i would tell you how
all the petals
look like pink butterflies
and i would despise myself
for stating something
so obviously trite,
but you would not despise me.
i would tell you how
all the petals
look like pink butterflies
and i would despise myself
for stating something
so obviously trite,
but you would not despise me.
. . . Jack is in the back seat and I’m driving. My car dies at the entrance of the cemetery. I ram my foot down on the pedal and turn the key over and over, but my car won’t start. It does however float off to the side of the cemetery gate.
We’re walking among the graves. There is a train, a small one, like in an amusement park. It’s dusk.
E.’s casket is unearthed, or maybe it has never been buried. It is open and we can see her. She is on a little hill of green, grassy earth and even though it is shadowy, there is a sort of fairy tale cheer about the place.
Someone approaches her and runs their fingers through her short, gray hair. This does not seem weird to me, but also it does seem weird to me. At her wake, I remember, we all remarked how they had not done her hair quite right. It was too spiky, too piecey. It looked like they had used too much product. We all sat and laughed, but it was a loving and fond laugh, about how she used to sit in her office and brush that short hair into a fluffy little puff. Oh, how we loved her.
Wait, I think. We’ve already done this. Why are we doing this again?
Someone bends down to get a closer look at E. Someone strokes her cheek. Someone kisses her forehead. I like seeing people touch and love on her. It comforts me. I want to touch her again too. I want to kiss her too.
But then we are all sitting in chairs. E. is sitting there too. She’s wearing her wedding dress, the royal blue suit in which she was buried. She’s there. She’s talking to us. She’s reading things from a paper in her hand. That seems right. That seems normal. She’s a born orator, even though it makes her nervous.
“I won’t be around forever,” she tells us. Part of my brain is wondering what this means because she is already gone, but she is also here. “I’d like to have one more party,” she says. We start talking about what we are going to wear. I get excited about the idea of digging up my pink tutu. We all laugh. “I might only be here for another ten years. We will have a party, and then you will have to live with whatever happens.” She says this and she looks right at me.
I’d love ten more years I think.
I’ll be good, I think. I won’t put pressure on you or try to change you. I’ll let you be. Just stay with me. I’m thinking all this and she’s looking right at me. I think maybe she is thinking that I need to let go.
Her face is changed. It’s her, but it’s not. I’m strangely mute. I can’t say any of the stuff I want to say.
We walk away to prepare for the party. I remember that my car is dead and I will have to call for a tow truck. My friend agrees to give me a ride, but she’s walking far ahead of me and I’m nervous that she will leave without me.
I walk past E.’s grave. It’s a big hole. I look down into it and the earth is deep and brown, but it is empty. I look up, and a little ways off, I see her casket. I look and it is open. I look and it is closed. I look and it is open and she is not in it. It all makes sense, and I’m more nervous about my car now.
And my kids.
Jack is with me, but Emily has gone off. We need to board the train. I yell for Emily to come. She comes. There’s not a lot of space on the little, amusement park train, but we cram into it. I am squished on the seat next to my friend. My kids are with me.
I’m nervous about my car. I’m excited about the party. I can’t wait to see E. I’ll be so happy to see E. There’s so much I’ve got to tell her.
I’m so excited to see E. . .
. . . and so sad to wake.
I am making grief my bitch.
I’m pretty sure I could get a job as a professional mourner, which believe it or not, they do have in some cultures.
No. You guys, I wouldn’t just get the job, I would be the supervisor. It would be my job to show everyone else exactly how “it’s” done. The keening and wailing. All of it. Eventually, they would promote me and I would be the boss of the whole Agency of Grieving.
If you know me at all, and even if you don’t, you can probably (hopefully) tell I’m being facetious.
Is anyone really good at grief? What would that even mean? I have no idea.
It’s such a subjective and abstract thing. Grief is not a one size fits all garment. It looks and fits differently on everybody. And on some, I suppose, it is just not flattering. I mean, it’s not called “ugly crying” because it looks and feels amazing, right?
