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Posts Tagged ‘single parenting’

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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Cool morning warm day cold night.  Scarf and coat to none to leggings.  Sleep-weary too early, OWL runs through the park across the street under the faded day, steps up and steps down low stairs on his own two feet.  No knees.  No big hands holding his tiny hands lifting & steadying.  His body sways and balances.  About face at the top and down.  Something new.  Just today.  Shriek & go-go-go to the alley.  Big hands call & make freeze.  Learning the boundaries, an edge of predictable safety. Planes as lights in the darkening sky.  Tramping along the garden path, learning boundaries set by twine & enforced by big hands.  Walk benches like a tightrope, small hands holding big index fingers.  Smiles in the dark.  Lap-sitting and snuggles on the cool concrete.  Skips the bath for a bottle.  Stories in mama’s bed.  The Ear Book.  Owl Babies.  Who Hoo Are You? Diaper & PJ’s & Goodnight Moon. Rolling snuggles.  Lullabies.  15 seconds of tears.  Sleep.

Garbanzo beans begin their evening soak on the stove.  Tomatoes red & yellow & purple & green ripen on the windowsill, inching towards the altar.  Tomorrow we bake a chicken and beans with yogurt sauce & smoked paprika.  Need to buy more tomatoes.  Cookies if I pull it all together.  This is the mama I want to be.  Prepared. Cooking & baking.  Fresh food.  Made with love.  With care & mindfulness.  With small hands stirring veggies as they saute, mixing flour & salt, nibbling chocolate chips, cutting shapes from freshly rolled sheets of dough.  Tomorrow, I think I can pull it off.  Even though I sleep to a sink full of dirty dishes and dream about SF’s 50-lb bag of flour & non-existent glass jars full of pasta & cornmeal.

OWL’s appetite graduates to teenager.  He sneaks off with 2 pears, one right after the other, out from the fruit bowl & into the living room.  Eats them both entirely. Including most of the seeds from the 2nd one since it was hidden from my view longer than the 1st.  Dinner plate full of turkey sausages & chard & yogurt.  2 cups of water.  Slice of almond butter toast before bed, eaten like a cat.  Face & mouth & tongue & no hands.   The bulk of yesterday spent scrambling eggs, slicing up cheese & plums, toasting crumpets, sauteing squash (from SF’s garden), cutting tofu into squares, dishing up 3 servings of pasta….  16 months today, but I cannot imagine him any other way.  “Old” videos prove me wrong.  Learning to crawl, inching & grunting forward off a blanket.  Fingers clumsily find a chunk of avocado and rub it across his once-chubby face.  Fingers and fruit finally find mouth.  One tooth vs the now 6.  Crawling now a novelty, an act undertaken with great laughs.  Forks & spoons & open cups.  The banana-lock on the back right side of his head made by many meals & a dislike of wet soapy hair.

Another day.  Beans cooked before 9:30 am, scents the apartment with an earthy sweetness.  Talk on the phone with a good friend that I miss even though we are less than 10 miles apart, prepare and bake the chicken.  Drop the raw breast halves (yes, plural), on the floor.  Forget to reserve some of the spice mixture for the chicken.  Forget to add the salt.  So much for made with mindfulness. But the baking is at least completed.  And she was the only one who called about the latest articles in the papers, and it felt good to talk, even when I was spinning backwards in time.  Sometimes reopening things brings compassion and dissolution.  Funny word. Tomorrow the house forecloses.  Working to finish the divorce before a January trial date.  Ugh.  Ready for closed chapters already.  Ready to untether.

What are you afraid of? I am afraid of what I cannot provide my son.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? I am afraid of being a single parent.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? I am afraid of never working again.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? Decisions that I need to make.  Decisions that impact my son, my future, my ex.  Grad school.  Moving.  Moving him away.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? That things will never change.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? Bell rings.  Exchange stops.  Silent.

Contemplate.  Bring the fear closer.  Gentle.  Explore.  Accept.  Open.  My fear diminishes, although it doesn’t disappear, as I feel myself say the words out loud. Air passes through my throat.  Sound emerges.  Audible breath.  I hear my voice. Eyes and eyelids and cheeks feel the tears.  The heat.  The clenching lungs.  The taste of salt.  But in the silence that follows my confessions, I cannot recall my fears, their feel & presence & my experience.  I sit in silence and think of kissing.  Not anyone in particular, just the peculiar nature of two pairs of lips meeting, tasting, playing, exploring.  Teeth and tongues.  Softness and sweetness and dry skin. Placement of hands.  What the leafy shadows outside on the rail would look like cast across two necks leaning towards each other.

