Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This helpless love...

I remember being so sad when the soft, downy hair of Caleb's and Tavish's newborn ears was one day gone. I remember running my fingertip along the suddenly smooth and hairless curve of their month-old, pink ears, realizing that motherhood is a series of endings. I wanted to stop time, curl up and never have to wake from the blessed newborn symbiosis of their body, my whole world; my body, theirs. Who ever wants to wake from such a love?

But who would want to stop their child from growing more fully into his glorious self, to stop their child from running more and more deeply into the lush forest of her dreams and destinies? No one, of course. And so I must surrender to the bittersweet paradoxes of motherhood: the wider I open the doors of my heart (wide, to that place I fear the hinges will bust), the closer we grow in love; the looser my grip on them and on life, the more securely we attach to one another; the more grounded and rooted our home, the further they will one day fly from it.

"They will go. They will go," Time whispers to me every day. I know this. I know every effortless beauty, and every exhausting challenge ends. It all ends. Too quickly, it ends. And yet, all I can do is fall helplessly in love with every freckle, every chubby cheek, every dimpled hand, every fragile, turning page of their lives, knowing the whole time that what I love cannot possibly last.

Oh, this helpless love. It can break a girl's heart. But what greater thing are we made for than this, this helpless love?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


"For the record, I do NOT want a dog," my husband had told me, "but I'll get one for you anyway, if that's what you really want..."

I think he was feeling sorry for me. The whole not-having-another-baby thing was--and is--depressing me, and I think we both thought a dog might ease it.

That was a couple of months ago, and after exhaustive, obsessive research, I decided upon the perfect breed for me: the Maltese, or, as my husband affectionately refers to it: "the faggiest dog you've ever seen in your life."

"Uh, honey...thanks for offering to get me a dog. We won't be going to the pound, though. What I really want is a dog like Leona Helmsley had--the one she left like $10 million dollars to? Which is about how much one of those dogs costs."

Some days, I don't know how my husband tolerates me.

Luckily, I was able to find a four year-old Maltese who needed a home, and we got him for a song. Well, I'm not sure that's how my husband would characterize the cost, but you know. We got him for a third of what you'd normally pay. So, like $3.33 million.

The kink was that I had to travel to Florida to get him. Don't ask me why I couldn't find a suitable dog in Virginia. Let's just say they weren't expensive enough.

Ok, so somewhere between my husband agreeing to get a dog and actually getting a dog, I might have built up my expectations a little high for what this dog was going to do for my broken heart. But nothing could have prepared me for what ended up happening.

I woke up in the middle of the night on a Saturday, flew down to Florida, spent the day with Huckleberry's owners, then flew back with him that same day. I almost missed my connection in Atlanta on the way home, and found myself running through the airport with the doggie freaking out in the carrier slung over my arm, so that it must have looked like the carrier itself was alive, the way it was bouncing and dancing like some sort of carry-on mosh pit.

I got home at midnight, and painstakingly followed Cesar Millan's advice on how to introduce a new dog to your home. We didn't get to bed until almost 2 a.m. But no matter: I was elated to finally have in my possession the furball of my dreams, who was going to be the perfect distraction, the perfect companion, the perfect salve, the perfect salvation.

I woke up to find this dog for whom I had meticulously pored over all manner of doggie books and blogs, shopped endlessly, and sleeplessly traveled two thousand miles in one day to bring home 100% attached to my husband, and completely disinterested in me. My husband, who did not even want this creature. My husband, who was not only perplexed by the dog's intense affection for him, he was actually disgusted. He kept looking at Huckleberry, asking with disdain, "Why? WHY?!?!"

I went upstairs and cried my eyes out.

And then I poisoned the dog.

Kidding, of course. I would never kill something we'd paid that much money for. I set about doing something I have had a lot of practice doing: convincing a male who wants nothing to do with me to love me.

One thing I know for sure: I. will. win. Just ask Jay. When we first started dating, he told me he wasn't ever interested in getting married again, having more kids, or, for that matter, having a committed relationship. Oh, REALLY? We'll see about that...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Again, Again!

Again, again, even if we know the countryside of love,
and the tiny churchyard with its names mourning,
and the chasm, more and more silent, terrifying, into which
the others
dropped: we walk out together anyway
beneath the ancient trees, we lie down again,
again, among the flowers, and face the sky.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Land that I Love

Ok, so. I'm not quite ready to talk about it, since it was so major, but I did want to say how grateful I am that my husband bought me a ticket, took a week off work to stay with the kids, and sent me to Colorado to visit my beloved family and the land of my birth. Holy Cow, it was amaaaaazing in so very many ways. Healing and good and right. It had been twelve years.

My people and the land welcomed me with such love and tenderness, such light and beauty, such reverence and gentleness, like a prayer. It was just the thing the bruised petals of my heart needed. I found myself splaying open those mangled outer petals to reveal the center of the bloom: pure, protected, soft, sacred and new.

