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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

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

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.

Continue reading

Some Times

14 Dec

Sometimes I wake up

and just for a moment, I forget

which side of which dream I belong to

Sometimes I can’t get out of bed at all

Sometimes I wake up early

and find my way through the woods

to the top of the nearest hill

Sometimes I see you there

and I know

I always know

Sometimes I say

Hello, my love.

Thank you for meeting me here.”

Sometimes I open my eyes

and there are rocks in my knees

mud on my fingers

leaves in my hair

and a pool of tears that need a heaven all their own

Sometimes I find a dandelion

a four leaf clover

a shooting star

Sometimes I catch the clock at 11:11

and I always hope it’s the wish

that will break the spell

Sometimes I catch myself laughing

and wonder how I could do such a thing

when there’s so much hurt

Sometimes I catch myself crying

and wonder how I could do such a thing

when there’s so much beauty

either way

it’s always because I love you

Sometimes I live fourteen months in fourteen seconds

eyes and heart open, full of you

Sometimes the nights are endless

Empty arms erase the hands of clocks

Sometimes I can’t stop the words from coming

a rush hour traffic jam of thought

Sometimes I am a ghost town
Continue reading

Gravity and Gravidity

2 Dec 20131201-092053.jpg

I had a dream when I was up at my grandparents last weekend that I don’t want to lose, even though it tears me apart, puts me to shame, and brings regret bubbling to the surface to rear its ugly head moreso than almost anything I can recall. It’s not that it was a nightmare, at all. In fact, it was nearly the opposite.

I have been drawn to the stars lately, taking comfort in the knowledge that we are all stardust, that energy is neither created or destroyed in the Universe, that we are in the Universe and the Universe is in us… the knowledge of those facts truly helps me, and brings even more meaning to the ee cummings poem, “I carry your heart with me”.

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***

In my dream, it was a star-filled night. I came into the it at the edge of the forest where it met an open beach, agreeing with someone or thing to go through the experience, that I understood I was supposed to have my consciousness altered in some way, to have an epiphany of sorts. I have been (in dream and waking life, alike) guidance and a break from my grueling journey, to commune with my higher power in a tangible way. I wanted to see my son.

With mild trepidation, curiosity and excitement, I walked onto the sand. There were two people, silent and faceless friends, one familiar with me, and one familiar with the process, there to be with me while I went through my experience.  I went out to where I could hear the ocean, laid on my back with my spirit-guide-friends on each side, and together, we began gazing at the sky.

There were more stars than I had ever seen. They were breathtaking, beautiful, magical. I felt safe with my companions and warm in the night air and sand. I felt myself begin to open to the deep, infinite connectivity of it all, the stars, the sand, my atoms- and for a very brief moment, I was filled with nothing but peace, awe, and wonder.

And then the stars started shifting.

At first, I thought I saw some kind of like a shooting star… or fifty. I turned to my companions as if to say, “Whoa! Did you see that?!” (most of the time, I don’t speak in my dreams) but they just gazed calmly upward, seemingly seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

When I looked back up, the stars were moving back and forth in huge arcs across the sky, all towards and from a central location. I was aware of the fact that I was in an altered state, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be so visual and visceral. It was the most awake, conscious and valid I had ever felt- which made the fact that the heavens were convulsing particularly hard to process.

I felt like Chicken Little, “The sky is falling!”, but exponentially more… like the entire Universe was caving in, and I was the only one who was watching it happen. I was overwhelmed, terrified, mystified. I couldn’t look away. As I lay with my mind reeling, body pressed firmly into the sand, the stars moved toward, then away from their center one last time, then kept falling away, slowly, as if they were each pulling on invisible threads as a hole in the sky, in the Universe itself, began to open.

There, out of the center, held in enormous hands, was Patrick. He was sitting calmly with his blue sweatshirt and amber necklace on, as beautiful and healthy as I’d ever seen, as if he’d paused, mid-speed-crawl just to look back and make sure I was watching.

Saying it sounds obvious, but I absolutely could not believe my eyes. Here, in the midst of my glimpse into infinite reality, was my baby.

My baby…

I immediately felt as if I’d been plunged under water, the same as when I hit triggers in my waking life. My breath stopped. My heart stopped. I couldn’t hear a thing, I couldn’t look away. It was as if the hands were holding him out, offering him to me like Rafiki with Simba- however silly that seems, it’s the closest I can evoke. It was a faraway gesture, a faraway offering, not meant to touch.

Seeing him caused an instantaneous and simultaneous lifting of my spirit, feeling again the free flowing of the love, the connection, the absolute beauty in the moment… but paired with the sinking weight of the knowledge that I wasn’t going to hold him again, that what I was seeing was simply because it’s what I had asked for, and rage that he was still so far away, that I was being “offered” something I couldn’t have, and that I was still going to wake up alone. I feltl as if I was tearing in two from the soul outwards, pulled apart by the same force the stars.

