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Archive for the ‘sadness’ Category

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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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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It’s been a day.  A good one, mind you.  But short short short naps.  Wailing, screaming, pillow-over-the-rail-of-the-crib tantrums & tears.  At least 47 minutes of it, from when I started tracking the time.  And this surprising rage welling up from somewhere deep inside me.  Mind travels a million miles an hour over that talk that I must have immediately with his father, who, I think, should maybe even come and pick him up for the night.  Because if OWL had a bed over there, if he napped OWL when he was supposed to nap and didn’t feed him to sleep and so on….  Well, my little prince would be sleeping soundly on his own.  All bullshit, I know.  At least 93% of it.  Truth is, I was unable to maintain our boundaries around sleep.  I chose comforting the achey mouth with 4 new teeth and molars pushing the pink gums to white and the runny nose.  In my bed.  Instead of letting him cry it out.  Alone.  In the dark.  In the walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom with no window or heater (not that my heat is on either).

All struggle.  Can’t get a word in edgewise.  No calming.  My requests for him to lay down so I can rub his quivering back unheard.  Rage seeping up from top of my rib cage and the bottom of my lungs.  And I look and see this glow in the dark skeleton, with an enormous head in proportion to its green glowing bones, throwing fits and weaving and stomping.  Laugh and cry, hand over mouth.  Another example of farce disguised as tragedy, although in my laughter I still feel the seething rage.  That forever feeling saying I cannot handle these moments.  The humor and anger holding the space, each looking at the other.  Not competing, but not giving way either.  Each holds its presence.

Meditate my way through the anger.  Put on water to boil and steep the tea.  Light evening blessing incense, thinking that the night could use any sort of offering.  And I sit.  The rage emerges so strong it burns and radiates from my chest.  Like throwing a rock through a window.  But only for a moment, and it quickly dissolves into a sadness.  A deep sobbing sadness that reaches back through the years, the decades even, and finds me as a frightened child.  An unworthy daughter.  An untrustworthy friend.  A never-to-be artist.  An unloveable lover.  An average student.  A failed wife.  A struggling single mama.  This moment so alive and far-reaching.

I desperately need to do my homework, which I’ve been trying to do all weekend.  A last-minute drop opened my wait list space in a UW program – great news.  But I missed the first class, and I have that wrong side of the bed feeling about that.  Quite a task just getting the books that evening, hauling a sleepy OWL out in the cold in the big stroller after dinner.  Next night he won’t sleep until I lay down with him, lights off, my book away.  Mr. Short naps these past 3 days.  No time no time no time.

In sitting, this is what I see.  This program is the first thing I am doing for me, just me, in a very long time.  It’s new.  Going through with it, I am committing to the discipline of learning, to working on my work.  Honing my craft that means so much to me I spent years ignoring it out of fear.  Not just first thought best thought not good enough stop trying.  I’m stepping out of my OWL bubble and in to a world where there are – imagine this – people.  Which means opening myself up to who knows what.  Our world treats the homeless shopping cart radio man the same way we treat our friends and the co-op employees we see everyday.  OWL embraces each leaf and rock and tree stump and utility vault cover as spectacular.  He babbles and I endlessly explain the world.  The difference between trees and bushes.  Why we don’t run in the street.  He makes his own version of signs for meat, butterfly, cracker, cookie, and juice.  I reinforce with praise, and make the sign properly but without correcting him.  It is so sweet, so humbling, so tender a place to inhabit.  But in my recent glimpses of the so-called real world, I experienced such hostility.  Degrading chatter disguised as humor.  Possessive body language slamming the doors of connection.  And now I see my task ahead.  To carry out the simplicity of knocking letter magnets off the refrigerator.  Maintain that openness.  Hold the space for the tantrums and wonder.  Remain awake.

