Hesitation Station

23 Jul

hesitation
I’m hesitating even writing this sentence. I’m stuck lately, my head and heart so full of comparisons and connections for my future (and that of my children) that it’s hard to move forward- or even sideways. Hesitation involves some special blend of procrastination and worry for me; putting things off until I’ve surveyed everything from every angle and measured, weighed and provided counterweight for every outcome I can think of. I desire on a very deep level to be happy and to embrace life, joy and gratitude for it all with everything that I have and am. I’ve even figured out how, mostly… but I’ve discovered that on an even deeper level, I’ll always be waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me, waiting for the other shoe to drop. My heart feels like it’s been in a cage match with reality for years now, but that’s not the reality I want to enforce for myself OR for my kids. Although deep grief  will always be a part of my life,  I recognize that I need to work to change the ensuing fear of (more of) it’s vice grip on my heart, and the arms-distance-length I keep people and opportunities away from me because of it.

I think (especially sudden, unexpected) loss will do that to a person. I poured my heart and soul into Patrick’s health and overall well being; I managed to keep my pregnant body as healthy as possible, did everything I know to be “right” (for me, my family and my level of privilege and lifestyle) after he was born and he was healthy at every check up. I loved him, held him, wore him, nursed him, rocked him, sang to him, read to him, paid attention to every aspect of his well-being with every ounce of my capacity. And then he died. For no reason. Out of nowhere… Just. Fucking. Gone. And with him a piece of my trust in the Universe, and in my own heart and capabilities.

Trying to find my “new normal” after his death; ways to fold the hard facts and feelings of such loss into my current life and into the building of my future- especially when trying to relate and connect to, and eventually trust and depend on others- is a constant, challenging process. It becomes a mixture of embracing “Carpe diem! I’m so grateful to be here, now, with you- let’s do this!” and thinking “I know you’re just going to suddenly vanish… but here we are, so we might as well just make this (possibly singular) time we’re together pleasant“. Both sentiments have echoes of finding joy, gratitude and accepting things as they are, but the latter is laced with that fear I can’t seem to shake, and impedes the happiness of finding joy in the moment and in trusting my heart- or anyone else’s, be it a reader’s, a lover’s or my friend’s.

Patrick was the last one I gave my heart, my joy, my attachment to. I not only loved him with my whole heart, I liked, enjoyed, wanted and cherished him. I’m very pro-choice and already had three kids from two different fathers when I became pregnant, but I chose him and with that choice, a path for myself. I felt he was meant to stay, and that he was a boy; I named him Patrick for my (recently deceased) father when I was less than a month along. During my (HG riddled) pregnancy,  I gave and geared my life to nurture and grow the relationships I had with him and with his father (and as always and still, my other three children) in my heart, mind and life. It’s been quite the process over this last year and a half to adjust my sails accordingly… The life I’d meticulously and tirelessly worked to create for years was gone in an instant. Again.

It’s fucking hard to learning to trust myself and the world around me after such massive, sudden, successive losses. It feels impossible sometimes, especially when I consider the past 5 years. In 2009, one of my best friends from high school was murdered. Two weeks later my marriage and life as I knew and had planned it evaporated in seconds at a barbecue in the July sunshine during a casual conversation.

2010 was the year cancer took my father- one could argue that maybe we saw that coming after his diagnosis, but you don’t expect your healthy, capable, planning-his-birthday-fishing-trip father to die at 54, no matter what. You just don’t. He was diagnosed already at stage 4 Melanoma, and his BRAF cell mutation meant that his cancer cells breed even more quickly than in most people. He went from the strongest man I knew to the weakest in time that doesn’t seem linear or possible- like an hourglass with a triple wide opening, we watched all of his mental and physical strength slipping quietly and quickly away, though I won’t doubt for a minute that his spirit was every anything but valiant, kind and stoic.

His last trip to the hospital, when they said they couldn’t help him anymore, to say I was shocked and saddened is like saying the sun is big and warm. I felt overwhelmed, unprepared and desperate to fix every single damn thing. If a magical faerie had come in that instant, I would have a (possibly color-coded) list of what to change exactly there and then to make everyone feel -and be- better. The trouble is the faeries never come, and we’re these wild minds and hearts with these grandiose feelings and ideas stuck in skin and bones in a chair in a room where sometimes there’s news that your father is going to die. Soon. 

It felt like someone blew out a candle in my heart. I caught his eye -and mind you, I have zero poker face- with  family, nurses and friends buzzing about the room, he looked and me and said, “It’s not over yet.” and it was true. He was still in the room, still there with me in body, mind and spirit- and still, with his father’s heart, trying to comfort me. He knew that we still had that day and however many we were granted after. I thought then that he was with me in thinking he was still going to beat cancer like the BAMF he was, even if by will and spirit alone… but I know now that he was telling me, “I’m still here right now, and we can cherish that.” Those were the last coherent words that he gave me. He would muster an “I love you” to my mom and I my sisters in the coming days before his imminent departure, but that’s the last clear message I got to hear from his lips, from his eyes, from his heart: Carpe diem.

fly

I’m hesitating at writing another sentence even again, though I know this is the part where I talk about choosing love over letting fear hold me back- but the point is that dammit, I’m human and I’m fucking scared. It’s hard, even for people who have tools to use and know how to use them, even for people who seem to process things with honesty and grace, to move past that “What if I fall?” part.

