Saturday, September 10, 2016

Maybe in September

Maybe today was a trying day.

Maybe your work spins around a September start-up and this week was when things got real real.

Maybe today, being Suicide Prevention Day, poked and pulled at you in good ways or hard ways or good ways that are hard because maybe you're a survivor or live with depression in your life in some way. Maybe you read accounts of people deciding to choose to live and you thought "ha, you ain't see nothing, baby." And maybe you felt instantly guilty, because who are we to know? Who are we to ever really know?

Maybe you're about to leap into a life change; heading to school, getting married, having a baby, getting a divorce, moving to hospice. Or maybe this is happening to someone you love. Maybe, it could be even harder, it is not happening this time.

Maybe this Irish Blessing will let your soul rest for just a moment, just rest, not rest and then do something. Just rest.

One time years and years ago a friend shared this blessing that is a song with me during a scary time, and it helped me. Maybe it is helping me, here again, on this September Saturday. Maybe you, too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

All I Ever Wanted

Because mothering is all I ever wanted from life.

Because being a mother and building a family and paying close close attention to every detail along the way was my work.

My life's work.

Because that phase of my life is really long since over and when no offspring live at home, now, in just over a week, it's really done. Or, well, it is not over but is completely transformed in a whole manner that leaves no anchor to that former life, at all, in any way.

And because of that, I think, because all of who I am and ever was is really now completely over, I am bereft.

I watch the "first day of 3rd grade" and "too angsty to let me take a picture of the first day of 8th grade" posts go by on social media. Those days were so long ago for me. But I loved them.
I still love them.

The way I remember it, I was one of those people who noticed at the time that I loved the busy days at home with kids. We were lucky enough to homeschool for a good portion of that time, so the days had a longer rhythm that ebbed and flowed more like the seasons than frenetic days. We read books and spent long days exploring that were in fact simply interesting days spent together following creeks to learn about salmon or taking in a midday play.

It was all I wanted. And I am so grateful.

But here's the thing. Women are taught to become things. We learn to become a mother or become a whatever-our-career-is-person, We learn to become a wife and become an activist and become an advocate. And then, sometimes, those things go away. Then, what are we?

That's been my question. What am I?

I had to un-follow some people on social media because their "next thing" is so beautiful and whole and they have origami folded themselves into a sleek crane who is going to seminary or trekking off on an adventure of self-discovery. Please. I have no money for grad school or a trek of discovering what comes next. We have ginormous college bills for those brilliant children because we didn't save when we were becoming parents at 12 or whatever so, no, I don't want to watch you uproot your comfortable life and cram it into this new amazing thing. Well, I do, but it makes me dark and all self-hatey. So, I stopped.

Here lies my challenge. Figure out life. No financial investment possible. But there are hours in the day. I have job that I like. No other responsibilities, really. Job, a very busy husband, some time with my adult children when I can. Two badly behaved dogs. And this question:

What to do with my remaining years? And just who the hell am I supposed to be?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

How is it With Your Soul Today?

And so, how are you today?

Not what arrived in your mailbox or where did you go for lunch. 

I don't want to hear about the backlog at work or what happened in the car wash. 

The new kitten's antics are delightful, I am sure. 

But that's not what I want to know, dear one. 

The fourth visit from the refrigerator repair person must be exasperating, of course. 

And the plans with your cousins to see the fallen heartthrob's eternal show in Vegas would be a wonderful story. 

I am sure. 

But that is still not what I want to know, dear one. 

My heart wonders, and it wants to know, my love. 

How is it with your soul, today?

Is the long forgotten dream peering from behind the list of things to do, asking for another chance?

Does longing throb in your fingertips to make or create or do?

What about grief, is that what I see? Glistening from the crease near your eye?

Is that twitch of your toe an untraveled trail, waiting for your steps?

Because I wonder, my dear, 

how is it with your soul today? 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rocked in a Rocking Chair

I do this thing that I am pretty sure no one else does.

When there is something wrong in my life, I truly believe that if I can just figure it out that I can move beyond it. I believe if I do everything right, then I can cure my malady. As in: if I just eat the green leafy vegetables and not the gluten, dairy, meat, nightshades, boxed, canned, or processed food then all symptoms will disappear, and I will lose 10 pounds, look 10 years younger and also gain 20 IQ points. And become spiritually enlightened. And never get another parking ticket. 

It also works for my mindset. If I can just choose my attitude, laugh on demand, recite daily affirmations and fake it until I make it then all of the afflictions of my mind and oh sure why not, my body, too, will evaporate. 

I am sure that these things are true for many people. They are probably true for you. You probably have great stories about curing yourself of something horrible with just a flip of your wrist. Awesome. Fabulous. Great that you can mend yourself and not get poked by the needle. 

Me? Yeah. Not so much. I just try so hard and then harder and then more and then when it doesn't work, when I am still depressed or in pain or unable to process big emotional rents in my life tickety-boo, all set, well, I just find that I just--melt. 

