Archives for posts with tag: emotion

loveletter

We all walk a path. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can see the path shining before us, riddled with potholes and muddy puddles that give us some indication that the going will be slow and arduous, but not impossible. (There are also rainbow bridges attended by handsome Cosmic guides handing out maps, along with soothing cups of mint tea on the path, but we gave up trying to look for them sometime after our college years.)

Then there are the days when everything feels dark and suffocating, and we aren’t even sure the path is in front of us anymore. Hell, we can’t even feel our feet.

It is these times, when we are desperately clawing into the pitch black reaching out to touch anything that will give context and meaning to what we are spiraling through, that we can feel God reaching back. I believe that if we pay close attention, and work hard not to drink in the fear, we can feel Her putting a gentle hand on our head, wiping our tears with Her sleeve and whispering, “Shhh. Take a deep breath. I’m still right here.”

Recently, I was in that sinking hole. I knew that the path was there, but my feet could not stay underneath me, and over and over again I found myself crashing through the air and landing hard on my ass, knocking the breath from my lungs and making my head crackle with fear. And when that happened, I saw stars.

There were the two stars that slipped me unexpected notes filled with love, reminding me that I am brave and strong.

There were the stars that dropped off food for my family as I left them unattended to bury my grandmother, then journey across the globe.

There was the star that took the time to help me get my possessions safely home, at a time when I was having difficulty trying to remember who I was and where I lived.

And there were the stars that called me, one from so very far away, during my darkest hours, just to tell me that they loved me, to hang in there and “You’ve got this.”

There were so many that together these stars carried me out of the darkness. Like the lights on a darkened theatre aisle, I just followed one to the other until I was able to make my way back into the light. Their small moments of kindness rippled my world back towards positivity, and for that I can never repay them. But now that I’m back in the world of “seeing”, I can collect the light, and shine it back for others.

Thank you my stars. Thank you for shining the light of Her grace upon me. Thank you for returning me home.

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I had it all figured out. Add the fun into the training and she wouldn’t even know that we were working out. I could even incorporate the 7 year old and by the end of the run, we’d all be laughing, holding hands, eating ice cream and planning our outfits for our first Ironman.

I am a dumbass.

My first attempt to try to get us out training for the run part of the triathlon was disguised as a quick explore around the neighborhood. The littlest one took her scooter, and me and the 10 YO would just walk… maybe even do a little warm up jog. I figured we could try some chasing/racing games that would get us running but not Running… you know? The 10 YO was skeptical, as she usually is, but the 7 YO was totally on board. As we headed out, I even tried to inspire us with Pharrell William’s song “Happy”… but that was about the last time we heard the word that day.

Immediately, there was pouting, stomping and whining. The 7 YO, finally feeling faster, shot off like a rocket. I tried to increase our pace to keep up. The 10 YO decided to teach me a lesson, and also in a fit of pre-adolescent rebellion, ran off as fast as she could. “Great! I can use this!” I thought. Except she got about 3 car lengths before she stopped, defeated and even more angry. I tried to coach her into pacing herself, how to slow her breathing down, how to make her steps count… blah, blah, blah. “Why can’t I ride the scooter?” she whined. I was frustrated, tired of the whining, feeling like I was pushing a broken school bus with flat tires up a hill, and all of it vaguely familiar. “Fine!” I shouted and made the 7 YO hop off of the scooter and handed it over. We hadn’t gone one driveway length before the 7 YO, in a text book little sister move, sidled up  next to me and started to jog. And then I did the second most idiotic thing since signing us up for the triathlon. I fell, deep and instantaneously, into the trap that is my ego and crushed my daughter in the process.

So happy to finally have someone eager to participate and actually listening to me, I said these horrible words,

“Great job, Dew! Maybe you will want to do this triathlon instead.”

You know that moment, right after you’ve climbed the biggest hill on a roller coaster, just as you hit the peak and you’re done looking at how wonderful the scenery is, and my aren’t all those people so tiny down there, and you eventually realize how horrifying the drop is and that there is no other way down? That same moment when your stomach is clenching so hard because it knows it is about to end up in your shoes? Yup, that moment.

And… cue the 10 YO tears. Many, many tears. So many tears in fact that we had to sit down curbside because she could no longer see to scooter. She didn’t want to run, and she certainly didn’t want to do this triathlon, but most of all, she didn’t want to disappoint me. She was devastated that I would so easily toss her aside for her little sister. She was trying, but she just didn’t like this at all. How could I have said such a thing? And who was this evil little creature that would just throw her under the bus like that and push herself into my good graces?