I recently created a GoFundMe account for a friend wanting to try roller derby and not having the funding available to do so because I saw her in a similar position of not seeing quite how to make the jump, to branch out and do the scary thing. The thing is that I know for a damn fact that she’s strong and capable and smart and worthy and talented and brave and all the the wonderful things I don’t feel all the time- and I wonder how many people feel the same about me. I want to show her as much as I want to show you and I both, dear reader, how rewarding and validating it can feel to make the leap- even if we both need a little pushing sometimes.

So here I am, pushing myself to write and put myself out there, too. Vulnerability and fear are huge, scary monsters that we all have differing versions of. It reminds me of Where The Wild Things Are, with Max’s room being our heads that we create entangled forests in, his Wild Things our fears…

“And when he came to the place where the wild things are, they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said, “Be still” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.”

Those beasts raged and roared at him until he was able to look his Wild Things in the face and say SHUT THE FUCK UP, DAMMIT. I HAVE SHIT TO DO.  … which is what I’ll try and keep in mind the next time there’s a wild rumpus I can’t get out of  in my head.

*If you’d like to contribute even a dollar to be part of battling fear and budget monsters for my friend, click here.

Communing with Coffee

2 Jul

coffee and heart
It’s funny-I think the two things that I’m best known for are for my openness about grieving and my love for coffee- not two things I’d have aimed for or chosen, but there it is. The first poem I posted has to do with both grief and coffee, as do most of my days, I suppose… I post about coffee on Facebook nearly every morning, even if I post nothing else all day. We all know that stereotypically, parents need coffee in the morning, so I’m sure no one questions why I embrace my addiction with so much warmth and energy- aside from the fact that those qualities are what coffee gives me in exchange for my own.

I started drinking coffee in high school because I was in choir, and sometimes rehearsal for that choir required an evil invention called sub-zero period and it always required a zero period, so my mornings were early- as were my dad’s, who was in charge of my transportation to school until sophomore year. My father was a notorious coffee consumer, as is his mother (whom we lovingly refer to as ‘Grammy’) still. He got up and made coffee every morning, and the sound of the grinder followed by the smell of coffee brewing has been one of the only pleasant tolerable ways for me to be awoken by another person for more than half of my life now. (I said one of. There are a few other ways I’ve come across in my adult life via offspring or ways to make them that I find mostly adjustable-to as well, but I digress…)

My dad was a bit stoic when it came to duties- including ones involving carting a teenage daughter to school at dark-thirty in the morning because she wanted to sing madrigals, old hymns and folk songs with 6 part harmony. But I did, so he did, and we quietly sipped our coffee together to the lull of the country music station in the wee hours of the morning as the sun rose, five days a week. We would pull up through the fog in the empty parking lot, I would hop out and we’d wave goodbye as we went our separate ways.

He owned an auto repair shop in town and worked 10 hour days, 6 days a week or more and didn’t mind getting there early, since there was always work to be done. At the end of the day he was exhausted, fully permeated with his signature blend of sweat/Old Spice sport, grease and Vanilla Cavendish pipe tobacco  (in fact, “Hiiiiiii, Stinky!!” was what I would say when he walked in the door, even- it became a nickname between us for years to come because of it) engaged in full auto-pilot-mode: shower, dinner table, TV and then bed to repeat the whole thing in the morning.

Until I got pregnant in 2001, my father was also an alcoholic, albeit a goofy, hilarious one- he was never abusive, ever, ever, ever. He was the kindest, gentlest, most generous man I’ve met to this day, but his alcoholism definitely disconnected him from us. By the evening, my father was a different, more distant, troubled and scattered man than the freshly showered one who would sing along with the radio to the words he knew (and some he didn’t) despite the fact that he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket for all the money in the world. I’m sure part of him was happy for me having made it into such a locally (and satewide/nationally, if ACDA and CMEA competitions count) prestigious singing group. It was probably that same part that leaked out of his eye and slid down his cheek every performance- the parts he wasn’t sleeping through, anyhow. It’s okay, Daddy- I forgive you.

I still have strong olfactory triggers from San Francisco Bay Blend French Roast- I choose not to drink that particular blend because I like savoring the specific smell of what my father loved so well. It’s as if the years he spent being infused by that smell has somehow become years of that smell being infused with memories of him, and I’m forever grateful for that connection. The smell of cars and grease, of ocean air and pipe tobacco are some of my favorite ways to get back in touch with the tie that binds me to him past his death in September of 2010. When I got pregnant in 2011, I felt right away I was having a boy and named him Patrick for my father’s middle name when I was only 2 weeks along. Some of my first posts right after Patrick’s birth were about grieving for my father, though I felt then that my grief was heavy- I had no idea… just no idea at all how heavy grief could be.

