All the small things

Almost a year has passed.

Our Christmas holiday felt like the most connected in many years.  Wholly.  Not just parts of it, like the time he gave me a lovely necklace.  The gifts were thoughtful and personal, yes, but it was more than that.

He asked me last year, through tears, what about all of our pictures, and our movies, and our inside jokes?  At the time, they seemed irrelevant.  I was looking at what I thought was the bigger picture.  It was indeed, but I think mostly it was a rear-facing mirror image and it was so big, I just couldn’t see my way around it.  I figured the only way to move forward was to leave all of that behind, and that included tossing aside all the small things.

From far away, they are like a mosaic; a living, growing work of art.  The weekend trips to the beach punctuated by familiar words and phrases when familiar landmarks and places are within sight.  The holiday movies, the actors’ lines that we repeat together, or say individually which evokes laughter every single time, year after year.  The songs and lyrics culminated over time that can pinpoint a memory like a single star in a giant constellation.  The “Do you remember when’s” and “omg, what about’s” and “Can you believe we’s”.

I didn’t realize just how important these things were during the first half of last year when I was ready to leave and create a new mosaic.

Our picture has not been pretty, but it’s ours.  Our life.  Our knitting together of experiences, and though the edges are tattered, they continue to stretch out and grow, and the center is most solid.

 

 

Swings and Roundabouts

This process of reconnecting with self while at the same time, trying to find the connection with husband, oftentimes feels like two steps forward, a hundred steps back. The connections to husband are like rusty prongs which no longer fit the holes they once did, and no matter how I try to needle them in, they just won’t go.

Often, I’ll wonder if I will love him the same way.  In those moments, I really need to pay attention to the voice that says, “No, you won’t.  How can you?”  The old way was mothering; a trap I fell into, a trap many women fall into, though this was no fault of my own.

So, I guess I’m learning how to be a wife to my husband, and it feels a bit like the USS Enterprise saucer separation, which is an odd analogy, but consider this:  two months ago, I felt an absolute separation, as if all parts of me fled.  But perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they simply ran for cover when the reality of what I was saying sunk in.

He and I have had some frank conversations lately about sex, usually when we are drunk and/or stoned, which has led to things I truly was unsure about doing.  I know now that I am definitely not ready for that; it’s like running before you can walk.

So, how do we move forward?  Slowly.  Patiently.  Cognizant of the others’ triggers.  Not as mother and husband, but as husband and wife, as friends, as partners.

Of course, there’s the child in me that is quite petulant.  Her arms her arms crossed, and she is pouty faced.  She is stubborn and still thinks that she’s better off alone.  That no matter the changes in him, no matter the work they are doing, she cannot see the point.

She is the one who hears his I Love You but clamps the mouth shut in response.  She is the one that gets irritated when he walks on eggshells, or looks at her in that way that I can’t describe in words.  She is the one who balks, indignant at the thought of discovering him sexually.  Why should she have to find out about him?  She’s the one that’s done the work for all these years; she’s not willing to put in the effort.

It’s a constant conflict between the child and the adult. I am somewhere in between, muddling through.  Trying to reconcile, trying to connect with him sometimes and other times, not.  Working on not being niggly, trying to be aware of what I’m feeling or thinking and expressing them, if need be.  I’m not very good at the awareness thing because the child is still very much a wounded creature.  This will take extra focus.

Finding my way back to a cohesive, loving partnership seems like a nice goal.  With fifteen years of backlog, we both have to remember to be patient with each other.

Pieces.

shattered_statue_by_hecatean-d8o9rd2

What courage have I?  In the moment, it is simply a thing I have to do.  Tired of picking up pieces; the result of others’ choices, I made my own, and scattered my marriage, my life and his life to all points and corners.

I had envisioned months and months of civil side-by-side living while I cultivated the desire to live away from him.  I was shut down, closed off, impenetrable, had made my decision and dammit, I’d had enough.  I loved my children but I did not love my husband anymore.  Even the little, familiar things we shared seemed inconsequential and did not affect my ambition.