Walk downstairs.  OWL toddles among the legs, clad in airplane PJ’s, tote bag full with his shirt & pants.  His cheeks rosy red from the cool outside and sleepiness.  I catch his eye & he smiles, teeters forward, shows me his bag.  I slide the straps over his shoulder and he prances forth, back the way he came.  He eats cookies and sips my cooled tea.  Follows SF into the bathroom, TA chases him from the kitchen with smiles & giggles, and he climbs the couch to visit RR & D.  He runs circles.  I stand in place, roar as he passes.  He laughs that OWL laugh.  He is home here.  Comfortable eating & playing & hanging out while mama sits upstairs confessing her fears and practicing the presence of mind he masters without a thought, without a second guess.  Roar again as he passes and know.  This is all worth while.

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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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The days are roaring by.  The rain feels like it’s setting in for its seasonal stay, with bursts of afternoon sun allowing for barefoot puddle splashing and early evening strolls to the bookstore.

There was a moment late this morning where the rain held a rich presence.  Laying down shaped like a C snuggling around OWL’s sleep resistance, listening to two new shastris, the rain making the most intense sound.  Like beads falling from the sky in perfect formation.  Intentional.  Life giving.  Like auditory oxygen.  Thirty seconds of pure sound where there was nothing separating me from the rain from the empty zabuton from OWL’s wiggling torso from the cherry trees and their yellowing tooth-tinged leaves from the acres of spider web from the sleepiness that was descending from friends & strangers from the chickens we visited on our walk to the morning’s festivities….  A moment of sheer awake.  OWL’s resistance wins as he crawls his way from my arms and I sit up to my sister’s tears saying how much she misses her mother.  Just felt her in the rain.  It is that kind of rain. Taking my first oath, with OWL’s left foot plunged down my shirt as I read my commitments aloud, and the rain, alive and pregnant, dancing around us all and dissolving the boundaries.  A glimpse of life without a top.

And then there was sun.  Beautiful and glowing and high.  69-degree sun with a sky speckled in white clouds.  OWL splashing barefoot & pants free in the patio puddles as we eat and drink champagne.  He nibbles bites of beets & quinoa & pears & bread & cheese between the puddles and the rocks, between my lap and running free.  He climbs up his first step on his own two feet and still crawls down backwards.  He walks in the long grass, imitates passing airplanes, visits the trees and their raised mossy roots.  And, when it was time to go, he signs “socks” as I slip his warm stained feet into the striped cotton.  We walk an urban trail through an alley restored with wood chips and tall native vegetation until we come across a laboring cat.  He smiles & giggles & shrieks meows.  We drink homemade lemonade from a styrofoam cup purchased for $1 from a corner stand staffed by 2 very serious little girls, a small river flowing from the corner of his lips to the folds of his neck. Walking up to the front steps of our apartment under the glow of sun, a soft, full and steady rain drizzles down.  Quiet like a breeze.  OWL toddles the incline, hands on his head, growling in delight at the sensation.  The cat, left outside all morning, is not so delighted at OWL’s slow pace in climbing the hill, crawling each step with the effort of a long day with little sleep and a wet diaper.

Inside, I watch him devour book after book after book, pulling each one off his shelf in the living room. Toting more out from his walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom. Delivering, with such clarity, Dr. Seuss’ ABC The Amazing Alphabet Book to the kitchen where I am preparing his afternoon snack.  We sit on the floor.  I read this book aloud for the 23rd time today (and not the last), and bribe him into the highchair by placing it on his tray with two slices of avocado.  I turn to finish grating the cheese, and by the time I’m sprinkling it on the corn tortilla in the skillet, he is signing (new since yesterday) and saying (new new at the moment) “more” and staring down at an empty plate.

During dinner I scratch down a laundry list of things OWL did today.  New things and funny things and heartwarming things.  Those lines, in all the beauty and love and living they entail, also show a loneliness.  It is hard to bear sole witness to so much. Heartbreaking.  I call the ex-husband to arrange tomorrow’s exchange.  To report the new and share information from OWL’s doctor.  He answers on the first ring.  I hear a familiar ache in his voice.  A deep sadness.  A sadness that I want to wrap myself around like a warm blanket.  Like a safety net.  Like the same way I want to turn my head and ask, “Did you just see that?”  and catch one of OWL’s new tricks at the same time, bear joint witness in the same room.  The changing of the seasons, he says.

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