24 April 2015

Both Sides Now

Tomorrow, my son turns 37. Can it be that despite a strong feeling of déjà-vu and (I'd swear) crystal-clear memory, I have never posted a blog on the anniversary of my son's birth?

I suspect my memory is accurate but either the post was deleted a year or so ago when I was cleaning up the blog with an eye toward turning it into a book; or the reflection was recorded in the Journal I kept for decades before launching this .... journal/blog.

On 25 April 1978, at 6:33 a.m., I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and my life was forever changed. Cliché?  Yes. And, also, true. I didn't sleep the night before because I was in labor. After spending nine months in, what was for me, a blissful altered state, a coworker dropped me on the doorsteps of a hospital to undergo 12 hours of the most intensely uncomfortable and challenging psychic and physical experience of my life, alone. At the end of the ordeal, I stood in the world as a mother and stepped forward into all the glory and heartbreak that role carries. 25 April 1978 was the start of a new era for me.

The effect of that night-into-day birthing experience changed the way I looked at the world and myself. Specifically:  the pain and the loneliness of the experience left an indelible mark. The perceived lessons were "Never rely on anyone else" and "People always, ultimately, abandon you."

I remember gazing out the window from my hospital bed, feeling amazed and invincible. Now I can do anything, I thought, by which I meant that after going through what I went through without companionship or guidance, I could endure anything the world threw at me from that point on.

As it has turned out, the labor of childbirth has not been the stiffest challenge of my life. Or, perhaps, in the interim I have developed strengths sufficient to triumph over more daunting challenges...

24 April 2015:  I sit on the back porch of a little house in Northern MS, waiting for work men who are at this point an hour and a half late, after a near-sleepless night. It was not physical travail that robbed me of sleep this time but psychic ("of or relating to the human soul or mind; mental (opposed to physical)"; Dictionary.com) turmoil. The catalysts: one, my housemate informed me last night that he wants to terminate our living arrangement; and, two, a friend sent email thanking me for a thank-you gift I made to her but declining to accept it, offering to ship it to me for redistribution.

No surprise that my birth-bed reflections return -- "Never rely on anyone else" and "People always, ultimately, abandon you." 

I came to MS to live in a house owned by a friend and, from that base, jointly launch an artist retreat and conference center. His announcement last night came after many months of tense cohabitation and felt, in that moment, like one more proof of the gigantic error I made moving here from CA in 2012. Nothing I hoped for has come to pass and much that I would not desire has become the defining status quo for my life.

The separation is, ostensibly, a mutually agreed upon strategy for "saving the friendship" but haunting questions continue to swirl. What is friendship? Do we have one to save? Is the ache in my heart proof that our relationship is something more than persistent respectful regard or just a measure of my emotional fragility?

The occurrence of these questions is also not surprising. Those who know me or read this blog will recognize this insecurity about "friendship" (and "love" by extension or extrapolation) as a recurrent motif in my thinking and life experience.

Who can remember when it happened? Was it after the third or the 30th time that someone I loved left me?  After which instance witnessing the disintegration of something I thought would last forever did I begin to suspect that I am the Reason and take on the identity "The One No One Can Love"? (It feels very, very old as I hear my mother's voice in my head saying, again, "If everybody but you believes it, it must be true" which over the years has distorted and translated into "If everybody leaves, there must be something wrong with me.")

It is both arrogant and ignorant to think this way. Everybody is an exaggeration. And fundamental to wisdom traditions I embrace is the appreciation of the transience of ALL things, not the least human relationships. It is the way of human psychology to place oneself at the center of every event and assume either the role of monster or victim.

And we are also "wired" to long for something reliable and lasting and to believe that a thing must last in order for it to have value or be true.

Today I learn, again, that nothing lasts forever. That nothing and no one can be known completely, only understood a little more and a little more with the passage of time.

And something else, some other lesson or awareness that feels both closer AND more far-reaching. Something that feels like part of my spiritual and physical DNA.

I'd call it "intuition" but it feels bigger and less personal than "intuition." "Trust people to be who and what they are" is part of it. And "trust your gut" is another part of it. 99% of the time, as something falls apart or someone leaves or a promise is broken, I catch a whiff of a scent I recognize. it was there when the thing began. I gaze unblinking at a gaping hole and remember the dangling thread I noted in the same spot when we started; and remember an inkling that I pushed to the back of awareness on Day One; an evidence I early denied...for any of a number reasons that we deny what we "know."

A beloved therapist/guide/teacher once compared life experience to a spiraling orbit, coming back round again and again to particular issues and interests and lessons; never retracing the orbit precisely but rather tracing a slightly higher or lower or wider path each time around.

The lessons I digest today are familiar in flavor and texture.

And also....new. I was 5 years old when I returned home from kindergarten to discover the caravan to the zoo had left without me. A broken promise and an abandonment. I'm 60 years old now as I contemplate the dissolution of what's been "home" for 3 years. It evokes memories of the 5-year-old disappointment but, unlike that day, I shed no tears and I don't cry out or collapse on the floor. There's less outrage. Some kind of strength, I guess.

Am I any less mystified?

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
…I really don't know life at all
---Joni Mitchell, "Both Sides Now"

22 April 2015

Earth Day

 I remember less and less about those days. There aren't a lot of photos. I had a Polaroid camera, can't remember the name but it was one of the first popular, instant picture models. The film was expensive so I didn't take many pictures.

What I remember from Earth Day 1970 is the pledge I took to never litter again. I held by that pledge for over 30 years and haven't littered more than twice since that day. And I remember feeling a great hopeful excitement about the future:  the idea that everybody everywhere in the World cared about the same thing just blew my 16-year-old mind.

The Earth was mostly an abstract concept. My family didn't spend much time outdoors. We didn't camp or hike or swim. We didn't have pets. Gardening was something my parents did for a few years before their marriage ended; we kids didn't participate in it and after the divorce my mother hired an old man to do lawn care every couple weeks.

I was finishing my sophomore year at New Albany High School. The highlight of that year was running away from home in January. I was only gone about a week and I hadn't gone far, just across the river to Louisville KY. My family played it down but it made a splash in my school/social life by diminishing my reputation as a goody-two-shoes, a reputation that had grown cumbersome and restrictive.

That Earth Day is still celebrated 45 years hence is a source of encouragement, sweetening my mostly disheartened expectations for the World. I am viewed as something of an outsider by some people but will apparently never achieve the mysterious, dangerous renegade status I once aspired to.

Earth Day still inspires and energizes me in a way I don't understand and can't explain. Anticipating the day was enough to stir me from sleep this morning and, so far, I'm enjoying a sense of wholeness and well-being today.  Wade's birthday is the 25th and, as usual, Earth Day stimulates reflections on the day of his birth....

15 April 2015


Just a note for myself here. In the event I should find myself having a hard time and feeling really low.  Today is not one of those days and here's a getting giddy recipe that apparently works:

  • a new pair of pants of some mystery fiber that makes you want stroke your own leg over and over
  • a bra that fits with matching panties
  • olives soaked with rosemary leaves
  • Brazilian coffee
  • no make-up
  • sun breaking through after two days of rain
  • temperature above 65 degrees
  • playing bossa nova music on piano
I feel tall and happy and solid.

Some of the ingredients are difficult to find, depending on the season.

*Will try to remember to devise a winter recipe....

12 April 2015

A Bra That Fits

Today I spent more money on lingerie than I have ever spent, at one time, on outer wear.

And I love my new bras.

They fit.

I think perhaps I have never owned a bra that fit me. The experience is blowing my mind.