do i love?

I’ve been reading Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart. Often I read like a wolf eats, ravenous and quick. I’ve been speeding along until I came to the chapter, “Do You Love.” It slowed me. I’ve reread it three slow times since Friday night. Here are some of the words that are demanding my attention.

If we don’t know what we love — if we’re not yet capable of it; if we’re stuck in a stingy, fisted-up place; if we’re still too angry to name the color of the sun — it is probably too soon to start the sorting and stacking and shaping that is memoir…

Call me sentimental; others have. Remind me that the world is dark and ugly, that people are cruel, that injustice reigns, that children suffer, that the wrong people win, the wrong people triumph. I know. I have been there. I have seen. I have lost to the infidels once or twice myself…

No memoir is worth reading if it is not leavened with beauty and love. And no memoirists should start her work until she can, with authority, write about the things she loves…

—Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir


I love the way gold glows our backyard when the sun is the color of lightly toasted marshmallows and it filters through the water droplets to make a rainbow.

I love the way Sam wakes up in the morning and while he is still in the haze of dreams he starts building, creating, inventing. I love that he smiles when he sees me, every time.

I love the way Jordan catches my eye from across the gym or when he walks off the football field. I love the way he keeps eye contact, and the way he’ll smile, sometimes.

I love the way the rain stabbed through the front yard today, and the grey grumbled and the rain splattered the  sidewalk. Grey days are my favorite, and when I said it out loud, I love the way Andy was there, just over my shoulder, agreeing with me.

I love the way that I’m actually glad I married him. I love that he makes me laugh when he finally attends to the thing that I was annoyed when he didn’t get it done. All the time, every moment, I’m still glad that I married him. This is not a slight thing, and I love that I know that, too.

I love that I know Stephanie loves us as best she can. She frequently calls us to video chat, and sometimes we see her dimples. I love when it happens, when she’s witty and funny, and we laugh together.

I love that I get to be her mom and Andy is her dad; and I love that we still have influence in her life. I love that I still love her, even though it sometimes breaks my heart. In fact, the thing that is most heartbreaking is the hope that she will one day be whole, and capable of loving wholeheartedly,  and the hurt that still comes when she pushes away, when she won’t accept love, when she is unraveling and not caring. I love that we are learning how to love her more and how to protect others we love from her.

I love that we still love Stephanie. It is a choice.

I love that, too. I love that we have a choice and over and over and over, we keep choosing love. I love that it is okay if Stephanie doesn’t love us back. Our love isn’t dependent on whether she loves us back.

I love that Hannah is graduating from high school, and that she asked Sam and me to take her senior photos. I love that she wants to be around us, that she holds tight to family. I love that she is proof that children can overcome being scraped by darkness.

I love that light overcomes darkness. I know it for real, not just because they are pretty words on the page. I know that heavy things can happen and heavier things can follow, and I can still be light.

I love rainbows in my backyard. Andy called me last Friday morning to tell me to look out the backdoor. I took the time to do it. I haven’t always been the kind of person who has time to look out the backdoor. I found gold glowing there because the sun was the color of lightly toasted marshmallows and filtered through the thick air to make a rainbow.

I love that I can name the color of the sun.

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  1. You give me a lot to think about, Ruth, as usual. Yes, writing about one’s life, stopping to recognize the love is important. I’ll keep that in mind as I write for my family. Your family is very fortunate, Ruth.

  2. I saw the same rainbow. Thanks for describing it so well. Such kind words about your family.

  3. This knocked me over, and I had to come back to it. Your list at the end built beautifully and made me examine my own loves, especially now when everything is upside down. I may have to try to find this book.