It was like I had been holding my breath for a very long time, the most fragile parts of me wrapped in a tight bud, and I finally got to exhale, open and just be beautiful and loved. I didn't know I had been waiting for that until I began to burst open, and then the deepest parts of me began to sing, "This, this is the medicine I have needed..."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Our Joy Birth

We celebrated our water-borne baby's third birthday this week, and what a loving, joyful birth it was. For the rest of my days on this planet I will carry with me the blessed memory of that sacred birth, its magic simple and wild and natural. I am so grateful to have embedded in my mind a memory so pure and filled with light.

My water broke at two in the morning and Tavish was born two hours and eleven minutes later. It was a whirlwind birth that took every bit of concentration and surrender I could muster.

I loved the feeling of leaning against my husband in our living room in a birth pool with candlelit water holding us as waves of contractions started like a whisper across the room and culminated like a brass band, all cymbals and horns and bass drums trembling my every cell.

I loved pushing with all my glorious might, pushing the way the light of dawn pushes out darkness.

I loved releasing his perfect body from my body into the water's open arms, then bringing him gently into our arms so full of wanting and waiting.

I loved the sound of his first breath, the sweet exhale. I loved his wet and warm body against mine, and then the crying, the crying like a hundred thousand red poppies blooming.

I loved every moment of that birth, our joy birth.

And Tavish boy, I have loved every breath of your young life since.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love is a set of reinforcing acts

Here's something weird: I feel simultaneously loved and not loved. By the same people. Like, I believe certain people love me, and also do not love me. In other words, their actions don't measure up to the way I believe they feel about me in their heart.

It is a bizarre way to live, and yet it has always been this way with a lot of my loves. I suppose I am touching on one of the greatest challenges in life: matching one's insides with one's outsides, lining up one's heart and one's deeds.

So, let me ask you this: if you feel someone loves you, but they do a crappy job of showing you, like if they neglect you, for instance, but when it's convenient for them, and sometimes even when it's not, they occassionally shower you with something, does that mean they really love you? Or are they just full of shit when they tell you they love you? Seriously.

Because I get that no one loves perfectly. So where is the line between loving and posing? Between loving and wanting to love?

What is love, then? It's got to be more than a feeling, right? Once a counselor in college told me, "Love is a set of reinforcing acts." I think this is the best definition I have heard to date.

In any case, I'm not entirely sure what it feels like to be just completely loved--and loved well--by someone. My marriage is approaching that, but this kind of love takes time. At least with us it has. But we're getting there. It was just this past summer I decided to try to BEGIN trusting my husband. We've been together eight years. Yeah.

I'm not sure what it feels like to be completely beheld by someone, to be seen and understood and admired and adored for being exactly who I am. My grandmother's love was like that, but she and I were separated so much of the time. I didn't get nearly enough of her before she died.

Since I was about four or five, I've never felt understood, and for me, that is a crucial element in feeling loved. I always felt like a foreigner. I grew up feeling like, no matter how hard I tried, I was never the right color or size or brand. I always felt like I wanted to be somewhere else. I missed my people.

And so where do I go from here: this place I've recently landed, where I know that certain people in my life feel something they call love in their heart for me, but I also know they feel long-standing, fundamental disapproval and disappointment and shame and resentment. What kind of hope do I have with relationships like that? And that is not a uh...whatddyacallit RHETORICAL question. I literally want to know.

Because here's the deal: if someone is handicapped by long-term unresolved issues that prevent them from loving you well, is it enough, then, for them to claim they love you? And if that is not enough, what in the world can they possibly do?

Bottom line is, I just want and deserve to be completely cherished. But I'm not sure it will ever happen. And that terrifies me. Or it might happen. And that terrifies me, too. Just not as much.

And listen, if you tell me all I really need is to love myself and feel God's love for me, my behavior may become erratic. Don't say you weren't warned. Because REALLY. That is not all I really need. Granted, it is soooo important to love one's self and to feel intimately connected to and held by the divine.

But one of our needs--one of our fundamental birthrights--is to be loved, truly loved by other human beings, and it is precisely because I love myself that I find myself here today, asking these impossible questions, seeking answers for my worn heart, hoping what has been is not all there is.

And if you are reading this and you're someone who loves me, thank you. I have a lot of people in my life I deeply love--okay, not a lot, but a good number, okay?--and who, in turn, love me sweetly, and this is something I cherish. I'm not saying no one loves me. People love me. And you know who you are.

I am just asking outloud some questions that are rolling like a storm inside me, because I cannot hold these questions quietly anymore.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

To Be Held Both Ways

I want something real and true, something
with sails and a sturdy hull. Teach me
to harness the wind, let it
take me to a shore I'm meant for.

Teach me how to hold a
compass, feel the whisper of
true north in my palm.
Teach me that art.