Photo by Anne Principe, Divign Thinking 
Somehow this belief that I can fix things, that I must fix things or I will get another big freakin' black "X" on my score card is sewn deep into my soul. I must be happy, whole and able to skip up and down steps with not a twinge of pain or I am simply not DOING it right. It being everything.

But maybe, I am doing it right. Or right enough to have it not be all my FAULT. Maybe generations of mental health troubles in my family history could be a sign that for me, depression is something that is beyond "choose your attitude." And maybe pain in my joints and crushing fatigue isn't going to be cured by being free of everything in my diet but blueberries and brown rice--maybe there is something, you know, wrong. Maybe there's not, maybe I'm just not TRYING enough, but you know, maybe there is. Maybe. 

I have told my beloveds for years and years that they must take care of themselves like they'd care for a dear friend. This week I decided that there is a higher standard. I think we need to take care of ourselves like we would take care of a four-year-old, and not a four-year-old that we can give back, not a visiting kid who you might feed Froot Loops and take swimming all day long with no nap and only Doritos for food. 

No, this is a higher standard. We need to take care of ourselves like we'd care for a deeply loved four-year-old that we have to keep. That means getting enough sleep every night on clean sheets with soft blankets, and healthy snacks both morning and afternoon. We need playtime and arts and crafts with long naps taken curled around a floppy dog. We need to get taken to the movies and out for ice cream but not too much and no movies that will scare us so much that we can't sleep. We need to be rocked in rocking chairs and read excellent stories--even if that means now we have to do our own rocking and reading, that's OK. We need to treat ourselves as if we actually cared, as if we actually loved us. 

Or, I mean, I do. 

I'm sure you've got it all together and can sew in a zipper that fixes up your broken heart without missing a single, organic, freshly juiced kale fueled morning work out. 

Or, you know, maybe not. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Every Atom and Love

I have a meditation practice. It's horrible. I have a horrible meditation practice. It does not seem to matter how many books I read or classes I take or malas I hold. It's terrible.

I feel like I have to say to my practice, "It's not you, it's me. Totally me." 

So here I was this morning, sitting, meditating. Of course I had read social media, you know, before, because that's just the shiny draw that social media is. There I saw a post from Marianne Williamson with a charge to go spread love BEFORE you go into the world so it paves your path or something really wonderful like that. 

I sat and did what I've come to call "the gratitude meditation." I notice and give gratitude. 

"Grateful for leaves. Grateful for breeze. Grateful for sun in the leaves. Grateful for the solar panels next door." Seriously. I said I was terrible at this. 

And then I thought about sending love, like Marianne said. What if I did that instead? What if I sent love to my dear ones and beyond, that might be good. It might be better than noticing the solar panels, anyway. 

So I thought about my beloveds; my dear husband and his ever stressful job. My three young adult sons and the spinning transitions: buying a house, crossing the country for grad school, heading away from home for the first time very, very soon--whoosh. Sending big love, paving a path. 

Then I thought about family and dear friends; some sitting by the bedside of critically ill family, some getting married, lots of love smeared across space and time. Whoosh. 

And then to the people of this world; our leaders, our ever marginalized. May love lift each person and let them know that they are valued, treasured, worthy. 

But then, I went to the people who believe that a tyrannical leader is their answer. Love, send them love to know that that's not the way. Love love love. 

Oh but no. My eyes opened and my heart stopped. No. Nope no no. I can't send love to that person who has stood above others. That person who says that he alone can fix this world. No. I can't. 

What? Why? Who says I need to love Donald Trump? I don't think anyone, anyone really loves that person. There is no way. He is unworthy. He has fomented such hate that I truly believe that he is not redeemable.  

So, nope. I can't. 

OK. Moving on. Love the animals, love the oceans. Love the planets and the stars and the ever expanding universe. 

But wait. Do I really believe that every person has worth? Do I? Who am *I**? What is my bottom line. 

OK, OK, OK. Wait. I think, maybe, I can. I can love the atoms in that person's body. The atoms that were created when stars exploded. I can love the hydrogen and the carbon. I can love those basic little parts that are just exactly like the atoms in my body; in the bodies of my beloveds. 

That, I can love. 

Pave the world with love. 

Because really, what other choice do we have. 

Pave the whole world, every bit of it, with love. 


Thursday, August 11, 2016

With Open Eyes

Last night I was driving to a lovely little library out in suburban Orange County. It's like a cross between a plantation and a mansion with grounds that host weddings and big parties. As I exited the insanity that is the 405 during SoCal rush hour, I saw a sign for the University of California, Irvine.

"Hmmm" I thought, "I should take a class at UCI, it's really so close."

Sure. Good idea, right? Take a class.

Except that I AM taking a class at UCI. My second in a series. I had even done a big round of schoolwork earlier in the day, posting on the discussion board and reading two chapters of the textbook.