Six weeks later, I find myself rummaging for all the pieces.  Slowly, deliberately, even perhaps letting them come find me for repair.  As in Kintsugi, we are reconstructing in new ways.  Our marriage from before is dead; exploded, and the new one is beginning to look much different.

With this slow repair though, comes a devil on my shoulder.  The doubter, nagger, and all around pessimist.  She is obstinate and doesn’t want to move forward.  She is petulant and refuses to show any kind of affection.  She throws emotional grenades that make me break down in counseling sessions.  But what she fails to realize is that her work aids progress; she is part of the yin and yang of me.  However, she’s been the larger of the two for a long time and she’s not keen on sharing power.

So, I am struggling with conflict.  The desire to move forward and to not.

These are interesting times.  I see my husband in a new light but I don’t yet know who I am, or who I am in this relationship.  It’s a new thing, but not.  It’s not like a new relationship that’s thrilling and butterfly-inducing; it has a history.

So, I work on myself.  Or sit with myself.  Do nothing.  Think nothing.  Feel nothing.  Other times, I do, think and feel it all at once.  It’s still choppy waters.

But that devil…..boy, she’s had her way for so long.  I mustn’t fight her, but allowing her just to be makes my life quite challenging.

 

Welcome home.

lost_soul_evolurtion_by_nataly1st-d34sqs9The thing I loved to do became a burden. It was time to push it behind for a while, let it curl up like a tired cat to sleep. In time, it will have been rejuvenated, will have shorn its tiresome aura, its toxicity, and I will be able to love it once more.

Now I can focus on the spirits that matter. I can support, and be there. It’s coming home and it’s most welcome.

I brought out my cushion (which is actually a giant stuffed monkey) and got down into myself for the first time in a very long while.  Almost immediately after the timer bell rang, fat words drifted up to say Hello and the smile on my face stretched from ear to ear.  It was wonderful, and so reassuring to confirm that I am always there even if the ego drags me this way and that.

“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies. All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave goodbye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Death, No Fear

My husband says I am an enigma. He looks at me quizzically. “You’re intelligent,” he says, “and yet, you believe in chakras and stuff.” I love him; he is the practical, realistic one. I am the intuitive one, and a believer of the teachings of many spiritual guides. We balance each other, my husband and me. Eleven years of mawwage tomorrow and how fucking wonderful it is to be right where we are with each other. After the rocky slopes; the slippery slopes, and the glaciers of silence, we are the most connected right now.

Welcome home.

Friday Fictioneers – Momma

Photo courtesy - David Stewart

Photo courtesy – David Stewart

Momma

Word count:  101

Momma’s house has been empty for years. Cousin Willie mows the grass regularly; says he won’t stop until he’s got a toe tag. He never goes in though, and he never touches the flower beds. Just cuts the grass. See, Momma disappeared seven years ago, one year to the day that Daddy died in the mountains. She never stopped grieving; loved that man with all her soul. She raised us kids until we were old enough to fend for ourselves and then one day, she vanished.

I was only eighteen; wasn’t near old enough to lose her.

I miss my Momma.

Mentally Parental

I don’t often write about another large part of my journey, that of being a parent. But the topic is pleading with me so fine, here I go.

Our kids are the first in the family to be born close enough to each other that they suffer and love being playmate siblings. My husband’s sister was seven years younger and I was an only child. My Dad was ten years older than his sisters, my in-laws had large gaps or like me, were the solitary kid. Only my Mum had a brother with whom she was close but that was mostly a fear bonding created by what I can only assume was a violent household.

We have one of each:  A boy and a girl and I love them both with my whole heart and more. As Big Nut Brown Hare says, “…to the moon and back.”

Our daughter is a physical, emotional and spiritual manifestation of all that my husband and I could ever have wanted in ourselves. She has a strong sense of who she is and what she can do. What she cannot do, she will try and try to achieve until she gets it. She is focused, self-assured and confident.