I sat there feeling like Benedict Arnold, Judas Iscariot, Lando Calrissian and every horrible traitor in history. How could I have just committed the crime that I found most vile and had raged a war against FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE?!?  I wanted to crumble into ash and be blown away with the wind.

And then, the 7YO started to cry.

“Wait! Why are YOU crying?!?”

I just sat on the curb, a girl sobbing on each side, and took it all in. What happened? How did I get us all here? I knew that this was another one of those AFGO (another fucking growth opportunity) moments that The Universe loved to shove at me… and, admittedly, I actually ask for from time to time, in order to better myself and the world around me, but COME ON! Why can’t I just be handed with misplacing a winning lottery ticket? Why must I foul up so badly that I scar my children for life?

I took a deep breath and grounded myself. Again. I released a lot of energy that I had been holding onto around wanting this to work, my relationship to being fit, my needing a fit daughter, my issues with my own childhood… as much as I could figure out to release. Then I asked to release that which I wasn’t even consciously aware of, but was holding me back. I took a couple more breaths, then moved on.

“Alright, everyone up. If we’re all going to cry, we might as well walk while we do it.”

Together, we cried and walked. I apologized to both of them for trying to force my version of this experience on them, rather then let them participate. I apologized for making the 10 YO feel inadequate and less than her sister. I apologized to the 7 YO for putting her in that position. Both said that they accepted my apology, but were still shooting anger arrows at each other… which really were meant for me. I made them walk together to work it out, holding hands. They still had a lot of anger that they didn’t know how to get rid of, so they just kept fueling each other’s fire. I walked ahead telling them to work it out, not wanting to sit in their stew (because it hurt more knowing I caused it).

Listening to them still stabbing at each other with their words, I stopped, turned myself to face a field of flowers and closed my eyes. I breathed in deeply again, feeling sadness and helplessness. I could hear the girls watching me. I opened my eyes and started picking flowers.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m picking flowers.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t know what else to do.”

So we started off training for a triathlon, and ended up crying and picking flowers. They stopped hurting each other, and the tears stopped too, until the littlest one got bitten by ants…  but up until that point, it finally became a lovely, if not difficult, experience.

I know that I’m training. I just think that the triathlon is the least of my worries.

****POSTSCRIPT****

You might have noticed that this post initially started out “My first attempt…”. Yeah, you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson… but I didn’t. If incorporating games and a little sister with a scooter didn’t work SURELY adding in a public run with an outfit theme and cousins would certainly work this time! Rather than drag you through our pain let me sum up:

1. Outfits matter enough to get us into trouble, but not enough to get us out of it. The “fun run” invited everyone to wear neon. The 7 YO, so obsessed with matching, insisted on wearing a pair of neon running shoes that were a size too big. At the start of the race, she almost took a header and ended up crying and walking the entire run.

2. No matter how much “fun” they promise, no amount of music, balloons, costumes and kid’s snacks turn uninterested kids into running fanatics. The amount of whining increased (although it was slightly less pronounced since neither kid wanted anyone to notice them) and the amount of “I hate this” only diminished because they were busy shoveling tiny Cliff bars into their mouths.

3. Apparently it takes a public shaming event to get it through my thick skull that this isn’t happening. Both girls ended up crying and walking over the finish line. Ok, I get it, we’re done. A few days later, my sad and apprehensive 10 YO came to me and hesitantly told me that she didn’t want to do the triathlon. She confessed that she was scared to tell me because she didn’t want to let me down or have to do it alone. I promised her that I was ok with whatever she decided, and that she didn’t even have to decide now if she didn’t want to (she still had 3 weeks of Jr. Lifeguard training to endure and I was hoping (Really? Still?) that she would change her mind). She looked as if I had dug a mountain off of her back.

Perhaps now would be a good time to take a long look at why I REALLY want her to do this triathlon. You think?

Thanks to SunshineMomma for the pic.

Thanks to SunshineMomma for the pic.

“So, why are you doing this? I mean, what is the reason you have decided to train for this triathlon with me? I have a bunch of different reasons why I am, and I’m happy to share them with you, but why are you doing this?” I was eager for my 10 year old to tell me how excited she was to have some one-on-one time with me, to share in a crazy new adventure together, and to learn how to become a team.

“Because you are making me,” she shot back.