As I pulled into parking lot I parked back in the spots that are not green or signed with anything. I don't really understand the 22 minute parking zones with the green curbs (22 minutes? really?) in California but I don't need anymore parking tickets.

I had parked in this spot before, the last time I'd come to a meeting at what I keep calling the Katy Perry library because I can't for the life of me remember the actual name. But this time, as I got out, I found myself looking for an easy cross to the parking lot and a path that had no steps to get to the front door. Four months ago I'd crossed this same lot. Then, it was without a thought.

Good health is priceless. But sometimes less-than-good-health sneaks up on you. Maybe you don't notice until you stand at the top of a flight of stairs, hesitant to take the first step because you know it it is going to hurt. Maybe you are tired all the time, but you've been busy. Maybe you don't want to notice.

I have noticed. My rheumatologist rocks and I see her for a three-month follow-up next week. But the little meeting at the Katy Perry library was a wake-up call. I need to start, at least for now, making accommodations.

Grocery delivery, someone else to deep clean at least once a month. More sleep.

And, most difficult of all, open eyes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

May I Wear a Path

It all started yesterday with International Women's Day; I was thinking about the women who have come before me, both the heroes and the humble. I wondered, what on earth does my life have to do with Margaret Fuller and her 19th century intellectual powerhouse of a life?

Nothing. Nope. Not really. I certainly did not suffer from life-long migraines due to being over educated as a child, in fact my intellect was judged to be below standard for the gifted program in my working class elementary school. No tears shed there, if they'd had a spirit filled dreamers gifted class, I'd have been the queen.

We all follow paths worn by the many steps of those who traveled before we pass by. We all shape our lives after those who have come before either knowingly or not. The question is, then, who am I following? Who made this path?

The answer came today during my writing class at church. We were writing on the topic of "Brokenness". The pattern goes that we read a poem and then write a bit and then share if we want to. I'm not even sure who said what, but I began to think about my great grandmother and how the story goes. She was a teenager in Norway when her sister decided to sail for the United States. Apparently letters were coming back from an aunt that things were so wonderful and so fabulous. If Marta would join her sister Severina then Mrs Johnson, the aunt (or cousin? the story twists in my mind) would pay her fare and she could work it off over time. The story goes that the work would be in the house, in the kitchen and while Marta didn't want to go, her family and her sister, and probably if I understand my DNA correctly, her Scandinavian guilt pushed her to sail.

Of course, the work wasn't in the kitchen, it wasn't in the house. It was in the fields; the sweltering tall prairie fields of South Dakota. And there was no early release. She worked for seven years. Now we would call her an indentured servant. One who had to work off her passage for so many years and then was free. But this ancestor woman of mine was never really free. Her whole life, so the story goes, she wanted to go home. She wanted to smell the wet, green air of Norway. She wanted to climb the hills and smell the sea on every breeze.

But, like all of us, life happened. She married a nice German man; a musician. She had two daughters and then years and years later had a son. She never let her daughters into the kitchen to cook a thing and was never, so the story goes, a very warm mother. Then, on May 4th, 1951, while visiting her daughter, my grandmother, she died.

This is the path I feel beneath my feet. Here are my ancestor women who nursed their babies and rocked them to sleep. The path of the my grandmothers grandmothers who lived as best they could and gave their children the best they could manage. The thousands of dinners set on the table, and hundreds of celebrations of holidays. The cooking and cleaning and managing and making do. I feel those dear ones in my body. They worked so hard and felt such loss. We have had so much leaving and loss on this path. We still do. You and me. Here in this world, we love and live and while maybe our plowing is different now, we still are working so so hard to do the very best we can.

And yet, and yet, I am able to have a bank account and credit and a college degree and I can vote. I have legal rights to my children beyond and outside my marriage (OK, OK, my children are grown men, but go with me here) and for goodness sake I married a man outside my religion and my race! I have a different life.

My path follows the dear worn way of my fore-mothers and it goes so much further. It's almost like I have a secret jetpack that allows me to walk and walk and then when faced with a cliff I don't have to soldier on as best I can. I have a new path, but not really. I have the "leap" button on the path, maybe that's it. I have more powers.

We have learned so much. The women I am drawn to honor are the ones who lived the daily life of getting by and getting on. Some of my other women ancestors were not simple women, but troubled and complicated. Their love for their children is hard to see in the stories told. I carry those paths in my cells, too.

So today, with my writing friends in my writing class I wrote the story of how my great grandmother might have felt. How this was not what she'd planned, how she never wanted to come to the great plains and always, always, always missed home. She pined. I wrote about the ripples of that life-long misery.

Women who are not my ancestors still pine, still get stuck, still become trapped in situations which are not fair nor just. Today. All over. Even where things should be better. And, of course they should be better every where.

Let me honor Marta and her sisters and our cousins everywhere. May my feet wear a path worthy of those who may follow.

May it be so.