Our son is the opposite; he has a low self-esteem, is reluctant to try or do most anything new, physically or mentally. And when he is made to, it’s the end of the world. He gives up easily, has admitted that he doesn’t believe in himself (but I’m not sure he really understands what that means.) Last night, after a particularly trying day, he wrote a note and stuck it to his bedroom door:

“There is room for 1 person in this room because no-one loves Sean”

The thing is, he is so loved. And I see what he doesn’t: creativity, a quick mind, a visual learner. He is capable of so much more than he realizes and we flounder to help him understand. I am pretty good at motivating myself and seeing the benefit of affirmations, quotes and the like; they nudge the soul to realize its potential. But when I’m with my son and I’m attempting a heart-to-heart, all those wonderful phrases disappear. It’s baffling. He’s uncomfortable with praise and lord knows, we are not the kind of parents to go overboard with it. We give praise where it is due, and guidance as best we can.

Our son is the culmination of the parts of my husband and I that, when we look back on our lives, we feel we could have changed. We were both drifters, with undefined goals, but unlike our son, the springboards that we jumped from into our own futures were not so well-cared for. We see that in our histories, we have hindsight, and like so many other parents now and before, we have a mental chime that reminds us not to be like our mothers and fathers. We seek to show more affection, feel more connected, give the kids more avenues to choose from. Provide them a stable, nurturing foundation with which to carry solidly down the road.

So whaddya do when you have one of each? One who you know is aware of the others’ ease of accomplishing, of figuring out, of taking on a challenge and getting it right? How do you raise him up without having him step on a pedestal, content with that much? Fearing going any higher because to do so could mean failure? Do you conceal your frustration, temper your anger, speak sweetly? Or do you let it fly after you’ve encouraged, cajoled and invited, then moved onto ultimatums, delivering news of consequences should the responsibility not be carried out? Do you expose the honesty when you’ve hit that wall? And for what cause, for what benefit? Shouting and yelling serves only to confuse and reflect your anger back to you, but when all else has failed, it becomes the last raw option.

Certainly we don’t give up. We continue the back and forth, push and pull, throw in the towel, pick up the gauntlet that is parenting. Keep on loving and keep on showing love. Carry on guiding, making them do the things they don’t want to because in the end, it’s more than we had. Like the familial chain it is, it will go on and on.

There. God, this has been a long drawn-out affair which proves to me that being a parent is the hardest job; it’s a lifetime commitment with deep emotional roots. The manual is blank and confusing with every page, and you can’t skip ahead. You can flick backwards but the things you applied a few chapters ago may not work in the present.

Buy, buy, buy

It’s been a strange-feeling Christmas this year, and I can’t quite put my finger on the reason.

This is the first Christmas since my oldest was born that I am working. Perhaps I have felt the time constraints more keenly because of that. When I was able to get presents for my kids, it was within a week and a half of Christmas, and how time breathed heavy down the neck of my shirt. The things they wanted were no longer available; snapped up by others with the luxury of time and income. ~a touch of resentment there. 

buy_all_things-400x300At the mall yesterday (a place I had hoped to avoid) I was aware of the materialistic nature of the season. Signs everywhere begging for attention, and I felt dissatisfied. I’ve been naming emotions the past few days and that one pops up frequently. I’m on the road a lot more this year with work commutes and I’m more aware of the douchy nature of so many drivers. Why not just let the guy in? Why do you have to close ranks and be a dick? Why? Where is the courtesy? Where is the compassion?

I know it’s out there. I see it on my facebook feed daily through the lives of friends and acquaintances near and far.

There’s just something lacking, which is hilariously ironic because truthfully, I lack for nothing. Nothing of importance anyway – I have love, comfort, family, a roof over my head, and those are enough for my soul. It’s my ego that is dissatisfied.

So, to the ego, I say go. Leave and let self bask in the joys of the season. There is nothing here for you to worry over, or stress about, or be angry about. Nobody else matters. Just relax.

Breathe. Beer. Cookies. Delight. Togetherness. Tradition. Family.

