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Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

The nature of grief, or at least mine, presents itself as cyclical. Seasonal. Marked by the harvest moons of pregnancy and breaking up, followed by would-be anniversaries that bookend OWL’s birthday, which is also the day of my haunted delivery into mamahood, a day of immense joy & gratitude joined by the rattle & hiss of an unshakeable failed start. And from this place, the world moves forward. I am motionless.

Is there a slogan for that?

Yup, Sarah replies. Transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi*.

Mishaps. I say.

Love of all kinds is kind of a giant glorious mishap, eh?

And she lists the last 9 years of my life, my loves and disappointments, vows and friends lost to miles, and sends me a picture of grey skies and apple blossoms. I cry for the 7th time in 2 hours.

This morning nausea spread from behind my eyes and into my throat, hunger pangs, chills and fever. After an extra hour of sleep and pills, I put on a dress with a fancy sweater and scarf, leggings and boots to meet the dreary June rain, earrings and makeup, bravely applied mascara that is now long gone.

My words are hollow, circular. I cannot believe there is still so much letting go. Always there is letting go.

(* bodhi = wakefulness)

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I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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The present was the first to go, an abrupt drop off the face of the earth as I thrashed in the chaos of new motherhood and a husband who stopped sleeping in the house and drove deep into every historic insecurity I held with words so sharp they can still sting.

I look out over my past, and I can barely see myself in it. All my thoughts and experiences and successes and growth and failures and risks were just erased, as if they don’t get to come with me and be a part of who I am right now, in this very moment.

And now, I see the future that I always thought was just around the corner slip away too. I loose myself again as I see it played out with other players. I watch my son in someone else’s life, recognize his mannerisms and moves, and wonder what I can give him. Because when I try to visualize my future, I can’t see anything. I held on and out for this future that will never happen, no matter how many corners I turn. It never was and now it’s gone for good. Another thing to let go.

The present.
The past.
And the future too.

Tears fall all through yoga as I twist and flow, release from my hips and my low belly. A feeling of sadness and mourning without a story. Images come and go, like clouds through my mind, dissipating as quickly as they appear. Release without blame, without guilt, without the storyline. Tears all through dharma class as I wonder if I have the strength to make it, to be fearless and wise, to relate deeply, to find compassion and joy.

Today I stand on the verge of tremendous change, but I don’t know which direction to turn and explore. A new curiosity arises as I wonder where the path, the continuation that builds the future moment by moment, is leading. It’s a passive curiosity, but for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in my life.

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NOVEMBER 11th

Time moves slow.  The ache of the heart a long slow cracking after the initial break.  Thousands of aftershocks that travel across a year, add months, count the days.  New mistakes stream in and stretch out inside the ravines, touch the canyon walls, and flow on top of the scars.

Take stock of the present.  Orange lamp hangs overhead and casts its familiar glow on the pillow and couch, on my fingers as they move over keys and trace lines in my journal.  Silent apartment, save the passing the planes and occasional scuffing of boots on the sidewalk or wheels turning over wet leaves.  Yesterday’s breakfast pan soaks in the sink.  A cold beer on the windowsill.

From my ledge I see other people in the open sky.  The vast space around them as they touch hands, unwrap gifts from tissue paper, smile in ways that communicate the complexity of joy and sadness and living.  I see what I hoped for in my life and my family and my love, and know that it didn’t complete me the way I thought it would, the way I wanted and needed, because I wouldn’t let myself be whole.  I cannot imagine building a new life, although I know I’m doing it everyday.  Dish by dish, word by word, moment to moment.

2010 harvest moon photographed by chris updegrave

Notice that my body marks its own time, with signals that fall outside the calendar of dates and anniversaries.  Another harvest moon rises and pins me to the spot, to the moment.  Memories stored in the quality of light, released by the Fall chill settling in the air.  The memory of organs swell the body.  The well of sadness opened by the senses and the body’s recollections.  But this time there is a quiet joy marching alongside.  It’s new and weak at times, but gaining strength and momentum.  I stand on this edge and my lungs clench.  I see the size of my wounds, so long in the making and don’t know if I can cross to the other shore.  If the scars can soften and stretch and let in the light and air.  I hear another bottle break on the sidewalk outside through the closed window and know there will be something to clean up in the morning.

Time moves fast.  OWL’s growth, so ordinary and so exceptional, impossible to track.  Loose notes on the calendars waiting to be transcribed into a baby book.  The feel of those moments so vivid at the time hardly seem describable now.  Watch as baby C, now 4 months old, gorillas sits with his fists on the floor as he slumps forward, and marvel as he pops up.

NOVEMBER 7th

In the morning after a previously amazing day and an evening spent writing in tears, I lay across my bed and mark what is right.  What is going well.  A two page list in columns, turquoise ink.