When Patrick died suddenly at 14 months old, I didn’t know what. the fuck. to do. At all. He (and my other children) were where I channeled my love, my identity, my healing- I had no idea it was even possible for life to just… end… but it can- and it did. (For more about SUDC, click here.)  I could hardly breathe, let alone eat, sleep or function on any other basic level. I couldn’t speak or write- my entire vocabulary was acid-washed from my heart and mind. Besides- there were no words to say, anyhow. I wanted to stay in bed forever. The world and my place in it had shattered and come to a complete stop in an instant and everything seemed beyond pointless and painful, even opening my eyes or speaking. I slept for days on end, seeking the only place I could hold my baby again. I lost myself in a sea of visitors and tears and frozen lasagna.

And one morning, saturated with sleep, I woke up before anyone else and I made coffee. I didn’t have to look anyone in the eye or answer to how I felt to myself or anyone else… I just. made. coffee. And it was good coffee. I drank it while it was hot, even. It was the first moment that I felt any sense of simple pleasure, of normalcy, of nostalgia, of communing with my inner sense of holy-fuck-please-give-me-the-strength-to-get-through-this-day-ness, of just being since the day Patrick died. It was the first time I felt competent at even the most menial task, the first time I’d made a single, conscious decision to do something to help soothe, stimulate and center myself, the first time I had thought of the first stumbling steps of my father in the morning on his way to grind coffee as he set to work on an unending series of tasks for the day. It was the first time I realized that though there is a vacancy waiting to be filled in my heart and cup alike, that I possessed the knowledge and capability to work towards filling them again- and I still use that tool every morning.

So when I post about coffee, I’m not saying “Ohhhhh, gaaaaawd- brace yourselves! Here comes the kids and the work and the drudgery of the day and nudge-nudge we all know that kids suck the energy right out of you, which is replaceable only in caffeinated beverages!”. Parenting is exhausting if you’re putting effort into it. So is healing.

When I post about coffee, I’m saying, “I’m here, day. I can do this. There are small things in life to enjoy and look forward to, and life and those little things will be here and waiting, no matter the day that came before. My house is too quiet again this morning, but I will fill it with energy and love… after another cup or so.”

“Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis- a good, hot cup of coffee.” – Alexander King

New Libations from the Makers of Haterade

1 Jul

Okay, okay, it’s time to get my activist pants back on.  I don’t feel “ready” or like I have more to add than anyone else on any one subject, but unless other people who think like that start using their voices, too, this world is going to stagnate into a foul cesspool of power and money and greed instead of a functioning, flourishing system of logic, compassion and freedom- my vote is for the latter, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Or my mouth where my heart is. Something. Anyhow…

I have a few posts simmering on the backburner at the moment and hundreds of topics I’d like to touch on, but after The Supreme Court’s decision to vote in favor of Hobby Lobby that “ruled that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women.”,  I have a few pressing questions, starting with “Wait… what happened to separation of church and state? What did I miss?

Here’s John Oliver’s hilarious and accurate breakdown, in case you missed what was in question:

and here’s what was decided, (via Reuters)

“In their last decision of the nine-month term, the justices ruled for the first time that for-profit companies can make claims under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was enacted to protect religious liberty.”

Religious liberty? Oh, you mean if you’re that ONE religion coupled the privilege of a position of power- nevermind the religious freedoms of the people who share the consequences and not the belief…

“In a decision of startling breadth, the court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law … they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs,”

WHOA. Whoa. Corporations can opt out of laws thatare incompatible with their (religious) beliefs?? Does anyone else see this as a gigantic rabbit-hole of a problem? I sincerely hold a belief that there are gaping holes in the logic of this ruling. And I also sincerely believe cannabis prohibition should end, that it should be illegal to touch a pregnant belly unless the mother offers, that education should be free and holistic, that healthy snacks should be cheaper and more widely available than chemical shitstorms like Doritos and Slurpees,  and that my birthday should be met with an influx of fair trade coffee and dark chocolate each year. Can I some legislation here, people? Wait, I’m not a corporation, I’m just a girl…

 

 

Jezebel breaks it down this way:

Today, five men on the Supreme Court said that women’s reproductive health care is less important than a woman’s boss’s superstition-based prudery and moral trepidation about fornication for female pleasure. They ruled that it doesn’t matter if birth control actually causes abortions; it only matters if business owners sincerely believe that birth control causes abortions. They ruled that it’s okay for a corporate personto discriminate against a female semi-person and dictate that she not spend her compensation on stuff that might possibly be enabling sex without consequences, if they believe that God thinks they should. “boss great

And this isn’t just about the right to “sex without consequences”. People use birth control for more than just preventing pregnancy with one or who-the-hell-cares-how-many partners. In 2003 Clarence Thomas (who just voted  in the majority on this case) himself said, “it was not a worthwhile use of “law enforcement resources” to police private sexual behavior.” in regards to an anti-gay sodomy suit- yet he still voted to regulate “private sexual behavior” for people with uterus’ via employers yesterday.  Perhaps someone ought to remind him of his own logic here…

Private sexual behavior is just that, and should be (un)legislated that way.  Sexual preference and expression thereof in consenting adults should not dictate our freedoms or rights to healthcare.  Companies should not get more personhood than people. The end.