I burst out laughing. Here I was, due to some rip in the space time continuum, talking to my own 10 year old self, and she was annoyed and sarcastically funny. My daughter smiled in spite of herself and immediately tried not to. Memories of summers spent hauled off to aerobics classes, herded on bike trips, thrown into tennis camps flashed through my mind; I had injected into my daughter everything I once upon a time hated about my own childhood. In the best trick the Universe every played upon me, I was my parents and my daughter was me.

That was the moment I understood why I swallowed a heaping dose of insanity and signed us both up for a triathlon.

“You don’t have to do this with me,” I countered. “You are welcome to stop at any time. I want you to know that this isn’t about competing, this is about just being together as we make a journey. If we walked, floated and coasted the whole time, I would be ok with that.”

But I knew that deep down, this wasn’t necessarily true. I wanted her to love exercising so that she would never be overweight. I wanted her to lose the weight that her already pudgy pre-teen self was starting to gain. Deep down, I wanted to protect her from becoming me.

As we jogged along together, my mind spun trying to sort out if I was giving us a memorable experience, or condemning my daughter to relive the frustration and failure that I grew up with, as adult after adult forced me into exercise programs trying to help me lose weight.

“Mom, did you do this as a kid?”

“Yes. When I was a kid, my dad would get me up at 5:30 every morning to run with him. I hated it,” as the words came out of my mouth, it was as if I was standing on the sidelines watching both of our reactions simultaneously. I knew that what I was telling her was what could very well be happening in this moment. But I could change that.

“He would yell at me whenever I wanted to walk. And when I couldn’t run anymore, he would run off and leave me to walk by myself.” The words sounded harsh coming out of my mouth, but they weren’t emotional, they were simply true.

“Why did he make you run?”

Somehow I never saw this question coming. I paused, wondering if I should protect all three of us and create some trumped up reason about his love for the activity, but ultimately I decided that this very same truth about how my father felt about me, was an evil reality about what I feared for my daughter.

“Because he thought I was fat,” I explained.

“Sometimes Nonno can be mean,” she replied.

My father has a passion for teasing, and not always in the most gentle and loving way. This was a truth that even she had experienced as a very small child, so she immediately accepted that this is how he would treat his young daughter.  But for me, in that moment, I knew better. He wasn’t mean. He was scared. He was terrified, in fact, of his daughter growing up heavy and struggling to be loved and accepted, as he once had in his teens. My father was doing everything that he could, as were all of those pushy adults in my life, to protect me from the cruelty that gets handed to you when you aren’t perfect in the eyes of society. They didn’t realize that the damage that they were inflicting, as I continued to fail and feel conditionally loved, was worse than what they were trying to prevent. I knew this about them in my head, but in that moment I fully understood this with my heart; and for the first time in 30 years, I loved them all for it.

I made the commitment then and there to have fun on this triathlon adventure, no matter what. I am working on letting go of my unrealistic standards for myself as I train, and all I need to do is to look to my daughter and determine if our goal of having fun is being met. Once again, she is leading me rather than the other way around. Already, I have gained so much from this experience, that if we never run a single step, I would still be so much better for having started. Once again, it is not about the destination, but all about our journey.

typingmonk

Recently I was rejected by an online journal after I had submitted a piece for consideration. After much whining and foot stomping (on my part), I passed it along to a few friends for critique and then sat down with my own scalpel. Seems that the journal in question wasn’t all that insane and the piece did indeed need a little more meat on the bones. I scraped around inside my soul and came up with more batter, perhaps even some tasty morsels that should have made the first batch. I submitted and then waited… and waited… and waited.

I never heard from them again.

Here is a little advice to all of the editors out there who sit behind an inbox filled with the hopes and dreams of us typing monkeys, trying our damnedest to recreate our version of Shakespeare’s plays.

1. Please do us monkeys the favor of being consistent and clear about what your submission guidelines are. We are monkeys and we get easily confused. A simple email address, format for the submission, any requirements for attachments and a deadline is all we really need. If you would like to include your standard stylebook, that would be greatly appreciated, and would most likely make your life easier. What makes us bang our heads on the keyboard and fling feces at each other is when you have three different website links going to three different sets of instructions as to how to submit to your publication.

2. We appreciate you. We realize you probably have to slog through a football field of donkey crap each day just to emerge with a golden nugget, hoping it isn’t just a polished turd. We get it. We understand that as a writer, rejection is a part of our life now and without rejection we’ll only ever create polished turds. So go ahead, reject away! However I would ask that you do the favor of at least reading a good portion of the piece before rejecting so that the standard response sent out actually applies. If I’m writing a piece on footballs, please don’t tell me that you can’t possibly use one more article on palm trees.