Did you know gravity on Earth
acts in two ways? It's
proven: The strongest pull,
toward the center of the earth;
the next, between
objects. Teach me
to be held both ways.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Vice Queen

I've been thinking a lot about vices lately, and the fact I hardly have any, and how wrong this suddenly feels. I've spent the last dozen years trying to eradicate vices from my life, and I have succeeded pretty well at this. And now that I am virtually viceless, and have navigated all sorts of pain and joy without the blessed soft-focus vices afford, I have to say being viceless may be overrated.

"So, what do you do when you break bad?" my mother asked me recently. I was stumped. "Um...well...nothing. Unless you count cussing. And eating potato chips in bed while I watch trash t.v."

As soon as I said this, I realized with a pathetic pit in my gut that I had somehow gone from being really young and wild with crazy, funny secrets to being just plain middle-aged with secrets that are best left untold, they are so lame. Oh goodness. This is not what I'd had in mind when I decided to quit drinking and smoking weed and cigarettes back in '99.

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Walgreens and bought a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. Ok, first off, I am so...I don't know...I can't even break bad without doing it all organic and shit. And THEN! As if my all-natural cigarettes weren't dorky enough, I TOLD my husband. What the fuck? Oh, AND! I still have some. I hardly even smoked them. AND! (This is the real kick in the gut) I didn't really enjoy it that much.

I literally got the white picket fence, the two kids, the husband, and the backyard with a playset. But along the way, I must have sold my rock-n-roll soul, because I have a life devoid of well...SOUL. Well, I take that back: my life is full of soul. Lots of beauty and soul. Just not in a raucous rock-n-roll kind of way. More like a Beethoven kind of way. Sigh.

And I just don't know what to do about this. Something feels strangely awry.

Also. It seems that overnight I reached an age--a weird, sad little age--at which I do a lot of reminiscing about my youth, and the wild times I had, so as not to feel so old. Which makes me feel really old. Oh, and you know what else? Every two weeks a Rolling Stone magazine is delivered to our mailbox, and 90% of the time I have no fucking idea who that jackass on the cover is.

Oh, by the way, don't ever do this: drag a box of bikinis from ten years ago out of the attic and try them on for old time's sake. Even after an extensive tummy tuck, this is a very, very bad idea. All I could say to my butt and boobs was, "Wow. That is *not* where I left you."

And so, time marches on. Marches, sagging, right into the grave. Blam!

"Live today as if it were your last!" Yeah, RIGHT. Do you know how many dirty dishes are sitting in my sink right now?

Plus, I would be so pissed off if I had to live today like it were my last. Do you know how many fucking phone calls I would have to make, and how much crying I would do, telling everyone goodbye and how much I love them? I'd probably forget to eat; I wouldn't have time for a shower; and in between phone calls, I'd be dispensing random advice to my children. "Boys! Listen to me. Herpes is no joke..." It sounds like a really fucking awful time.

How about I live today as if it were my FIRST? Now that's an idea I can get behind! I'll sleep for 18 hours with someone holding me, telling me how beautiful I am. And whenever I wake up, a blissed-out, young woman will shove her tit in my mouth. Perfect. But that's just impossible. You can't buy that kind of experience at a dayspa. Or even a Vegas hooker ranch. Lame.

Which brings us back to VICES, ladies and gentlemen. See how very necessary they are? Recess for grown-ups. We NEED vices. I need vices. Just a couple. They can be relatively harmless. I don't need a meth habit or anything. Just something, puh-leeze, to get me through the day, to turn off my monkey mind, to help my whole body take a breather. Something to lower the fucking volume.

And if you tell me to take a bath, meditate, breathe, pray, write, play, dance, screw, make art, listen to music, light a candle, spread kindness, sing, garden, drink tea, take a yoga class, go to my psychiatrist, or go to an AA meeting, I will punch you in the face. THAT is what I have been DOING for twelve years, and it! ain't! cuttin' it!

But what other choice do I have, really? I guess I just have to do the decidedly unglamorous, tedious work of BEING. Gawd, it is unbearable sometimes. But the alternative is worse, I hear.

I guess the only thing worse than growing up is NOT growing up.

Although, there are some ways I hope I never grow up. Like I hope I'll never outgrow the humor of slapstick, my husband's politically incorrect jokes, my kids' totally nonsensical knock-knock jokes that invariably involve the word "poo poo", baby farts, dog sneezes, and playing ridiculous amounts of tag in the backyard with my little boys. And I hope I never grow up too much to enjoy the feeling of letting loose on a good old playground swing...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It grows, it grows

This is me, enjoying the last few moments of my long hair, before I cut it all off a few weeks back. Thirteen inches. Thirteen inches of motherhood: I had been growing out my hair since I gave birth to Caleb.

I loved my long hair. I've always been a long hair kind of girl, but I almost always cut my hair when I'm crazy with grief or just plain crazy. Which means I've had short hair quite a few times haha. And I almost always regret it. This time has been no exception.