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*day one.  flying.  25 Sept 10*

Wet sadness held court just behind my eyes.  Brushing my teeth.  Shaking rice crumbs out of OWL’s pjs & placing them in his overnight bag.  Picking a half chewed piece of beet off the bottom of my rough foot.  Hiking him down the hill to papa’s nest, to his nest with his papa.  Watch them play.  OWL asks for keys & inserts one (likely the same one each time, which he does with my keys, always choosing the apartment key over the others) into the cabinet with a missing knob.  Take one last picture, his new “I LIKE TRAINS” tee-shirt tight against his full tummy.  Cry & laugh & kiss my goodbyes for the next 6 nights.  Fall into the ex’s hug in fear & sadness & longing.  Never afraid of flying until last night.  If something happens, how will he know how much I love him?  How will he feel the mama’s love I know he’ll need every day of his life, good and bad and sad and everything in between?  Wipe my eyes walking to the bus.  On the bus, my lower eyelids a dam ready to spill over the edge.  From the train I text my girlfriend, a super-mama with a 10 week old, and ask her to keep up with OWL if something happens.  So he knows what a mama is like, what she sees and how she loves like no one else.  The dam breaks.  My life these days measured in the time between tears on public transit….

Fly eye to eye with Mt Rainer, blue magic walls coated in snow, holding the view steady and strong as the other mountains move behind it and away.  It amazes me. I know someone who’s summited, stood at this very peak and looked back out at the world.  Something I never really wanted to do, but sitting there, staring at eye level, I understand the desire.  I know I’ve been climbing my own mountains lately, but damn.  I bet that one has a better view.  Fly over Wyoming, over the Tetons on the opposite side of the plane so I cannot really see them.  It was here that OWL became his living swimming pre-self.  Where I felt so indescribably alive and energized by the air & skies & moons & starts.  History floods and cuts through me like the canyons chiseling the landscape.  Ledges and buttes giving way to hills green and rising like the folds of a soft blanket giving way to puckered earth.  I have to get back here.  Soon.  Next fall, I decide.  With OWL.  (Who’s up for an amazing road trip?) Fly into Colorado, the setting sun rests on the western slopes of the Rockies, reflecting a pink-tinged yellow, casting deep shadows over entire valleys.  On the Denver ground I recall a phone conversation, then-husband still driving through Kansas (which he was doing when I took off from Seattle a few hours before).  I feel and see the open  atrium where it occurred (on my end) before I reach it and when I do it is with a sinking heart.  This is where it began.  That trip.  The end of that summer.  The one that changed everything for better or for worse.  I turn my phone back on.  Picture comes through of OWL and his papa, snuggling on the fake fur blanket.  My little family.  But not really a family.  Just my piece and his piece of our now separate families.

I slow down and name the sadness.  And the fear.  This trip, in this moment and not 2 years ago, is about a new beginning for me.  There is no immediate decision to make.  But the next few days are about my eyes & my feel & my questions.  My future.  My potential.  My next steps.  If I love it, how can I make the choice to leave?  To pull OWL away over miles & mountains & a days drive?  And if I don’t love it, will there ever be anything out there that fits?  A place for me to grow & learn?

*day two.  wandering distractions.  26 Sept 10*

Morning & early afternoon lost to the drone of wheels against highway.  Full of heat. Low blood sugar.  Hitting reset only to wander the streets and shops in blindness. Picking up a few needed things here & there (like a new hat, which my fortune a few months back suggested I do, for a “new look”).  Sushi alone.  The wasabi and the maki pull me out of daydreams and back to the present.  Realize I spent the entire day distracted by art & soft things & beautiful fabrics & books & debit cards.  A way of walking without really looking or feeling.  “Good information,” I hear my therapist say.  “Great to get the message,” I hear my Monday night MI say.  Second reset. Need to let this place in, let it penetrate.  I need all the information my wisdom can gather.  This decision needs a place of clarity to come from my heart. Wisdom I need to see the direction my path twists and turns at this point.  Note these distraction are nothing new.  Some are fun & exciting, like my new hat. Others sad & destructive, like feeling ganged up on and put down by the people there to help when I was in labor.  And I let that go too, same as my day of distraction.  Back to the moment.  To the cheap chewy unagi on the end of my disposable chopsticks.  In coming back to the moment, there is no traveling forwards from the past or backwards from a fantasy.  I just arrive.  The weight of the fish in my hand, my breath disintegrating into the room all around me.