3. Be honest. Isn’t that what editing is all about? Don’t tell us that you’d love to take another look if you really wouldn’t. We are all adults (well, according to our birth certificates anyway), and need to handle straightforward rejection without taking it personally. If you tell me that you’d be happy to look over the rewrite, then I don’t hear from you ever again, this really isn’t any different than that crappy guy I dated in college that promised to call me after he returned from spring break and never did. I’m left bitter and you look like a liar. Come on, we’re both better than that.

4. We realize that there are a lot of us monkeys out here, and we are producing a lot of polished poo, so if you’d like to give us helpful tips for revision, be sure to clearly state that these are great general tips and try not to infer that these were meant specifically for our submission. Again, we know that you’d like to let us down gently, but we’re monkeys and we need to be hit over the head. Don’t send me revision tips if you don’t really want my style of crap.

5. Finally, just be kind and courteous. I know we’re monkeys. I know we eat with our hands and have bad hygiene. But we are have feelings and thumbs and aren’t that different from you. ‘Please’, ‘thank you’ and the consideration of a response (even a standardized short but final one) would go a long way towards developing our relationship as future editor and writer, and more importantly is some of the best marketing for your publication.

Thank you for the job that you do. Without editors our literary world would be a steaming cesspool of blather. You stand at the edges with your industrial sized strainer, sifting to find the gems of our madness. We love you and appreciate you. We just want to remind you that once upon a time, on the evolutionary scale, you were a monkey once too.

puckescape

I’m sitting here, envisioning brain cells popping like bubble wrap under a 6 year old’s thumb, as I breathe in the sickeningly sweet aroma of an insecticide impersonating as Febreeze. I have won the battle against my cat’s fleas, and in that victory, I have lost.

Not really sure how in the Hell this got so out of control. We had an outdoor cat, who amongst other nefarious parasites, probably had a flea or two in her lifetime. But then, she was in the woods more than out, so really who could tell? We treated her for the gamut that any wild creature naturally carries about, but needs to leave at the door before cuddling with me on the couch, and never really had any issue with it.

Then we were moving to California. No longer on a 14 acre stretch of wilderness, we were going to be boxed in by neighbors on all sides, complete with their ark of pets, not to mention a whole new variety of wildlife.

“But the cat has to come with us!,” my children begged.

“But we would have to keep her indoors,” I explained.

“But it would break the children’s heart,” my husband countered.

“But she craps in the houseplants, finds the spotless litter box beneath her, and we’re moving into wall-to-wall white carpeting!,” I growled.

“But she is a part of our family,” he reminded me.

And that was that.

So Puck, appropriately named for her wandering out of the wilderness and into our lives, creating much midsummer’s mischief by disemboweling many a woodland sprite on our doorstep, became a west coast house cat.

We all learned to adapt. After two weeks of sleepless nights, we finally realized that playing with her during the day would help her sleep at night. (Yeah, I know, “Well, duh!” Clearly, we had never been real cat owners. We were more like an alternate food source for a feral beast.) We treated her to toys and special attention. It was bumpy, but we all seemed to be getting along.

But then she started scratching. And my kids started scratching. And my husband started scratching. I tried to convince myself that the state that barely sells bug spray has more insects than upstate NY in the summertime. Reality wasn’t postponed for long.

We have fleas. I say ‘we’ because fleas, like the joy of sexually transmitted diseases and foot fungus, is a community experience.Trying to contain fleas is like trying to contain a sneeze two seconds after it has already happened. A much more likely proposition when the host animal lives a majority of the time out of doors and rolls about in dust on an hourly basis. However more like Mission Impossible when said same host now lives on your bed 12 hours out of the day, and when not snoozing, is rolling about on the wall-to-wall carpeting.

I work all of the natural angles that I can muster. I vacuum so much that my biceps are bulging. Everything is a little smaller now because it has spent multiple cycles in the dryer on high. Our house smells like an exotic lemongrass tart, as I was dousing everything with the most natural and pleasant weapon in my arsenal.

And none of it is working.

I am coming apart. Shit like this never really got to me, but now I feel as if I’m peeling apart at the core and running up under my skin – like an inside out onion. Fears, frustration and utter exhaustion is just bubbling up to my surface; blind panic when I recall our past lice infestation, angst that I’ve thrown at others when they’ve had similar situations, rage against being forced to bring a cat against my wishes and never feeling heard in the first place, guilt for wanting my cat to disappear, even though all she ever does is want to cuddle with me – it is an ocean of negative waves, each one washing over me and it is all I can do to remain upright at the surface.

