Open Window. Throw out Ideals. (Part Un)

This is another post from my former blog.  It was written on January 20th, 2009 at 12:54AM.  Can you tell that I am both nostalgic and suffering from Writer’s Block?  Anyhow, it was categorized under “Favorite Posts” among other things and I thought it worthy of reposting, especially since I am hoping to write a post about the same thing 2011-style.  I hope you enjoy!

It’s official.  I plopped my kid in front of the TV so that I could actually get something done around here.  (Ironic after I just wrote a post about the demented self-created world that I inhabit in which chores and false responsibilities take precedence over my family.)

Still, I don’t feel guilty.  In fact, in some ways, I feel liberated.   I’ve never, in the 16 months that I’ve been a mom, sat Silas in front of the TV.  That’s not to say that he hasn’t ever been plopped there.  He has.  In my opinion too frequently.   But not on my clock.

Until tonight.  Oh, honey, forget the Calgon.   Elmo in Grouchland is where the sugar’s at! Read the rest of this entry »

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Bittersweet Returns or Adventures as the Commissioner of Cape Man

I’ve never been great at transitions.  The transition from working full-time to a full-time summer vacation.  The transition from a house filled with a three-year-old to an empty one.  And, then, the transition from an empty house to the return of a house filled with a three-year-old.

While Silas, my three-almost-four-year-old son was away, I was reminded of life before the baby.  Of the freedom to come and go.  Of the time spent with my husband.  Of the space to work and write.  I love my son more than anything in the world, but there was, for me, a sense of loss when my child came into my life.  A struggle to find myself again and to adjust to a life where every move must be planned for and calculated.

Of course, I got used to it.  I learned to embrace the calculating and to replace the vast times alone with my spouse with carving out family times together.  (We  work different schedules to keep the cost of childcare down so sometimes it is difficult.)  I learned to love an entirely new life and to understand the honor of the great responsibility of caring for a child.  It is awesome in every sense of the word.

Still, he was gone for ten days.  I missed him greatly.  But, the freedom set in. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus and Baloo

During a therapy session yesterday, I had a vision of my sister’s body lying dead on our couch.  My two-and-a-half year old sister died of leukemia when I was twelve.  I did, in fact, see her on the couch after she had passed.  While I appreciate my parents inviting me to be part of this dark moment in our lives, seeing her, deceased, was, in many ways, horrific.  I need not go into anymore details.

So, yesterday, in therapy, we were working on something else entirely when this vision popped into my head.   Although it has been twenty-one years since my sister’s death, I still struggle with it at times.  I struggle with the memories and images of her being sick, of our family being heartbroken, of her lying dead on our couch.  These are the types of images/memories that get frozen in our psyche.  The type that pain feeds on.

While I sat there with tears running down my face, my therapist asked me what I might have needed in that moment or what I might need now as I conjured up that moment.  I believe I said something like “an unbiased protector.  A calming source of strength and comfort.”

Of course, she asked me what that unbiased protector might look like.  I thought a moment, staring at a spot on the wall.

The first image that came to mind was of Jesus.  While many of my contemporaries have a beef with the story of Jesus, I myself do not.  I have my own way of looking at this compassionate, giving, forgiving, radical prophet of a man.  I like to say that I’m hip on Christ.

The second image that came up was a she-wolf.  One that would suckle you if you were freezing and hungry in the wilderness.

I quickly abandoned that one.  I don’t know why.

The last image that came into my head, and I laughed when it did because it seemed silly and because I don’t know how long it has even been since I have seen this movie, was Baloo from Disney’s The Jungle Book.

There’s a source of strength and comfort if I ever did see one.

Baloo.  There is something perfect about him being your unbiased protector.  He is both strong and sturdy (because he is a bear) and soft (because he is fat and covered in fur).  He’s full of laughter which might remind one that there is still laughter after tragedy.  He would put his big bear paws around you and hold you tight while you cried all the while holding that space for happiness.

What would it be like to have Jesus on your left side and Baloo on your right?

Last night when I got home– aching to write but trying to entertain company– there was some discussion of animal totems.  I remember being interested in that idea at some point in my life.  Maybe when I was first dating my husband.  Around age 25.

We had seen a lynx in the woods on our first date and I felt like that was some sort-of symbol of our relationship.  (The lynx is the seer of the unseen.  The holder of lost magic.  The guardian of secrets. I don’t know exactly what that meant for our relationship, but I trusted it just the same.)

I like the idea of an unbiased protector, of a totem that gives you strength and special powers.  Even if fantastical and imaginary.  Baloo and Jesus represent compassion and strength and a calming comfort.  They both forgive you your sins and your faults.  They hold for you that space of love and mystery.

I think I will be able to use Baloo and Jesus in the future.  Maybe when I’m feeling depressed or arguing with my husband or feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Good ole Baloo.  Saving Jesus.  How much better could it be?