OWL is healthy.
He talks & talks & signs.
Trots around with little stroller.
Sleeps clutching books like The Secret Life of Plants and Crime & Punishment.
We have heat.
The cat snuggled me through last night’s sadness.
I can read.
I have a practice.
I write.
I walk and run, and sometimes cartwheel.
OWL stomps through puddles in frog rain boots.
OWL & baby A hold hands.
He kicks a ball.
I laugh, cry & feel.
Sweep the floors that ground us.
Cook the food that nourishes us.
We ride buses.
Have teeth to brush.
Bodies to wash.

On the cushion later that morning, the sangha shoulder to shoulder in staggered rows, I open without cracking.  I carry myself back up to that eye-level view of Mt Rainier, and sense my presence among the other mountains, my icy peaks rising above the blankets of green.  The sky passes and mingles, the clouds appear and dissipate.  And I think, I could do this anywhere.  On my feet.  In a courtroom.  At breakfast.  I can be this mountain among mountains anytime.  Struck by the sheer confidence of the open sky.

By nightfall, I slip back down.  Self-arresting, I land not at the bottom, but catch myself in a point of utter aloneness that is sad but not sorry.  It carries me a ways outside the room.  To a place without walls.  All I want is OWL in my arms, in this room, among these friends.  Wait anxiously as the openness battles the rising fear of seeing the ex in the coming exchange.  The fear of directly seeing the embodiments of my failures and success from the open sky where my heart beats raw and tender.  I feel exposed by the moment where everyone around me seems transformed and held by something that I’m not even sure I get.  I feel quiet.  OWL arrives and my world tumbles together and in to pieces all at once.

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A day of touching sadness.  Touching and not turning away.  No running.  Stopping the (in my head) conversations before they ran wild.  Breathing through.  Leaning in.  Moist eyes easily disguised as water from the bright sun.  Squinting down the hill, feeling the heavy mask of sadness as I board the bus.  As I flip through a magazine in the waiting room.

The list of what I want grows longer and longer.  Adding every day.  Someone to help change the crib sheets.  The surprise of an empty kitchen sink.  A grilled steak. Snapped back to the moment by dancing descent of yellow leaves as they catch the sun like coals from a fire and glitter on-off on-off on-off like fireflies but in the blue blue sky of this day.  And I wonder about my list for OWL.  What do I want for him? Health.  Nourishment.  Knowledge.  Confidence.  Love & happiness.  Fearlessness. At home with himself.  To see me happy and….  I don’t even finish the thought in words.  Funny, how that inserts itself into every nook & cranny, every list, every hope & fear.  Almost a year and I am still not comfortable.  This feels a mess.  Divorce.  Foreclosure.  Unemployment.  Living in the land where it seems like everyone is either married or gay.  Or 23.  Flying solo.  Wandering the trails, OWL in pack, while friends hunker down for family time.  Cooking 3 meals a day and at least 2 snacks.  No yoga.

But I also know that we are all very lucky.  No one is being beaten.  Or overfed like the sad 14-month old giant I saw on the bus this afternoon.  Or underfed.  We never worry about where to sleep.  OWL  is surrounded, blanketed, by love and acceptance and encouragement.  He learns.  Absorbs like a sponge.  He watches and imitates and acts.  He is bold.  Independent.  A snuggler.  I talk to his father often.  The three of us have polite family lunches where OWL is the star, even though I am at a slight distance.

But lucky because things could be worse does not always cut it.  Today it doesn’t calm the sting of the sadness.  But it doesn’t pin me to the floor me either.  I look at it and see my fears and hopes for what they really are.  Alone is scary.  Terrifying even.  Mama & OWL do not fit the definition of family I never even knew that I carry so very deeply.  The presence of absence surrounds me, not him.  Because what I want for him is to have my definition of family right here, in our apartment, and this alternative version we have reflects that I cannot give him everything I want. Whether it’s for him or me or for us, I am not enough.  Today, touching that sadness, not turning away and leaning in, I begin to see that this okay.  It may even be good news.  A relief.  I grant myself permission to not be everything.

Looking at OWL through this broken heart, I am learning that I truly have nothing to do with who he is, and yet everything to do with nurturing that being and opening the space for him to flourish.  Introduce him to the world.  Watch him try new things and have the wisdom to let him fall sometimes.  The compassion to wipe away tears, blow on “ouies,” and hold him to my chest when he just needs to scream it off.  And looking at myself through this broken heart, I start seeing the wisdom in a cooling sheet of fresh-baked cookies next to our dinner plates full of tofu, kale, potatoes & corn.  Seeing and tasting and smelling the fruits of our family night.  Permission to redefine it all by looking honestly below the surface and leaning in.  And in those moments of squinting damp eyes and aching, joy joins the sadness as I begin to understand that everything I need, I already have.

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