I bet you are wondering what my hair looks like now. Well, so am I. I am waiting to be able to see it for what it truly is, even to perhaps see it through the eyes of people who tell me it looks fabulous and sexy. Maybe then I'll take pictures of it and post one. But for now, it looks kind of dumb and pointless to me, and very occassionally, I catch myself sort of liking it for about 17 seconds. Which is the way I feel about most things these days.

Sigh. I keep shrugging and saying, "Hair grows..."

I cut it because a. I'm really sad because I really, really wanted a daughter, and it looks like that may never happen and b. I decided to donate it to an organization that makes wigs exclusively for children. I want a little girl who has lost her hair to feel beautiful in mine. Whenever I think of this, I smile with a lump in my throat, and my eyes start to sting with tears. And this makes me happy.

As I sat in the waiting area of the salon, it hit me like a ton of bricks, this realization: I am giving away my whole head of hair to a little girl because apparently fate has decided I won't be giving my whole heart to a little girl. My beloved hair suddenly seemed like a sad substitute for love. But it had to do, because it was all I had to give.

My hairdresser, in a moment of sheer brilliance, took me in a back room, closed the door, and let me cut off each braid myself. With a blade of loss at my throat, cutting through the braids felt for a moment like a release. It felt like a secret, sacred ceremony. I cried as I marveled how the silky, limp braids felt like umbilical cords in my hands. My tears sprinkled the chestnut cords like a baptism.

People keep asking me if I'll ever grow my hair back. People. I do not know. I am so sad right now, I barely even know what we're having for dinner most days. All I know is that it grows, it grows. It grows when I'm mourning it; It grows when I'm not even thinking about it. It grows when I'm sleeping, the way my babies did, tucked away inside my womb.

I imagine every part of me is like that, just growing, in spite of myself, in spite of getting cut back, in spite of it all. Or maybe, just maybe, because of it all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sister, my sister

I wish you could see the poem of
the rain this evening. Maybe
you are here, living
in an untouchable sphere
just beyond the gauze
of my senses. Maybe
you see with summer eyes
the summer eve's
slate blue, how
drops fall from it
not like a brass band, but
the long, measured sigh
of a cello. Maybe
you're watching with me
the boards of our deck, their
shallow, long puddles collecting
concentric rings that go out, out
one into another. Maybe
I'm not alone at this
window, steamed with
butter and onions, green
peppers, salt, love in the pan,
thinking this sadness
is such a waste when
there's so much living
to do, such a waste without
you to tell it to. Maybe
right now you're whispering,
No part of you
was ever a waste

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I gotta stop doing that

Some days I get so weary of my obsessive, anxious, chatterbox mind, so slumped over by the dying beauty of this earth.

I think about this all the time: We are born, each one of us, onto a sinking vessel. We have so little time! Ever since I was a very little girl, this fact has, on a daily basis, broken my heart, scared the crap out of me, and opened me. "Oh God! What if I don't get life right?!" is, sadly, probably my most-used mantra.

I don't even know what it truly means to get it right. Who am I to say? But when I am kept awake at night by a picture of decapitated Mexican drug lords hanging by their feet from an overpass in what I remember as the quaint, sunny, flower-filled city of Cuernavaca, where I first learned to speak Spanish and fall in love Mexico and her generous, kind people, I am haunted.

I can't help but sleeplessly think, "The people who cut off those guys' heads did not get it right." But then I think, "Who am I to discern or judge the divine calculus of life? Maybe God understands it all, and He or She is okay with it. Go the fuck to sleep."

But I can't. "How many degrees of separation are there between those drug lords and me, really?" I think, "Who am I to believe for an instant I am immune to finding myself in a life that would end up like that? Oh no! Not only is life fragile, but my lifestyle probably is, too! One day you're in a recession in the most bountiful country in the world, and the next you could be prostituting yourself to drug lords, who knows? We definitely need to sell all our shit and move to Norway. I'm telling Jay first thing in the morning."

See? This is why I avoided looking at any kind of footage of those doomed, smoking, tumbling towers for SEVERAL YEARS after 9/11. I just knew. I knew I wouldn't be okay after that. It's also why I can't even look at commercials--commercials!--for horror movies. I cannot even watch--Oh God, this is embarrassing--"Scary Movie".

It's like everyone I encounter, even strangers in magazines and movies, is my corsican twin, and I feel their pain. It's one of those things that makes me a good healer. It's also one of those things that makes me a good crazy person.

Two years ago I watched a documentary on the 2004 Thailand tsunami. Yeah, that was a GREAT idea. It took my eyes three days to de-puff from crying. Ever since then, I think about this no fewer than oh, a hundred billion times a month: a mother and father telling the story of how, as water began to swell in their hotel room, the mother instructed their five year-old daughter to wrap her arms and legs around her, telling her over and over, "It's okay, Mama's holding onto you really tight! I'm not going to let anything happen to you!" and how a moment later the water ripped that little girl out of that woman's arms, and they never saw her again.