 

unperson wm

Becoming Unbecoming

29 May

20140529-081036-29436028.jpg

 

Since the moment you were born

you cried for me day by day

and I came to soothe you

heart and breasts full

frenzied or calm

elated or defeated

alert or exhausted

or somewhere in between

tenderly rocking

milk freely flowing

running my fingers through your hair

as you lay quietly

warm bath of oxytocin

becoming one love

 

Since the moment you died

I cry for you day by day

and sit alone, still yearning

heart and breasts deflated

anxious or numb

distracted or depressed

present or vacant

or somewhere in between

tenderly rocking

tears freely flowing

running my fingers through clover that grows

where you lay quietly

cold dose of reality

becoming a loss mom

RIP Maya Angelou

28 May

maya

Maya Angelou’s death was announced last night to the media and to me this morning by my mother texting me in tears… the fact that her life and death have moved such a wide variety of people so deeply speaks again to me about the power of words, of having the courage to be authentic and vulnerable and be seen.

Peace to a truly beautiful, inspirational writer,  poet, activist and soul.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 

Maya Angelou on parenting, love and loss:

A Parent, Apparent

24 May

box people

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown

Authenticity is one of the things I’ve been trying to put my finger on behind the purpose and pursuits in my life and writing alike. Allowing myself to be seen, whether I am deeply heartbroken and full of poetry, trying to get a point across or rambling and randomly musing, has been a challenge overall; having to move on without Patrick (I am never without him, you know what I mean…) has changed the task of simply showing up for my life every day into the most difficult steps I’ve had to take.

As I look back at Patrick’s 14 months (and four days), one of my only regrets is wishing I’d written something bigger, better or more during that time… but the worst is when I wish I’d written anything at all, the gaps of time I didn’t write because I didn’t feel _____ enough. I withheld permission from myself to be seen and those days counted because I didn’t feel I had anything worth sharing to contribute, because I was too tired and wrapped up in my own life to step out for a moment to reflect,  because I compared myself to others and fell short of an impossible standard I held for myself… and I lost would-be memories and keeping track of my progress because of it.

I’ve also come to realize moreso than ever that I’m not ever going to fit a mold made by someone else, and likely neither will my posts. My life isn’t the same as anyone else’s, how could my writing be? Wishing to be someone else, somewhere else in time,-or wishing to be myself backwards or forwards in time- is a waste of it. I’m just me now, here now, and that’s what I’ve got to work with… so here I am, hot mess and all. Seinfeld found success as a “show about nothing” because it was relatable, and I suppose that’s really the crux of what I’m trying to do here… Writing helps me relate, authentically to other people and parents and helps me find ways to navigate and relate to myself, too.

People hear the word ‘progressive parent’ and have an idea of what that means -to them- and then apply expectations to me and my life because of their definition, experience and projections. People may think I have a political agenda, that I’m some sort of hippie-ass guru-wannabe who just posts rainbows and Rumi quotes about choosing love and gentle parenting, or see me as deeply, permanently wounded mother who posts pained poetry that few people understand- and none want to. To a degree, all and none of that is true, because I’m fucking human, dammit. None of us fit neatly into any box except that one.  The vast majority of people and parents are not so easily compartmentalized- believe me, I’ve tried valiantly and we’re just too messy, the lot of us.

With that in mind, I tried to select a blog title that left room for growth & development, though I was choosing a permanent label that would be constantly subject to evaluation and translation. I landed on ‘Progressive‘ as a title because I means marked by constant improvement, moving forward, happening or developing gradually over a period of time, using or interested in new or modern ideas especially in politics and education… all of those things sound good to me. Though I identify with many of the general AP (attachment parent) practices I didn’t choose ‘attachment’ or ‘liberal’ or ‘crunchy’ or any other buzzwords because the only thing I know about parenting so far is that it changes, but my status as a parent never does- and hence, the name.

I never, ever feel like I’ve reached the final plateau or peak on my parenting path, (this sentence brought to you by the letter “P”!) ever- even when part of my journey as a parent meant finding the strength to keep walking down a road where I could only carry one of my children in my heart and never in my arms again. I’m not the same mother I was to Tobin 12 years ago that I was to Patrick during his time here, and I’m not the same mother or person I was before his death, either. The scenery has changed, my heart has changed, my privilege, my perception and my body have changed. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade and I only hope to keep learning more- I always want to know, to do, to be, better.

“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.” – Anne Lamott

Showing up for a dimly lit fine dining in an atmosphere-controlled environment for a nice red or pint with a friend or lover- that’s easy to do, easy to share. (just check out Instagram, shoot!) It takes planning, discipline, grooming and effort all around to make that scene happen, which is why it’s impressive to show. There exist people like that, there exist blogs like that- calm, composed and collected,  and I stand in awe of them both. I wish my blog posts (and life!) were able to be presented like four star meals;  each part a carefully exacted creation full of flavor, balance, intrigue, talent and juicy goodness that makes the senses come alive… but that’s not me, that’s not where I am in life. I ain’t that fancy, yo.

Showing up here (and in most of my favorite blogs) tends to be more like making it with frizzy hair and even frizzier thoughts out to an end-of-the-month family potluck with something I put together with crap, is that all that’s left in the fridge?  It’s okay, though, because I know most everyone else who shows up is doing the same and trying their best, too. I appreciate the skill and privilege of the ones who have what it takes to come with something more polished… Maybe someday, that will even be me, but right now I’m not on the Zagat-radar and I don’t need to be.