I find myself standing in the insecticide aisle at the store. The colors of the boxes and cans are bright and cheerful. They make promises that I’ll find the peace that I’m searching for. I don’t have to wait that long, either. In just a few quick steps, it will be all over.

When I get home, I light a candle and sit to meditate. I let the sadness and despair wash over me, through me.  I sit with it, just letting it take hold and hoping it will move on. I sit as long as I can before my mind is too filled to ignore.

I put my meditation cushion away, and pull out the insecticide.

purplesanddollar

This morning, amidst the crowded walkways flooded with apprehensive kids making their way to classrooms, and eager parents dropping them off, I thought, just for a second, that I saw my sister.  In that flash, I saw her beaming smile and high fashion sunglasses walking towards us, and I instantly anticipated her excitement to see my daughter in her new school, the love and the joy that would gush over all three of us.

But it wasn’t her.  And as the throng of other smiling, fashion forward moms streamed past me, I remembered that she is too far away to be here, and that she wasn’t going to see my daughter in her new school.  I tried desperately not to cry.

I’ve done a damned fine job of holding it together for the last few months.  All holy hell was breaking out around me as I left, and yet I got out of bed every day, put on my big girl pants and wrapped myself in another layer of packing tape so that I could make it to this place … The Other Side.  And I’m here.  And the packing tape is starting to come unstuck.

My sister and I left on good terms, but we were both battle scarred.  Together we had built a business, one that was designed to bring light and love into our community, and it did just that.  But when it came to our relationship the business took its toll, and in the end it almost tore us apart.

Ultimately, I was hurt and she was busy.  We made amends because there was no other choice.  Our final days together weren’t filled with bonding over coffee or spending time playing with each other’s kids.  Instead, we just lingered on the edges of connection… the random small talk, the awkward hug.

The walk home from school is a blessed stroll along the shore.  We’re in a temporary house for one more week, so I know that I need to soak up every ounce of this return trip home.  I like to believe that the salt water is detoxing my being, the sand is filtering out my leaking energetic impurities.

Every day we see something new and amazing.  Yesterday’s find was an unfortunate decomposing porpoise…yum. Today, however, was sand strewn with sand dollars. Until this morning, the only sand dollars I had ever seen were bleached white, and mostly broken, but here there were purple ones. These were whole delicate circles, cast in a violet color radiating out towards lavender, with a five point star etched in the middle.

Sand dollars are a species of burrowing sea urchins, with their skeleton made up by a five fold pattern known as a ‘test’. They live in the sandy bottom area and are found mostly together, due to their preference for soft sand believed to be ideal for reproduction.

Each of the purple ones that I had collected were whole, no broken pieces, no battle scars… but still delicate, and still living.  All of the white ones that I picked up, and there were many of them, had pieces missing or disintegrated when I touched them. They had moved on.

Maybe we are like sand dollars. We start out beautifully colored, delicate and grouped with others like us. We are whole and hopeful and strong. But ultimately the tide of life carries us to other destinies, and in the process we lose parts of ourselves. Ultimately we find new shores to populate and beautify but we break, we lose parts of ourselves and we die.

Maybe it is time for the tape to come off. Maybe holding myself together for the last few months got us here in one piece, but now I’m actually more delicate and I need to lose some pieces or I will eventually disintegrate.

As life would have it, it wasn’t until after I collected the purple sand dollars that I realized that I had plucked living beings from their home. Because of me, they now will turn white in the sun, yet unnaturally remain whole.

Swirling thick, a tide around my ankles, dragging me into dark suffocation where I cannot breathe the rushing tide of you drowning
calling out.

How can I save you and save myself too?

Thick the wet wall of despair
suddenly
repeatedly
crashing down – bottom becomes top, light becomes dark, head over heels
over and over
I spin.

Anger, fear, desperation, escape.

If I save you, I have lost me forever.

There is guilt, shame, love, pain.  A scream trapped inside with ears pressed to doors waiting to hear what cannot be said.

If I let it go, it will consume us all.

Silently I sit
I breathe
kelp forests moving with the tide
I am a vessel for washing your energy away.  

I step back and let waves of fear and grief crash on my shore, pulling my heart grain by grain into your raging sea.  I hold on hoping that when your storm has ended, there will still be something left of me.