One minute you're on a dream vacation with your little family on the coast of Thailand and the next, all your dreams are washed away, leaving your heart to beat its broken rhythm all the rest of your days. Have a nice life.

"Note to self:" I had thought, watching that documentary, "Never go to Thailand. Or Indonesia." But I really want to go to Thailand and Indonesia! Which brings us to the next thought I had: "How could you forgive yourself if you never let yourself experience Thailand and Indonesia? Life is so fleeting! Carpe Diem! What are you waiting for?!" Aaaaaahhh!

You should have seen me when we had that earthquake a couple weeks ago. Ho-ly Shit. First of all, I grab the kids like I'm a fireman: I snatch them from their chairs at the dining room table, and I start running. In circles. Because I don't know what to do. Because we get earthquakes like NEVER. And we end up in the bathroom, because that's where you go if there's a tornado. Stop laughing.

And I'm thinking, "Their arms are too short to wrap around the toilet! They're going to blow away! No, wait. Crap! I've got it all wrong! The house is going to fall in on us! We should have run outside! We're gonna die because I'm a dumbass!" Meanwhile Tavish is laughing, exclaiming, "Mama! The house is WIGGLING!"

In a flash, the earthquake is over and I'm still holding onto the kids, squeezing the crap out of them, and they're like, "Ow!! Let go of me!" And I'm saying, "It's okay, guys, everything's okay! Everything's alright! Everything's okay!" And they're going, "Um, yeah, we know. Can we finish our lunch now?"

My hands were shaking so bad after that, I could not hold the phone to call my husband. For many, many minutes. I had some sort of Post Traumatic Stress response to something that didn't even knock our lawn chairs over.

Do not ask me how I get through one single day of living with myself. "You totally drive me nuts," my husband laughingly (and sometimes not-so-laughingly) tells me on a regular basis. "Oh yeah?" I say, "I drive MYSELF more nuts than you could ever imagine."

Do not EVEN get me started about my germophobia. It's not bad like those people you see washing their hands a hundred thousand times a day on those Discovery Health shows about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but still, with two grubby little kids, I think about germs a lot. Or T.S. Eliot. Good Lord, I cannot make it through one of that man's poems without bawling my fucking eyes out, all his aching, mortal beauty of this world stuff making me re-think and regret 98% of my life. And Walt Whitman? Fuck.

By the way, if you are still reading this, bless you. I might have some pain medication left over from getting my wisdom teeth out--you'll probably need a little at the end of all this. Sorry.

You know what? I take that back. I'm not sorry. I say that way too much. I say it for things that aren't my fault at all, like if someone next to me drops something. Why? Why do I do that? And I apologize for things about myself I can't help, like crying at Hallmark commercials and sneezing.

I gotta stop doing that. I'm sorry I say sorry so much.


I almost don't know what to do with myself. I mean, except just love my quirky-ass self. Just about the only thing I know to do anymore is try to love. You know, really notice people, including myself, and try to set aside fear, and just pour love onto them. I'm pretty sure that's gotta be at least in the top ten on the "How to Get Life Right" list. So I'm sticking with that. A little more love, a little less fear...maybe that can be my new mantra.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sometimes you're just THAT family...

Oh, I should have known.

My three year-old had his first official visit to his new school today--a 30-minute "small group visit" which consisted of a handful of kids and their parents converging on the classsroom to get acquainted with one another, the teachers, blah blah.

Well, first of all, we show up twenty minutes late for our thirty-minute visit. We show up late crap. You know, let's be honest: because I'm late everywhere I go, okay? My three year-old happened to fight me on every. single. thing. this morning, but if I had my shit together I would have *accounted* for that.

Our morning was a little slice of--wait a minute. Shit. He's not three, he's two. Christ, there's no hope for me.

Hell. I was trying to brush lollipop stickiness out of Tavish's matted hair when we were supposed to be leaving, because *somebody* forgot to give the children a bath lastnight. Ok, I didn't forget. I was just sort of being a little lazy. Don't judge.

Ok, so we finally get there and it's all going fine: they don't seem to notice how late we are, how dirty his fingernails are, etc. Tavish goes right over to a toy and plays with it contentedly for a few minutes. Then it comes time to actually ask him to do something and it's a bunch of pure three year-old-ness: "No! I don't WANT to!"

Then he marches into the adjoining classroom and trashes it in about 40 seconds, while I scurry behind him saying things like, "Buddy, let's clean up the 40,000 beads you just left on the floor..." Suddenly he stops what he's doing, and at the *exact* moment I'm saying, "Do you need to go potty?" he pees all over the rug and the wooden truck he's playing with.

Naturally I've left my purse in the car, which has extra underwear and shorts. After I remove his soaked overalls and Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, he runs away from me with his dingaling flapping all over the place. But I can't chase him because I'm cleaning up pee with those school papertowels that have the absorbency of oak leaves.