I’m more like a taco truck in a business parking lot: I bring what I have to the “regular” folks & it’s usually of a certain general flavor. You like it or you don’t and it’s no offense to me either way- but you don’t need to approach my space to complain about how it’s not to your like, either. Just don’t come- or make your own damn establishment to your liking and go there instead.

Sometimes what I write is to a specific point and carefully prepared, sometimes I write just to do it and it’s a random amalgam of hodgepodge from my life- and both are (finally) absolutely acceptable for me. Beyond that, if I can’t expect myself to be arrive at the same space all the time, how can I expect that from anyone else? It’s not to say to lower the bar on living or writing or not to aim for it at all- just that we all come from differing and ever-evolving life situations with different moods and intent to approach it and there has to be some room for that completely normal fluxation. Our environments, energies and desires are constantly changing and full of colors, sights, sounds, flavors and textures to take in and love and hate- and try again, just to make sure.

alice

Choosing to show up in life and writing, for me, is about participating in the diversity and connection of it, not about displaying a singular composition I’ve mastered. My life and online presence require an integrative experience, born of many, many intersections both in how I relate not only to myself, but to others- and how they relate to others, even. We’re all connected, and we all bring something unique to the table- and no one gets say in what anyone else gets to bring- but we don’t have to eat it, either. Sure, there are foods and methods of preparation that are scientifically more healthful and are beneficial to know about- and some of us are in a place to be ready to learn about and employ those methods. Fabulous! Rock on with your bad selves! But the best of us need comfort food sometimes or aren’t in a situation where the best choices out there are available to us- which is why all are welcome here; and we can never know how sharing from our experience might help someone else or ourselves.

There is no end-all way to parent or write, just like there is no end-all way to be, and neither life or writing should wait to be tamed into something more glossy and put together before showing up and sharing at least a small part of it, especially with the people close to you.

Not quite, Doctor.

Not quite, Doctor. Thanks, though.

True friends aren’t not here for the show, they’re here because they know what goes on in the background and they like you because of and in spite of it all. My friends don’t mind when my house is messy, that I can’t cook for crap, the tornado of clothing I haven’t washed/dried/put away yet, my post-hike-stench or my loud kids because they show up in my life with their own messes (more comfortably even, knowing I don’t hide mine) and we meet each other where we are.

We show up to be together for the sheer joy of connection, to know we are not alone, to remember that we matter, to remember ourselves and each other. Being authentic and showing up for me means being brave enough to engage in my own life and the lives of others without worrying if I’m “enough” or caring what others will think. It means making an active choice and practice of being present and active in my life, in my family and in my community, too. We all grow, we change, we learn, we work with what we’ve got and that’s life- and here, whatever the flavor of the day, I bring mine to the table.


If you haven’t, I highly recommend finding a few minutes to watch this TED talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ by Brene Brown; so many insights on worthiness and connection, shame and the fear of disconnection and the ability to show up and make an imperfect, insightful difference.

 

Writing & Progress

15 May

I did something I’ve never done yesterday- I wrote a superquick post for Peggy O’Mara’s birthday and walked away from the computer. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it hadn’t been regarding someone I admire so greatly, and if I hadn’t had to make a 5 hour trip to Sacramento and back and unable to check or change a thing in the meanwhile. (If you think texting and driving is bad, blogging and driving is an entirely different level…)

I’m trying to write more. I’ve even started a post to try and collect my thoughts about why writing in itself is important for me and even writing that is taking forever. My last (long) post took painfully long to write and because of that, got intertwined in itself… I worked so long and hard on it, (then LOST the whole post!! I almost imploded…) and then I lost myself in it so many times, it was discouraging and ended up being too complicated and not what I wanted. Ugh.

So I see that my problem is in clinging to how I want things to be- and in so, so many ways. It’s like that about the constant pile of laundry from three kids as much as it is in my heart about not doing it for four. Either way, I have to let it go. (I do NOT know the words to that song, thankyouverymuch… No earworm for me!)

what screws us upIn life and in writing, too… Sometimes I wish that the entire last year of my writing wasn’t solely about losing Patrick. I am more than my loss, but it’s been the first and only thing on my heart when I check in with myself for what seems like forever. I hate that it’s my truth more than anyone, but I can’t deny it- and won’t. But when I don’t write, it feels like I’m losing myself in the days, awash with mundane housework and the fog of routine- and it feels like I’m losing Patrick a bit, too. I know that it’s normal for grief to grow and change, the same as it is (and for the same reasons) that hearts do, which isn’t to say that I miss him any less, but it comes and goes in different waves and different verocity now. I miss life with him, and now I miss that livewire connection to that life and time, too… but the thing about time is that is just keeps us moving on, regardless of where we’d choose to stay- that much, I know for sure.

I’ve been doing better and better managing my life and it’s happenings, which is to say I almost feel like I am starting to have a hold on it again- and not so much vestment in the little things that don’t matter. On good days, I am able to recognize that ultimately my decisions have been my best effort for the time, be it writing or my life choices, in general- and it’s not my business who thinks what about any of it, whether it’s someone wonderful and amazing or an internet troll, we’re all just trying to get by, make ourselves feel better and protect our wounded hearts.