All The Good Things

I am in the present moment very much lately. I love that. I can look behind me and feel an ache in my heart. I can look ahead and feel the tug of worry in my heart. Mostly I’m right here, right now. Flying, sailing, whatever feeling that comes from going along comfortably, smoothly. I have begun to allow the dark things some room to breathe and exist.  I can have thoughts of anger, resentment, jealousy, wishing a person ill-will and I am more at ease with these things. I know they can’t be true, they are my own issues from *waves hand* events past. They are not truly who I am. I thought I had changed, become a new me but it’s not that; I am growing into the real me. I smile. I am smiling so much lately for no other reason than that.

The questions that live inside still poke for answers, like children not content with the explanation. But I can do nothing for those questions. I am answerless. They niggle a little and if I have occasion to become wrapped up in them, I can still shed tears for them. But I am ‘cleaning up’ as the chakra lady said. It’s just a bit of a big mess that takes a little extra time, is all.

Yoga has a gym-mat-fad feel in the world. However, at home in the privacy of my bedroom, looking out into the fallen-leaved wood with families of deer frolicking around at breakfast, it is a sensual, albeit sometimes strenuous act. I love the feel of going (and pardon my unyogi-like verbiage) from plank, to yoga push up to cobra to downward dog.  It’s effort and gliding, strength and stretching all at once; so satisfying.

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The feel of the first sip of hot Earl Grey tea from the ceramic tea thermos that a dear friend recently sent me.  Instant blanket for my insides for cold mornings on busy, inconsiderate roads.

My husband is home for family dinners.  I adore that we all eat together now when for many years, with him as chef for whatever restaurant, it was never possible.  It’s a fun routine accompanied by music, telling of our Highs & Lows, belching, chatter, giggles, and of course some stern words to keep knees down, all four chair legs on the floor, and to stop mouths being stuffed with too big a bite.

Life is truly good. Just a tinge of things past to nudge my heart at some point every day. It’s ok though; without it, I wouldn’t appreciate what I have so I think I can live with the sting.

Ten

Our tenth wedding anniversary approaches. We’ve been through some very tough times, I think to myself frequently. I also say it out loud a lot. Perhaps to remind myself just how far we’ve come. Verbalizing the memories brings a crack to my voice, and tears are apt to fill my eyes. On the heels of the statement, like flapping coattails, I also know that many, many couples go through hard times in their relationships – illness, financial worries, death, uncertainty, knocks from left and right, rugs pulled so swiftly as to leave a couple knocked onto their asses.

Sometimes it’s unthinkable the things that happen.

I spent many years assigning blame; pointing fingers at family members (one of which I’m not sad to admit, is probably broken beyond repair), my husband included. I always tried to divert the pointing away from him because I knew how hard he was working and how he suffered for our little family but it was there all the same, shouting into the vast silences, or picking and niggling out of my mouth without any remorse.

At our lowest, at our most far apart, and when he left for work, often it felt as blank as closing the door on an empty house. In another room, I would become aware of his leaving, and feel floundered but at the same time I didn’t care. We could be in the same room but the balance of our relationship had shifted so that we couldn’t relate to one another. We didn’t know how to navigate the waters together so we stumbled angry, haughty, and defensive through the turmoil. Each of us aware of the other but too stubborn, or we didn’t know how, or just didn’t want to make the effort, to reach out and tap the other on that cold shoulder. Fearing rejection? Fearing taking the first step? Fearing the hard battle to right things?cebc9807e533ca803f1ad0072b52ccc4

Visually speaking, I see the journey like a scab, which isn’t appealing but then again, marriage has its hard, dark side. The deeply wounded part of our journey; stuck and welting red under the hardened skin I could liken to our worst four years. As the scab gets better around the outside, the sore becomes lighter and stronger. The skin is thin, and tenuous but pinker. As the edges spread, the scab is no longer needed because the skin has become firmer, more solid.

These have become good years. We still struggle somewhat, but there’s an honesty and humor that wasn’t there before. It appears that we have sailed the storm, both with the same destination and we have arrived together to sunnier shores.