I thought I had come do some gentle communing with nature on the beach, to meditate and come to some small realization to help me along the way, not have my soul ripped in half. I felt like I was being teased. I was frustrated, overwhelmed, I was mortally afraid at the gravity and gravidity of it all. I squeezed my eyes and the arm of the person to my right and thought, I don’t want to be here anymore.

And I woke up.

The drowning, swirling sensation was gone- but Patrick was gone, too.

No…” the singular reality resounded like a clanging bell in my head. “Nononononono…. No, bring me back.  I didn’t mean it, I just got scared….”. I squeezed my eyes again and tried to relax back into dreamland. I scanned everything I could remember in order to reassemble what had happened and continue, but it didn’t work. I was awake.

I lay staring at the cottage cheese ceiling of my grandparents’ house instead of the stars, and tried to comprehend what had happened. I saw him… I finally, finally dreamed about Patrick- and I fucking left. I bailed! He visited me. I got what my soul has been aching for every. single. day... The very moon and stars realigned and the Universe repositioned itself in the only way it can so that I could just see him again for a moment…  and I didn’t have the strength to stand the pain paired with the reality of it. I lost sight of him because of the panic and the pain, and I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself. I know I won’t forget.

I’ve become like a poster child for soul-searing pain tolerance, dammit. I’ve even recent hit a point in my grief where I’ve been able to (occasionally) welcome the pain because I understand that it hurts because it matters, and insomuch as the hurt is there, so is my love for him… I try so, so hard to practice being vulnerable, being brave, of letting myself feel the pain, then let it go… and here I am, at the most subconscious level, failing miserably at the one thing I care about more than anything, the one thing that I am seeking to master with all of my heart.

Fuck.

My eyes, the tears pouring from them, my head, my chest, and my throat all burned hot, angry, and disappointed beyond despair. “My baby… he was there and I left. How can I forgive myself? How can I keep wanting that, when I know that I’m not even strong enough to withstand it? How could I see my son and want out? What kind of mother am I?  I’m supposed to be grateful for any part of him that I have, any fleeting moment, and I just choose to leave? I hate myself. Unforgivable. Unforgettable. I don’t even deserve another dream. Why would he visit me if I don’t even stay for it?”

That cycle has repeated several times since then. I can’t help it, though I know it’s a viscous cycle. I was paralyzed for nearly an hour by it then, until it I heard other people starting to rise and I could get up and work. I had come to help my grandparents pack and move from their house in Humboldt County and there was -there still is- lots of work to be done. I was relieved for the distraction and got up to find some (sacred, beloved) coffee to help bring me out of my daze and jump start my logic.

It’s hard for me to come in for a landing when I hit triggers, but especially so when they are in my dreams. I’m also notoriously quiet in the mornings- it’s when I drink coffee and write, if I can help it- like now. I was silently standing with my mind and heart still far away when my grandma asked, “Are you okay?”. I realized that she hasn’t been around me or my mágoa at all since Patrick’s passing.

“I am. I’m okay, Grammy. It’s just….” Well, what do you even say? She’s an octogenarian. I don’t need to explain heartache to her- at that, her son died recently, too.

“So you’re just like this now?”, she asked tenderly. “You grieve every day?”

I nodded. “I do.”

It’s exhausting. I hate it… but waking from that dream made me realize that even though there’s deep, excruciating and overwhelming hurt involved in remembering Patrick, looking squarely at exactly how much I love and miss him and how unjust it is that he’s not here- I know that remembering is all I have, and is what I want more than anything.

Sometimes I get caught in the top layers of acknowledging my grief in my daily tasks at home, and in my writing, too. It becomes routine, especially during times that I am bracing myself for triggers, such as now, three days before the 4th, when he should be turning two… But I will not become numb because it’s the easy way out. I don’t want to wake up from the dream of this life with that same frantic feeling, “No… nonononono! Let me try again. I was just scared…”

Choosing to escape the pain meant choosing to escape the love right along with it, and as far as I can help it, I will never make that choice again.

I will choose to remember.

Even if I can’t control it.

Even if it’s overwhelming.

Even if it causes soul-twisting ache.

I will choose love.

Dammit.

I will choose love.

Grief and Gratitude

28 Nov

It’s Thanksgiving and I can’t seem to stop shifting from sadness beyond measure, gratitude, and complete nothingness. At least gratitude is there, although the latter seems to be the most present.  The writing just isn’t happening. I have to rewrite every sentence,  sit and think, have nothing to say then decide to just say that, which is how I am managing to even get this far. Continue reading

Trigger Hippie

20 Nov

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I was reorganizing in the kitchen today and found Patrick’s food mill… Over half of the food that ever went into his body was made by my hands with it. He loved sweet potatoes- I used to call him my little sweet potato, especially after letting him touch/explore what was left after eating. (aka: wipe it in his hair and everywhere else) He never liked avocados, which my other three kids love. His favorite was barley cereal with breastmilk and bananas, and anything involving any other kind of potato- my sweet little Irish boy. Continue reading

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