Driving back.  Exhausted by the day.  Catch a glimpse of a gold sphere emerging briefly from behind a grove of tall trees. Disappears.  I wonder aloud if it’s the Great Stupa (which, I still mistakenly think is in Boulder instead of 2+ hours northwest), majestically lighted in the dark September Colorado sky of 8:30 pm.  Crest the hill and find the waning harvest moon, so low on the landscape, like a building rising out of the earth and not a mass hovering and rotating above it.  Laugh at loud.  This is the essence of a moment.  Being surprised & taken not only by the light of the moon (which is ordinary even when putting on a show like this), but also being surprised that it is the moon in the first place!

Back at home base I look up directions to the Shambala Mountain Center.  Discover it is in Red Feathers Lake, not Boulder.  Over 2 hours away.  After my day of distractedly doing nothing, with a full schedule of “real” events starting midday tomorrow.  I should have been hiking the land and meditating my ass off in the stupa and….  So so so much is rising up in me.  So much without words.  After putting the pieces of three harvests moon together, there is so much behind every thought & movement.  Behind every landscape.  In every shadow & highlight.  A quality of hot hot heat and remembering.  Aching and moisture I cannot spare in this dry air.  I need desperately to go.  My super-mama friend assures me that is worth the drive for even a short stay.  Agrees it is a great space for me to visit now, after my day of distraction, a year after my husband left, two years since dawning OWL’s existence, in this part of the country, nonetheless.  Set my alarm for 6 am.

*day three.  the great stupa & a school.  27 Sept 10*

So much in this day!  Cook scrambled eggs and steep green tea.  Eat standing up. Slice an apple.  Pack walnuts, dried mangos.  Wash my dishes.  Honey for the tea. On the road.  Hard place to be the driver.  So much beauty in the mountains and bales of hay.  Horses flipping tails.  US 287 N to CO-14W.  Poudre Canyon Highway. A miracle.  Driving through this canyon, the river running seamlessly alongside, hugging the curves of the road and the looming formations, greenest of green hills ahead.  Bob Dylan singing Knocking on Heaven’s Door comes on NPR.  A song I’ve never liked all that much, so perfectly timed & inserted, so perfectly sung….  A new favorite.  More songs pass through the background without notice.  Cellos come into focus as I turn up the narrow dirt road leading up & up & up.  Remarkable sound. Quaking yellow leaves.

Hike under morning sun, among hoofed prints and chipmunks, distant birds, a brief visit from a pileated woodpecker.  Open the door to the stupa, empty and unlit, and say, out loud, “Holy shit” at the 18-foot buddha sitting on his lotus, vitakra mudra. Cold floor glides under my feet.  Eyes fixed ahead and upward.  Shrines & photos & guest book &….  Ground rolls and moves underneath my toes.  Awake!  Nice touch, this feeling of the earth I stand on every second of my life with little thought or effort.  Like a good student, I sit in Shamatha for at least 5 minutes.  Contemplate the weeks’ assignment, again.  Is there anything that does not change?  Is there a stable ground or foundation of all things & all experiences? Recall my recent revelation that I have nothing to do with who OWL is – he just amazingly is who he is.  Think of the parallel to basic goodness.  Birds & bees & trees & canyons & streams.  Summer fading.  Onset of Fall setting the stage for Winter.  Spring flowers digging in and waiting for their time to re-emerge.  Unchanging essence.  I have nothing to do with that either.  Just a part of it.  Same way I am part of OWL & he is part of me.  Indistinguishable, really.  My mama responsibility lying in creating and holding that space for him to flourish & grow & become his best self.  An active idleness.  Not engineering hopes & fears & story lines.  Letting him be in the world, working through it, teaching & helping & loving.  Providing tools.  Knowledge. Sharing wisdom.  And so too it is, with this home we all share.  With each other & birds & bees & so on.  In this current state of the world & affairs & the planet, I have the responsibility of stewardship.  Letting things be in the world to work as designed requires action.  Intervention.  Restoration.  That is my place.  My part.  Where I fit. This is one of those things mamahood & OWL were meant to teach me.

Nighttime open house.  Walk among small cottages, a greenhouse with foliage spilling out.  Small speeches and information.  A manuscript in poems.  More poems in a different voice.  Drinking in that cool mountain air & elevation like Kool-Aid.

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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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