In my post yesterday, I didn’t have very much time and I wanted to just get out my honest thoughts and appreciation before I had to get to my day, and simply sharing a photo on Facebook wasn’t enough for me. In my perfect world, I’d have done a bunch of research, maybe gotten an interview to be super stoked on or at least put in some links to some of her more brilliant works and written something heartfelt and more sentimentally stated. Instead, it was short and the entire middle paragraph is rambling randomness in which I used profanity and got completely sidetracked (who, me?)… But not only did Peggy see and read my post, but commented that my random tirade had made her laugh! If I was to tell my early 20’s motherhood self that I was going to make Peggy O’Mara laugh (and kind of/sort of know who I am!) on her birthday if I just kept writing, I may have just done it for that in itself.

I never know who my writing is going to touch and in what way- especially posts about nothing, like this one. A lot of the times I write, someone writes back to say thank you- and that really makes it worth it.  But beyond gratitude, tiny bits of money here and there or any form of recognition, I find that the days I’ve written what was seemingly nothing end up having the biggest effect on myself.

Like here, when I was trying to get out “30 Days of Gratitude” two Novembers ago, when Patrick was having a hard time and I said,

“Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo; I can handle almost any crying baby anywhere –and his or her parents– with compassion. This is my fourth baby. No matter the situation; grocery store, airplane, shopping mall, walking down the street, stuck in traffic- I’ve been there  with a screaming baby. It’s heartbreaking and it’s hell. Although my patience has been compared to Mother Theresa’s on numerous occasions, it gets to me, too.

Aside from feeling helpless to “fix it”, I haven’t had time to do anything around the house- the dishes and laundry keep coming… the baby keeps crying. So- I have piles of crap everywhere I have to deal with, which I am not looking forward to- but I also know that I won’t look back and regret not doing the stupid dishes. Dishes are stuff. Patrick is my son. I left the cluttered sink and got us some fresh air. I may even remember the walk we took with him in the Moby, quietly snuggled against my chest. But if not, still, I will know that I was there for him, even when I didn’t know what else to do- and I always will be.”

I had no idea what a gift those words would be to me- the balm it gives me to have that unmemorable day and choice locked into word form in some dusty corner of the internet. It gives me comfort like no other to know full well in boring detail how much I showed my love for Patrick when he was here- and how much I love my other children, too. I love having a way to look back on the minutia of my past life and finding small- or huge- joy there, even in my times of struggle. It helps me to see my progress, too… I can see my own writing and heart change from the work of trying to excavate love and memories from brutal numbness and ache, to finding comfort in matter patterns or balance in some times to recording small memories and getting lessons in vulnerability,  it’s this:

share your story

If anything, I’ve learned how short life is- that if you love something or someone, you make it work with what you’ve got for all it’s worth to you. I may never write anything impressive or win any awards for my rambling digressions, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m here to be me, to show up and be counted. I still want to write more subject-based posts as I did before, but as it is, this is where I am, and hopefully me getting comfortable in my own skin with writing more often will help cultivate that.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, says in her book, “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed”

So here I am, showing up and unapologetic for my life and writing, be they random and silly, heartbreaking and poetic, both simultaneously or neither at all. That’s the point in the name I chose: “Progressive” means “marked by constant improvement” and here’s hopefully another tiny hatch in my heart and blog to mark its place- again and again I find life, love and healing in the little things- like seemingly pointless, random, rambling blog posts.

Happy Birthday Peggy!

14 May

It’s Peggy O’Mara’s birthday today!

As the former editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine, she gave creative, gentle, natural and informed parenting a place in mainstream media before we had Facebook groups, Google hangouts and Pinterest to help network and spread information and ideas- and connections, too.

Mothering was the only magazine I’ve ever opened and thought “That could be my life right there!” I’ve opened magazines and thought “That could be my life right there…. if I was abundantly wealthy, got plastic surgery, spent all my time on myself, had staff to manage the house I obviously don’t have time for anymore (because, hel-LO! MEEE!!) had no kids or a full-time nanny, and could hire Jamie Oliver to do Naked Chef stuff (bow chicka- hey! I’m talking about FOOD, here, self. Mostly.) so I could eat well and not have to cook or clean, but I digress…

Woo! Is it hot in here? Oh wait, yes it is. It’s almost 100 effing degrees in California today. Dammit, I’m digressing again. I’m going to have to change my name to “The Digressive Parent”… Shit, I’m doing it again! Squirrel! >smh<

Okay. AHEM. Anyhow…

One of the quotes that really stayed with me – and I am eternally grateful I took to heart- is on the picture below. (I was just going to share it on Facebook, but I’m trying to force myself to write more and that hopefully explains the short, sweet and random of it.)


I am a better person and parent because she used (and currently is using here) her voice to make a gentler world for our kids to grow up in and it’s part of the reason I continue to use mine; the other part is because I’ve seen that happier, softening change and growth in my children and myself. It means to WORLD to me that Patrick’s was built of that same love for his short time here.

Thank you, Peggy, for the gift of your writing, love and advocacy. Thank you for making me better, for helping me parent better, for helping me help others to do the same. May you have many more happy, healthy years ahead of you- you will be admired and respected for all of mine.