I’ve spilled my share of ugly tears over the past four weeks since my friend E. died. Sometimes it has felt cathartic, and other times it has been just scary. I can’t say it has ever felt particularly “good” or that I’ve felt even remotely competent while doing it.
But I’ve done it.
I’ve done it at her grave, and in my car. I’ve done it at work. I’ve done it as I fell asleep and as I woke up the next morning.
Grief has been a rather unruly house guest. It wants all of my attention. It wants to be carted about to see the sights and then complains about everything. But I’ve done my best to be hospitable because hosting this thing seems important. Necessary, even.
If I’ve been good at grief at all over the past month, it is only because I’ve made friends with it. I’ve opened my arms to all of its prickly tendencies, held it close, and wept because it is so sharp and painful.
And if I’ve been good at grief, it has been because people have given me the space, love, and support to do it. Friends and family have granted me access to sail off with grief into dark and murky waters, of which I am terribly frightened. Even though they can’t go there with me, they have assured me that they will be there when I return, standing on the shore with arms ready to collect me.
Sometimes grief comes back with me, and other times it does some island hopping alone while I tend to vacuuming, shuttling kids to birthday parties and karate, and laughing at something with my husband.
It has helped to write. It has helped to talk. It has helped to cry. It has helped to be hugged. It has helped to be left alone.
Knowing that people around the globe have held space for me while I go through this has been a priceless blessing.
And you know what? I’m feeling a bit better. Maybe I’m even feeling a lot better.
Of course this could be illusory. Remember a couple weeks ago when I felt amazing and was totally acing life and then I started to feel like crap again? Yeah.
But there has been a shift.
Even when I am off on that rickety boat with my grief, I can see the shore where once it was just a dark mess of fog. Sometimes E. is standing there on the sandy banks, and I am so happy to see her, to be reminded of all our good times, to feel her unconditional love which is so vast and strong it penetrates death and makes me feel intact.
From the great beyond, she inspires my heart.
I’m here, she says. I’m here. When you’re ready, you can come ashore, let go of the pain and I’ll still be here.
Her voice fills me with a mixture of hope and sorrow, but I hear it clearly.
I don’t think I’d have heard it had I not committed to taking this voyage to bond with grief.
So, as this self proclaimed expert who is totally winning at grief, what would I recommend to others?
I don’t know, guys.
I guess do what feels right. Let it be with you and let it go when it feels appropriate. Trust your love.
And tell yourself that you are crushing it in the biggest and best way possible. It sort of helps.
I feel like I’m existing in some parallel universe, out of sync with everyone around me.
It’s as though I’m onstage with the Rockettes. I look fabulous and I’m smiling, but I’m kicking just a bit lower and off tempo. Actually, that’s a crappy analogy. I could never be a Rockette. Modern dance is more my thing, but I digress.
It’s like I forgot how to talk to people. I worry I’m blinking too much. I worry about eye contact.
I feel simultaneously invisible and horribly exposed, like either I am completely fading away, or everyone can see every raw, messy inch of how awful I feel. Maybe they will be embarrassed for me, or they won’t know what to say. Maybe they won’t care. Either way it feels awkward and unusual.
I second guess everything I say, anxious I make people angry or confused. I’m worried that patience is running thin, that my sorrow is boring and testing those around me.
Even in my writing, I feel like I feel incapable of expressing things with the clarity I so desire. It’s frustrating and makes me tired.
It could also be lack of sleep exacerbating things. I haven’t been sleeping or eating that great since it all happened.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping in motion. I’m bathing and working and functioning at a completely reasonable pace. Kick, jump, shuffle, step.
It’s just this bizarre sense that life is so different, difficult, and exhausting.
My heart aches for E.
What a stupid and trite thing to write, but I don’t know any other way to put it.
After the initial shock of her death, and the emotional roller coaster of the wake and funeral, I felt a bit numb. It wasn’t such a bad thing. It allowed me to go about my day. Feed the kids. See clients. Shop. Make jokes. Have sex. Cook some chicken in the crock pot.