Twenty-four Brand New Hours

I woke up this morning overwhelmed.  I hate when I start a day like that.   I slept in until 8:45 and then felt like I had very little time to accomplish what I need to accomplish today.  Need to accomplish.  That is a cloud of smoke.  I suppose I don’t need to accomplish anything.

But, here comes the overwhelm.  I do.  I do.  I do.

When I was in the midst of my struggle with postpartum illness, I used to have to make lists at the end of every day.  I had to list everything that I had done that day so that I wouldn’t feel utterly useless.  I would often cry, the crying spilling over into panic, that I was a woman unable of truly accomplishing anything.  The irony was that I was manic.  Not only was I taking care of an infant, and doing it well, I was cleaning, gardening, hiking, working on my Master’s Degree, reading and writing all of the time.  I was involved in programs and was socializing and cooking and cooking.  But, if I hadn’t matched up the socks that day, all hell broke loose.  I would often find myself sweeping well into the wee hours of morning.

I long for that energy again.  I just don’t long for the pain that came with it.

Still, today.  Right now.

I have found myself this year to be highly unmotivated.  Falling asleep at 8:30.  Not wanting to read or clean or write.  I was absolutely horrible at grading papers.  I’ve been eating because of stress.  Or, so I say that is the reason.  I haven’t been exercising.  I haven’t felt creative.  I have been the opposite of my manic self.  Is it the meds?

I was recently out with a group of wonderful women, wonderful mothers.  One remarked that during that period after Silas was born, that period that I was in manic hysteria, that she was in awe of me.  Of course, she didn’t know what was going on in my mind at that time.  When she said that I just started crying.  I am not the person I want to be, I uttered.

Still, in an earlier post I wrote that the prime goal of these ten days was to discover that, regardless of obstacles, I am always the master of my universe.

I am in complete control of my overwhelm.  I can accomplish what I need to accomplish.  At least I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.

To counteract my beleaguered state, I pulled from my shelf The Thich Nhat Hahn collection with Peace is Every Step.  (As a side note, the family member who gave me the collection is the least peaceful, most pained person I know.)  Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, reminds us that every new day is a gift.  That washing dishes should be a meditation.  That each time we wake, we have “Twenty-four Brand-New Hours”.

I should begin this day with gratitude not overwhelm.  I should remind myself of the Kerouac quote that I mentioned in an earlier post: “… and the world opened up to me because I had no dreams.”  I should smile because smiling is infectious and it calms the nerves and it means that I am in control of my emotional state.

I am smiling.  I really am.  You should see me.

I might conquer the laundry, might visit my grandparents, might weed the garden, might write some more after I finish this, might read a little, might take a walk, might go on a date tonight.

I don’t have to do any of those things.  This is my day.  My twenty-four brand new hours.  Let’s just see what it brings.

Almost Infinite Space

I doubt I shall succeed in writing here, I have not the sense of perfect seclusion which has always been essential to my power of producing anything. ~Nathanial Hawthorne at Brook Farm

The room is quiet.  The whole house is quiet.  Quiet save for Paul working on his music.  Listening and re-listening to some guitar tracks he laid down.  It is strange.  It is blissful.

You see, Silas took a trip on the big jet plane today.  He is on a ten day stint with my parents.  Safe, I imagine.  Thrilled, I know.  He has a day of Disney ahead of him, three days in St. Augustine, at least one work day with my father.  He’ll be great.

I miss him already.

Still, Paul and I are in are separate rooms working on our separate creative endeavors.  I have that almost “perfect seclusion” that is “essential to my power of producing anything”.  (In addition to having Silas away, school is just about out for summer.  Only one day left with kids.)  I guess I’m a little stoked.

In about an hour, Paul and I are going to relax into an Italian feast.  Olives, ciabatta, prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, steak, arugula, and wine.  We haven’t had a dinner like that in at least a year.  I think it may have been two years, actually.

But, for the moment, before the dinner, I have this simple, lovely solitude.

So, what to write about now?

I have been wanting to write about, have started writing about, have been thinking of writing about the crippling anxiety that I have been having lately.  But, on such an eve of almost infinite space, it doesn’t seem appropriate.

I started a short story based on my experience in a physically abusive relationship.  Nix on that too.

So, there seems like nothing to write about except space.  This wonderful, passionate space.

What will I do with this space aside from weed the garden, clean the house, and rid the azalea bush in our front yard of the poison ivy that’s choking it?

I can’t seem to conquer the concept that I can do anything.  Come and go as I please.  Aside from being on a limited income, I am now the master of my own universe.

And, aren’t I always?

That is going to be the prime goal of these ten days, of my newfound freedom.  To discover that regardless of obstacles, I am always the master of my universe.

I used to have a Kerouac quote as my screen saver : “and the whole world opened up before me because I had no dreams.”