From the other classroom I hear him doing his characteristic scream-cry, and I rush in to find him trying to force his foot back into a sandal, which he had, for some odd reason, felt compelled to take off immediately after we'd arrived. (And when the teacher had quietly and politely asked him why he was taking his shoes off he'd yelled, "Because I WANT to!" Nice manners, Dude. Thanks. These people are going to think your father and I must be Neanderthals.)

As I run into the room, a well-meaning father I don't know is bending over in an attempt to help this apparently parentless child, but I guess he didn't know Tavish was naked from the waist down until he got down to his level because I see the man reaching out, saying, "Hey little buddy, can I help--" and then recoiling, mumbling, "Oh, gosh, uh..." "Hi!" I say to the dad, "We're the Mulligans!" And don't ask me to remember what he said his name was.

Then the head of the school comes in. She's friends with my parents and knew me as a girl, so I always feel a little compelled to show her how lovely my children are, but she always seems to catch me at the most awkward moments. Like this one: one of the teachers is gently offering my half-naked child some extra underwear and pants, and he's screaming, "NOOOOO!!! NOOOOO!!!" like he's being branded.

Everyone in the room is staring at us. I paste on a smile, scanning the walls for a clock, as I wrestle my kid back into his pee-soaked overalls. Mother of God, shouldn't this be over already? Then people start leaving. Oh, thank the Lord.

Then panic. Where the fuck are my keys??

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Snot and all

"Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer; than to remain a dupe to illusions all one's Life."
Kate Chopin, 1899

As a girl, I longed deeply for a sister, and still do to this day, though my mother's childbearing years are long behind her, making a sister impossible, of course. And so as an adult I have made many sister-friends whom I love and cherish beyond words, and this has softened the longing.

Well then I started having babies, and after two effulgent, perfect boys, I thought I was done, done, done having babies, but lo and behold: my heart began to ache for a girl. And the story of me and this girl is a post for another day. In fact, it's probably a book.

I have lived with the fantasy of having a third baby, a girl, for the last two years, despite the fact my husband made it perfectly clear multiple times he was finished having babies. So I started to have a bit of magical thinking about it, like maybe by some stroke of luck we'd wake up one morning, both of us ten years younger with lots of money in the bank and voila! make a baby girl. I twisted and turned in my marriage, my imagination and my longing to see an opening for this girl.

And while there were times over the last two years when half-openings would present themselves, I knew in my heart the timing was wrong and that while having a third baby would fulfill one of my ultimate desires, it would simultaneously crap on some of my husband's greatest desires. And this didn't seem fair or right to anyone involved. And so I passed up trying for that baby. More than once.

But I still kept this weird fantasy alive that something would happen and I'd get that girl I wanted more than my own breathing.

Then we decided definitively we would put the whole issue to rest. We would not have any more children, period. So I got a tummy tuck and am trying to be brave as I wade through the inevitable grief that has come in like a tsunami. I won't go into detail here about how complex and deep this whole journey has been, but one day I will, because it is a great story.

For right now I will just say this: It is so hard when a fantasy dies. It just breaks your heart right open, and you feel like you almost can't breathe. And the grief, it sneaks up on you, like in the grocery store of all places. And you're there in the cracker aisle, hiding your face and and trying not to make any noise while you sob, which makes you snort, of course, which makes you snot on yourself. And then you have a whole new problem, because how in the world are you going to wipe snot off of your face and shirt without one single tissue or diaper wipe or receipt in your purse for God's sake because you got all OCD with the grief and cleaned out your purse the day before like your life depended on it? And now seven people are looking at you as you try to pretend to be very interested in that box of Wheat Thins, and not at all concerned about the string of snot hanging like a stalagmite from your left nostril.

The fantasy must die, snot and all. And it has. And I am hoping beyond hope that something better will come in its place, eventhough I know there will never be anything in my life ever, ever, ever that will top bringing a baby into the world and having the privilege of raising that child. Nothing tops that. Nothing. In any case, I've let the fantasy go, or life has snuffed it out, one. Or maybe it was a little of both.

Whatever comes in its place, it'll be okay. It might even be great. I know one thing for sure: at least it will be real.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


somebody help me help
me please
but I know they're not coming
I am so far
they can't reach me
but then the crone says
thrash and keen with me
sweet lady this is the last
lay down
your tired blade
let those ghosts those thieves
take what is yours
we're leaving
and I believe her
and it is a perfume
I press to my chest
you won't miss this masquerade
she says
that music
is for you
you are a goddess
in this skin
you've got coins
strapped to your hips
though there's no price
for this show
oh no I say
I don't know
how this goes
just watch me says she
swing so low
then so
high my feet
touch leaves oh
the swing only
works when
you lean
into it
let it
take you
the way thunder's
untamed rhythm
makes summer
unravels her
tyrannical corset
pop drop drop
til she glistens
in the wet grass
and the storm is a
strand of pearls tumbling
over her
she can't hide
her blushing breast now
now that you know
we are but shadows in the water
softly now
into the heavenly curve
of first words
I tell you
I have always been here
fine and full
in the gilded dirt
of this garden weaving
all along weaving
your swing

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Unraveling

Every year, winter whittles down all my hopeful edges so that even after the crocus' delicate head has bravely busted through the new earth, still I don't believe in spring. You might ask yourself how this could possibly be, given spring doesn't exactly come into town disguised as winter.