 

The Tang of Bereaved Parenting

23 Mar
'Sword of the Faithful' available from Nighthawk Armoury

Tang: (n) The projection on the blade of a tool by which the blade is held firmly in the handle;
a sharp, distinctive often lingering flavor or quality;  a distinguishing characteristic that sets apart or gives special individuality.

 

We get the tang of it before the hang of it; the two are polar sides of the same hidden end of grief. The instant parents lose a child, we gain armament in equal weight to the love we hold, and it serves as the vessel through which each of us will not only fight our grief-related battles, but also gain the will, strength and skill to do so.

Everyone sees us as ‘strong‘ and ‘survivors‘, but without really having an idea of what it is that we’re surviving, where the strength comes from, or what it takes to gain. It’s common knowledge that every day is a struggle without our beloved babies. Of course it is. The love that we have for our children gives us strength, sure… but both sentiments are just the tip of the iceberg- or armament, as the metaphor may be. There is the blade of grief visible to the world- common among those of us who have suffered devastating losses- and then the tang of reaction to it, unique to each loss and person, which is where we must learn to come to grips in our own way and time.

Most of us are so shocked when we discover we are sudden sword-bearers that we can’t do anything except stare and think “WHAT?! NO. No. Hell no. FUCK. NO. I can’t. This can’t be real. I don’t want it. Someone, anyone, please take this away from me…” and eventually inch toward a more accepting, “Holy shit. This is absolutely going to make me bleed.” There is no adept way to handle the acuate presence of new, unsheathed grief and no one else can do it for us. Unless we are to remain paralyzed by fear from the pain caused by confronting it, we must choose to move, to hurt, to bleed, and eventually learn to find a safe, healthy and even helpful place and way to hold it.

Most people view someone with sword in hand as equipped and ready for battle, but a blade does not a warrior make. Let me bring that down to earth a bit: We don’t know what the fuck to do with a sudden, massive, razor-sharp sword thrust in our laps any more than you would and we aren’t skilled at handling it until it’s familiar to us. Please be patient. Give us time and space -a lot of time and space- to grapple with what we’ve been dealt. It’s absolutely terrifying to even think of wrapping our minds around and grasping. It’s monumentally egregious. It’s sharp. It’s simple presence makes us deeply ache in body, mind and spirit alike. It’s heavy, it’s awkward, it’s frustrating… It becomes absolutely maddening to not only constantly process our loss, but also the pain it causes; to never have a break from the ache and be forced to realize deeply that we never will.

We all have an idea of what grief is supposed to look and behave like, including those of us who are currently bereaved- but grief can be a dark, twisted parasite to more than just the grieving and so can the logic that accompanies it. As much as the the blade is visible and recognized, how grappling with the tang affects us is fodder for judgment and gossip (and medication, but that’s another post entirely) within the same community. Being a bereaved parent means bringing to the table a level of vulnerability and discomfort that everyone else has a choice to gloss over or leave, and many choose to. They so desperately want to make things better or to reassure themselves that they will never feel our pain that they emotionally distance themselves and judge from afar to ensure no grief will be encountered, even with a 100-foot-pole. 

Trust me, we get it. We wish we had that choice, too. Those people will find others to justify their selfish, uninformed reactions and feel safer for their reinforced walls (the bile and bullshit they amass make for excellent brick and mortar) as they smugly watch ours crumble to the ground. We learn to let them go, that this is a reflection on their character, not ours, and that we are better for knowing their true hearts without giving them any more access to our own. We learn from our constant struggles that callous is something that is best used for hardening hands, not hearts… and once again despite the hurt, we must move on. 

Consider the words of Boudicca, Celtic warrior queen:

“Have no fear whatever of the Romans; for they are superior to us neither in numbers nor in bravery. And here is the proof: they have protected themselves with helmets and breastplates and greaves and yet further provided themselves with palisades and walls and trenches to make sure of suffering no harm by an incursion of their enemies. For they are influenced by their fears when they adopt this kind of fighting in preference to the plan we follow of rough and ready action. Indeed, we enjoy such a surplus of bravery, that we regard our tents as safer than their walls and our shields as affording greater protection than their whole suits of mail.” 

Though it hurts to lose (people we thought were) our friends, we simply don’t have the energy to give one tiny mosquito crap about what we look like, seem like, smell like, sound like or act like; we just wildly miss our babies. Grief requires the vulnerability of “rough and ready action”, not the protection of stagnant walls and ideas; reacting in fear will only cause the atrophy and eventual paralysis of the very heart we are seeking to protect.

There can be no set pattern of care for grief because there is no pattern for how and when it surfaces; it’s a mercurial beast there can be no singular best way to harness. We may appear as if everything is fine, while on the inside we crash and rage and burn and scream in protest at our lot with every cell in our body. Everything may actually be “fine” and an undiscovered trigger may hit, leaving us in the fetal position in bed for days. Some need to move and create active change, to take a walk, a run, take up kick boxing, change location, hair color or employment. Some may need to be still, learn to sit, meditate, practice yoga, journal, see a therapist, outsource some responsibilities, or simply rest. Any of us at any given time may need all or none of these things, depending on a wide variety of factors. There is no right or wrong way, place or time to process grief and putting boundaries on boundless sadness can never and should never attempt to be done.