That is the ticket.  To have no dreams right now.  No expectations.  Just read and read and write and write and exercise a little and weed and spend time with my husband.

I can take back this life that seems to have slipped through my fingers by just living it.  Step by wonderful step.

Let’s see what these days produce.  And, those after.  Let us see.

Olsen’s Silences (Part One)

I must write on this blog.  I must write on this blog.  I must, I must, I must…

I am so tired my eyes hurt and it is only 9:05.  Only.  I could be in bed by 6:30 most work days.  This year has been hard on me and I have often referred to myself as a slug.  (In fact, I think I did that in my last post.)  I have been completely sapped of energy.

Still, I am here.

I am here.

There is this book called Silences by Tillie Olsen.  It is dedicated “For our silenced people, century after century their beings consumed in the hard everyday essential work of maintaining human life…”

Olsen writes of her own silences:

In the twenty years I bore and reared my children, usually had to work a paid job as well, the simplest circumstances for creation did not exist.  Nevertheless, writing, the hope of it, was “the air I breathed, so long as I shall breathe at all.”  In that hope, there was a constant storing, snatched reading, beginnings of writing, and always “the secret rootlets of reconnaissance.”

I am here.

And, I am not alone.

Perhaps, that is all that I can hope for tonight.  The beginnings of writing, the secret rootlets of reconnaissance.  Just being here if only for a moment.

Just one moment, literally, for I am drained and cannot think straight.  (These 253 words have already taken me 40 minutes to write.  My mind is that blurry.)

But, I vow to be back again tomorrow.  To conquer my own silence despite its many strapping fingerlings.

To create the circumstances for creation regardless of my obstacles.

I understand now.  That is my dream.

I leave you with Olsen’s words and with the wish that you, too, find your voice and shout.

Life Unfurling

I am sitting in what we call our “reading room”.  It is supposed to be a quiet, inspirational corner of our 1,200 sq. ft. home, but, alas, it is cluttered with old bills and gift bags and a ridiculous pile of stuffed animals that needs immediate weeding.  One of the bookshelves is littered with makeup and hair confixor and odd bits of jewelry as this room has also become a vanity of sorts ever since our medicine cabinet came crashing down in our single bathroom two months ago.  We are not proud nor are we rich.

I am drinking coffee and waiting for my son to wake up.  I am waiting apprehensively as his waking will inevitably end this post.

I am also thinking of the title of this blog—Life Unfurling—and am promising to you, as well as to myself, that I will not talk about spreading my wings or being ready to emerge from some lonely chrysalis.  At least I will not use those words.

Still, life unfurling.

I was recently befriended on, yes, Facebook, by an old college co-conspirator.  A fellow creative writing student and a woman that I always admired as one who stayed on a true path and was determined and honest and kind.  I googled her and discovered that she had followed out my dreams—had earned her MFA in fiction, was an editor of a widely known college publication, and is now a professor of writing.  I am a middle school teacher who is feeling less and less fulfilled by my career and is finding it hard to find the time and inspiration to write.

My dreams.  What has happened to them?

My son woke up.  More than several hours later…

I am sitting in what we call our “reading room”.  A room filled with bookshelves and journals and a hip set of curtains and a day bed.  The day bed is the sort that can be folded out into a chaise lounge type of deal which is ideal for reading a half-finished book or pondering life for awhile.

I am drinking a beer and am being continuously interrupted by a certain “Cape Man” who wants me to help him fight bad guys.  He wears a fraying cowboy hat that is least one size too large and an old sweatshirt for a cape.  He calls it his superhero costume and rarely leaves home without it.  He has an imagination like his mama.

I was recently befriended on, yes, Facebook, by an old high school partner-in-crime.  A fellow yearbookie and a gentleman who is to be admired for his perseverance and determination.  I didn’t have to google him to discover that he is following my dreams—is being published and is entering writing contests and has an editor for Christ’s sake.  I am a slug of a housekeeper and a mother of one who is often inspired by motherhood but is too exhausted to write.

Still, life unfurling.

I could go on and on about former and current friend success stories.  About Mikey at the Poet’s House and Josh with his own art gallery.  I could even complain about my brother-in-law who must read ten books to my one.

Still, life unfurling.

This is my first step.  This blog.  A project that I started under the name Book n’ Boob (after my experience as a breastfeeding mama and an avid reader) and that has now transformed itself into a symbol of me spreading my writer’s wings and escaping from the lonely chrysalis of doubt and deprivation.  (Yes, I lied to you and will probably now lock myself in the bathroom and scream.)

Seriously, this blog is about the nature of constant change that we undergo.  It is about my motherhood and my bipolar disorder and my experience as a somewhat disappointed writer and maybe about bourbon and books and definitely about life in general.

I am thrilled to be blogging again!  Step one… accomplished!