But for whatever reason, spring always becomes like Santa Claus in my mind: something I believed in long ago with my whole childheart before truth stomped out the fire of fantasy. So I walk around long after crocus and daffodil, long after trees have budded, begrudging winter for so rudely outstaying her welcome.

And then one day I walk outside and I'm stopped in my tracks: Here we are in the middle of winter, and there are tulips everywhere--how weird! No, wait. Spring! (Gasp!) It *is* real, afterall!

Every year, people. I do this every. year. I'm beginning to wonder if there is a diagnosis that fits this chronic silliness. In a way, though, I can't blame myself. If you think about it: How can this be, this miracle? How can something so outrageous happen more than one glorious, irrepeatable time? And yet here we dance again, our whole bodies swaying, bobbing in the soft rhythms of spring's new breathing.

I wonder how many shifting seasons, how many gifting tides happen--and are always happening--all around me and within me, unnoticed. How many miracles, how many flowering possibilities are denied by my blind eye? Probably a lot, unfortunately. It occurs to me this is a brand of (and I use this word with the utmost gentleness) stupidity. Or perhaps we should call it misdirected disillusionment. Or...insanity. I mean, really. What would you honestly think of a person with whom you had this conversation?:

You: Wow, sure has been a cold winter; I can't wait for spring!

A Person: Oh, no, no, no, Honey--spring isn't coming *this* year. Lightning doesn't strike twice.

Unless you were talking with an old woman who pushes all her belongings in a shopping cart while she communicates with aliens through the fillings in her teeth, I'd venture to guess you'd wonder what in tarnation was wrong with that person. You'd be a little...disturbed. Or at the very least, confused.

But the sad (or is it funny?) truth is, we probably all think this way to a certain extent, about certain things. About love. About our own goodness, other people's goodness. About our dreams, about the magic that is possible in our lives, about the magic that already is. About helping each other, healing each other, healing the world. About it--whatever "it" is for us--becoming resurrected, renewed.

I sigh deeply when I think of how many winters we see in our relationships despite the pulsing promise of spring. Like the marriage we've given up on which has imbedded within it the secret to our greatest freedom and deepest happiness, if we would but take off our armor. The parent who will never understand us, but who still has deep wells of kindness and love to pour over us, if we would but lay down our disappointment. The defiant, unruly child who drives us hopeless and mad, but who will lead a great revolution one day, if we but honor her innocent hunger and power. The brother who can't seem to ever get his shit together, but whose insanity is one good decision away from being turned on its side to become an enormous gift to the world, if we but believe in him and his journey. The reflection in the mirror that's never enough, but which one day will stare back at us lovingly, if we but surrender to the beauty of imperfection (or at the very least purchase more flattering lighting).

I sigh deeply when I think of how many real and amazing possibilities we've given up on because we've sternly been told--or told ourselves--they're just ridiculous, naive childhood fantasies. Like peace. Sisterhood. Brotherhood. Authentic, multi-dimensional, individual happily-ever-after. Community. Meaningful, satisfying, fairly-compensated work. Justice. A truly honored, protected planet. Unconditional love. The American Dream, or anyone's dream, for that matter. Freedom. An end to poverty, hunger, oppression, abuse. Forgiveness. Trust.

But I sigh most deeply, most heavily when I think of all the things we spend our lives pursuing that we've been sold or told are real and entirely possible, which aren't. Like Hollywood love. Fast, easy money. Happiness you can buy. Lasting youth. Just wars. Guaranteed tidy, happy endings. Trickle-down anything. Redemptive violence. Pie in the sky by and by. A clean house while the kids are still young (I'm not entirely kidding about that last one--eat your heart out, June Cleaver).

I'm not sure how to school myself--or any of us--out of this. All I know is one simply should not walk around not believing in spring. It's just wrong, and a mean thing to do to one's heart. So maybe we could start there.

Imagine how much more tender our lives would be--even our aches and disappointments--if we believed amid the dark of the cold we would soon wake to find the soil has unclasped her praying hands to lovingly cup the trimphant faces of flowers? Imagine how we could breathe--and in that breath how much freedom there would be--if we relaxed into the rhythm of planting in the fall; thoughtfully blanketing the soil when it's freezing; tending to warmth indoors, reveling in the kind of snuggling and closeness only winter allows?