Despite our very valid (and “normal”) feelings that arise, everything we do is cross-processed through the “Should a grieving parent be behaving/speaking/thinking that way?” lens by not only ourselves, but the world around us. Allow me to clarify, once and for all:

If you’re a grieving parent, the answer is yes.

If you’re not a grieving parent, it’s none of your damn business.

The end.

No one can tell anyone else which handle will feel best to cushion the tang, nor which grip will feel most comfortable, which purpose it is best suited for or which ways to decorate or form it that will be the most accurate amalgam of those things. The sword can be a weapon, a weight, a tool or a mix of all three and only the bereaved one can feel which or when. We have to learn the ways we can handle it, how it sits on and feels to us- and everyone’s process is different. We must come to terms with the cruel fact that what we’ve been dealt isn’t fair and isn’t changing. Only after that peace has somehow been made can we then wrap the sword as carefully as we would have our children, attach it to our backs to be brought out at the right place and time, and begin, laden with weight in tow, the resistance training of taking steps down our paths toward healing.

At first, we find ourselves weak, exhausted, unskilled and unprepared for the task. We have no interest, let alone energy for a fight that feels endless and hopeless, and in the end will still never bring us what (or whom) we’re really fighting for. We give up. We give in. It’s just too damn hard. The fight seems fixed and pointless. We’d rather just sleep and leave this reality to join the only one that can bring our sweet children into our arms again… until we learn sleeping means waking up, and waking up means hitting reality again- or being hit by it. We slowly remember the other people, places and things that we love. We realize that no matter where our loved ones are in time, that they are worthy of representing in our actions in this one. And so we step into the arena, eyes open, shoulders back, bloodied and bruised, and we figure out how to fight- but not for the children we’ve lost, because we’ve finally learned that is so regrettably hopeless, but for our own lives, and the ones who will be forced to go after us.

Each day we show up and try to manage our swords, we learn. It’s deeply personal and painful work, and it’s slow going. Hour by hour, day by day and week by week, we fall and we get up again, and slowly become stronger. We become familiarized with the edges and the weight of our new permanent prodigious attachment and how to move it without hurting anyone, ourselves first and foremost. We learn and when and where is safe to hold it, and how to carefully suffuse it with the attention and care that dulls the edges and forms a more protected handle. Slowly, we are able to create a hilt that fits our hands and feels more comfortable to touch. After we have gained the strength and skill to hold the sheer mass of our grief with the tang firmly encased in time, love, and gentle self-care, we can begin to carve, shape and make it beautiful and meaningful in our own personal ways.

As much as we may fear, resent or be angry at the sword in place of our child, we slowly begin to embrace that it is what we can hold in place of them, and that it’s proof they existed when all of the other stinging reminders start to fade away. We start to understand that the effectiveness of a sword is judged by not only its hardness and strength, but also by its flexibility and balance. When we are able to see that our grief is our love turned inside out, that the sharpness exists because of our tenderness, we are able to utilize it to carve out a path, a story, a monument or memorial on our journey to reach others and help them turn their weapons into tools, too.

As a bereaved parent, I know my strength lies in my vulnerability and my weakness lies in letting fear control my actions. I will not reinforce the strength of the walls around me to keep others from touching my wounded heart, but instead choose to reinforce my strength of spirit by allowing myself to continue to break down the walls around my heart and move through what situations and feelings arise with it bared proudly upon my sleeve. I know those who take cheap shots at it are making a statement about themselves and their own fears, not me or mine- they don’t and couldn’t possibly understand my life. However they hurt me, I wouldn’t wish truly understanding my pain upon anyone… lucky them to be so naive.

As much as I spoke of my son’s life while he was here, so I will do in his absence.  It is an honor to love Patrick, anytime, anywhere, in front of anyone- even if that love is directly tied to my deepest pain and to touch it means to feel both. It proves he was here, that he matters, that he will always matter and that nothing and no one will ever change that. I will not choose to react to my grief and the “new normal” of my life in fear, but to try in his honor to feel it all, to choose to act in love.

*This post took many, many hours to put together and this entire site is a labor of love.  If you appreciate the work I do and are willing and able, please consider making a small, secure donation via Paypal here.

More Lessons in Vulnerability

23 Dec

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So this is what happens when I try to sit down and write in the morning:

“_____________________ … Shit. I can’t think. Maybe it will help if I light some candles. Okay. I’m going to do this. Here goes. Open Firefox aaannnd… Facebook! Wait shit, no, not Facebook. Songza. Okay. ‘Downtempo Instrumentals’ sounds good, I hope there are no words… Coffee. I need more coffee. Where is my cup? I hope my Amazon orders get here in time. I have to pee. Brr! Fuck! Why is it so cold in here?! I hate my windows, they’re specially imported from a century old barn, I know it. Ooh, that would be kind of cool, actually… Um, except since 100 year old barn windows are called OPEN AIR, dumbass. Exactly, self. That’s what the windows feel like. Oh. Right. I need coffee...  My hands are cold. Hey, coffee would help that, too, smartypants. Get the coffee, yo. Dude, where is my cup? Seriously. Where. Is. My. Cup. I had it when I was… THERE. Okay. Ahhhhh, sweet mother of everything that is good and right with the world, I love coffee… Okay. Shit! I should be writing.

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