I love my husband with all my heart and I have no regrets about anything I have done or said in the last six years (and I have done and said some not-so-good things) because without all the experiences, the challenges, the hardship, the sadness, the shame, the silence,  we would still be skating on the surface. Holding hands and smiling, sure, but without the deep knowledge that can be seen in the quickest of glances.

That said, I would not want to relive it!

Mum.

A visit to my beautiful home state of Virginia approaches and I’m part nervous, part warmly excited, part dreading the trip.  To friends, I make light of it with conspiratorial jokes about the five hour car ride alone with my children or the prospect of sleeping in a small room with both of them.  In truth, what should be a lovely trip is usually preceded by melancholia.  Whilst there I am the epitome of false light and bravado and upon leaving, I feel relieved and guilty.

It has nothing to do with my parents and yet, everything to do with them.  Even though I’m married with my own family, the three of us (my parents and I) are all we have and all we’ve ever been.  Even as a kid, as far apart as we could possibly be from each other, we were always a unit.  The unit is tremulous these days; things unspoken, fears go unreleased. We live in the day by day, hoping to make it through okay.

Four years ago I entered a hospital ICU room with my Dad and saw my mother like I’d never seen her before.   Her body purposely swelled with liquid during surgery and covered in long plastic tubes of warm air to keep her at an optimum temperature.  She wasn’t breathing except for the ventilator that was doing so for her.  She looked like my grandmother; her face puffy yet drained and old. Tubes and wires spiraled from her chest, stomach and arms like a sacrificial bloodletting.   She had been a snatch away from death.

A cry tried to escape but became stuck in my throat.  My Dad looked so dismayed.  We stood on either side of her bed, holding a cold knuckled hand not knowing what to say, or think, or do.  Stunned and silently weeping, were grateful just to still have her.

My mother has always been a fighter and two days later when we walked in, she was sitting upright although heavily propped with pillows and cushions.  The ventilator was still operating but the doctors were determined to have her begin breathing on her own.  She recognized me then and I could sense her embarrassment that I’d come all this way.  I don’t think she understood the enormity of the event that had just played out.  I stayed a while with her and suppressed so much in her presence that my heart was sore.  I watched and encouraged her to try to catch her breath, learning to find the life force that was continually out of reach.  Her eyes bulged with the effort of gasping.  I cracked jokes, listened to the doctors, and had quiet asides with my Dad.  But all through the time, I wanted to scream and cry and pound cushions.  Why did this happen?  Why her? What the fucking fuck?  And, oh my god, I know this is hereditary and will it happen to me or my children?  It was as if someone hit my heart with a crowbar and it wouldn’t stop reverberating.

She has been a paraplegic since that day.  The doctors told us it came down to life or limb, and limb it was.

My visits are once-yearly with the kids and once a year, my parents make the five hour drive North to us.  A couple of days away isn’t so bad for an able-bodied person but for a paraplegic there is back pain, skin sores, urine pouches, appropriate bed height, hotels that are equipped with adapted showers and ramps and doors wide enough.  There are medicines, medical supplies, towels, bowel training (which a trip will completely interfere with), and a host of other needs and necessities.  My Dad has become my mother’s caregiver, and at 68 I am concerned about his ability to continue beyond five, even ten years.

When I visit, I do what I can to help; I cook, I clean.  I make small talk with my Mum as if nothing ever happened.  We don’t talk about the depth of the situation.  We gloss over physical therapy, the trip to Mexico for stem cell treatment that seems to have made no difference.  My mum is eager to please the kids and I let her…she wants to buy them things to show her love.  They are nervous around the wheelchair so need some quiet explanation and encouragement alone.  My Dad, who has no-one else to talk to, sits down and vents to me in the evenings.  And I let him.  I sit and listen and nod and take it all in because everything not said during the day comes out in the night with him.

My heart aches for him the most.

And so I sit here with four days to go, pre-anguishing.  I’m preparing with food and money and supplies and things to occupy the kids with.  And I’m preparing myself emotionally and mentally for the onslaught of hidden emotions that always surface from now until the day we leave.