Imagine what it would look like if we joyfully--or at least faithfully--stoked the fire most winter mornings, the way the earth goes on rumbling with life-giving fire at her core? What if we allowed ourselves to be rocked to sleep peacefully all winternight by the earth tracing her perfect, age-old, renewing circuit around our closest star?

Even if frost claims the jasmine overnight and we wake to find squirrels stealing all our bulbs, at least in the grey grip of February, as we're cocooned in an afghan on the stale couch with miserable, seemingly interminable colds and cabin fever, we would have this: a green and firmly rooted knowing that soon, soon we will be sitting bare-legged in the cool grass; soon we will laugh as our children throw off their shirts to stand belly to belly with spring; soon we will roll up our sleeves and plunge shovels into softening soil; soon we will plant; soon, harvest.

I don't know, maybe you guys already do this; maybe the coming of spring, the magic and work of dreaming, and the possiblity (nay, the *reality*) of all good things are no-brainers and you're reading this hypothesizing my optimism and trust somehow got irreversibly beaten out of me, or there's an Irish melancholy written indelibly, helplessly on my genes. And maybe you'd be right.

Or maybe you think I've no clue--and no real respect for--how hungry, homeless, desperate, dienfranchised, and war-torn most of the world is. Maybe you think all this talk about believing in dreams and spring and everyone's goodness is all just a bunch of useless drivel. Maybe the world is so heavily steeped in torture and war and starvation, and my white, upper middle class musings and liberal ideals are not only nauseating and pointless, but do nothing to eliminate or alleviate any of it, and probably, in fact, perpetuate it. And again, maybe you'd be right.

But whatever the case, I can only start where I am, with who I am, and so I am going to try to believe in spring from now on. It's probably an obnoxious luxury that I even get to think about these things--someone who's wondering where their next meal is coming from most likely doesn't care about whether or not they believe in spring.

But thankfully it's a metaphor, people. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I bet everyone has evidence they are blind to--evidence of the beginnings of change; evidence of opportunities and open doors; evidence of the tender buds of their highest self breaking the soil--and these hints from the universe, if noticed and nurtured, can begin a revolution in one's life.

And everyone has seasons like winter in which everything looks lifeless and bereft of possibilites to the naked eye--seasons that are begging to be appreciated for simple joys, while at the same time we do the work of winter-warmth, and prepare ourselves for the abundance we know is surely coming, whether it is an abundance we are simply given, like dandelions, or one we work have to work for, like a vegetable garden.

So I'm going to start believing in spring. It could be the beginning of a whole new way of living. Next winter before the dark cold descends I think I'll paint on the walls of my heart a poem I have somehow loved for years yet forgotten each year, and with any luck, it'll shimmer most days like a sunrise inside my eyelids, lighting my way:

The inside chance

Dance like a jackrabbit
in the dunegrass, dance
not for release, no
the ice holds hard but
for the promise. Yesterday
the chickadees sang fever,
fever, the mating song.
You can still cross ponds
leaving tracks in the snow
over the sleeping fish
but in the marsh the red
maples look red
again, their buds swelling.
Just one week ago a blizzard
roared for two days.
Ice weeps in the road.
Yet spring hides
in the snow. On the south
wall of the house
the first sharp crown
of crocus sticks out.
Spring lurks inside the hard
casing, and the bud
begins to crack. What seems
dead pares its hunger
sharp and stirs groaning.
If we have not stopped
wanting in the long dark,
we will grasp our desires
soon by the nape.
Inside the fallen brown
apple the seed is alive.
Freeze and thaw, freeze
and thaw, the sap leaps
in the maple under the bark
and although they have
pronounced us dead, we
rise again invisibly,
we rise and the sun sings
in us sweet and smoky
as the blood of the maple
that will open its leaves
like thousands of waving hands.

~Marge Piercy

In the meantime, though, it's now April. Pear and cherry blossoms confetti the walk; tulips are at their neon zenith; the single-minded, industrious bumble bee and earthworm have come out of hiding; playgrounds are stirring with the squeal of swings and fresh child-shouting; and I am headed to the bright outdoors with two little boys to notice, breathe in, and believe in it all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Sunday, March 13, 2011

caleb said...

me: caleb! for the 100th time, put. your. pants. ON!

caleb: listen, mom. i'm not into your little games.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Am Not Yours

I Am Not Yours

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love, put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

~Sarah Teasdale

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Birthright Love

One day I was in the backyard with the kids, snapping pictures of them in the fading autumn afternoon, my heart so full with their beauty, yet haunted by a love which has yet to be. I felt ashamed--almost--for sensing this coming love, and wanting it. Afterall, I have so much love already. And yet.

I decided to turn the camera on myself. I laid very still in the cool grass, feeling the pull of a fate I know in my bones is coming like a tide, pulling me into its center. Then I looked deep into the lens at that fate, that love. And I snapped the shutter.