago, knowing we’d return where we left off. This isn’t to say I won’t need time to relearn much of what is lying dormant, but I learned enough about the three basic chords to belt out the song in its entirely while clumsily playing along. It was beautiful.

All good starts begin without promises and great declarations like: this is the moment I have been waiting for. Now I will be an amazing musician. I will form the band I was too shy to play for in my youth. No, no, no. I am not saying any of that. But it’s enough that the picture is there. The ability to see a stronger dedication to something I gave up because I lacked the discipline – or really, the stillness – to get good at it.

My writing most definitely plays a big role in this. Going through a somewhat arduous writing workshop, aptly named “Writing Boot Camp,” the past two weeks has been transformative. It’s helped push me out of laziness, vagueness, out of painting snap shot images because that’s what I know best. What I know best is not the marathon, but the one-mile run. And that’s OK, too. But my eyes are opening to the true meaning of craft and what it takes to get good – at anything. Stillness. Patience. Reflection. Hard work. Patience. Stillness. Reflection. Hard work. Repeat.

Possibilities, renewed love, renewed you. These are all the things I wish for you and for me this spring. This Mother’s Day, when remembering what we have always loved about ourselves is worth the time.

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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