It was easy to kind of start thinking that maybe she was just on one of her cruises with her wife. She was just “away”.
A part of me started to accept her “away-ness.” It didn’t feel terrible.
But then the moment came when I wanted to pick up the phone and call her and I just couldn’t.
I searched around me for some tangible reminder of my connection with her. I put on the scarf she gave me. I looked at her handwriting in the modern dance book she gave me at our last supper out together. “Forty years later, this is yours, my vivacious friend. E.”
Tears came, fresh and hot.
It’s the little things that kill me, like when I want to tell her about a really good session at work, or a particularly rewarding conversation with a coworker. It’s when I want to show her the pictures of my kids dressed up for Halloween, or tell her about something radical my daughter said.
My brain continues to share dumb jokes with her.
Partly it comforts.
But mostly it confounds in the new, one dimensional shape our relationship has taken.
I mentioned to a friend that I was struggling and they suggested I get “professional help.” While I know my friend was just trying to be loving, and I appreciate that, I got super butt hurt over it.
First of all, the last thing a therapist wants to do at the end of the day is more therapy. Believe me. Been there, done that. At this point I am fairly certain I know enough about myself to know that I don’t need therapy. Not just yet, anyway.
Second of all, therapy is not going to bring E. back.
Third, it has only been three weeks. Although cultural expectations would suggest I should be long past things by now, I know that it doesn’t work that way. Not really.
Finally, I don’t want to talk to a stranger about E. I want to talk to my friends, and her friends, and my family about her. I want to share and remember with the people who knew and loved her, or who knew how much I loved her.
I want to visit her grave and cry and read her poems. I want to write about her and feel this longing with every inch of my soul.
And oh my heavens, it aches. It throbs deep in my bones.
How could therapy help or solve that?
Grief is not linear. Rationally I know I will have to continue circling through and around the various phases. Acceptance one week. Anger and denial the next. And so forth.
I have a weird sort of faith in the process, and I do feel like I am moving forward and things will get better. Life goes on. It’s all good. And so forth.
But another part of me wonders if I will ever get back in sync. Her demise has changed me, has changed the shape of my life is ways I am not so certain will reform to what used to be.
There’s a scary thought.
Or is it?
I’m also learning about the ways in which she continues to touch my life, to work through me, even from the great beyond. I’m noticing when I channel her when I sit with clients. I am listening deep inside of me to hear her voice, the voice that I know and love and trust. The voice she shared with me so often. (She doesn’t think I need therapy either btw.)
I’m not a believer.
But E. was.
In some ways, it is like she is challenging me to reconsider that maybe there is more than meets the eye. Maybe dead is more than just dead.
She’s allowed me the gift of being truly able to look directly into my client’s eyes and say “I understand” with complete honesty when they are grappling with grief and loss. There is a beauty and connection in that authenticity that feels like something grand.
And that’s all well and good until I re-realize that I can’t share this with her. Then my stomach lurches and I want to go to bed.
I’ve often said that E. is one of the loves of my life. Not in any sort of sexual way, although there was a platonic romance about our relationship. But my love for her is just so huge. After she died, I wrote to her best friend of 54 years in an email that I “idolized” her. And that was very true.
Damn, it still is true.
But everything is just so altered. Brunch with friends or an evening out doesn’t feel right or good because there is a part of my heart that is missing. And it is so tiring to try to balance the weight of that grief with everything else I have to do with a smile.
I called her wife to check in and say hi, and the answering machine picked up. E.’s voice is still their out going message. I swallowed hard so I could leave a message and sound chipper.
Someday it will not be the grief and pain that tethers me to E., rather the wisdom and happy memories she’s left with me.
But right now, things just feel unbearably different.
And I feel a step or two out of sync with the whole rest of the universe, shuffling and time stepping until I feel like I want to give up and just sit down on stage.
Many thanks to those of you who are bearing with me during this time. . . I apologize for another wave of death and trauma posts. . . but it is what I need to do right now. xoxo.
I’m not your average soccer mom, mainly because my kids don’t do soccer. My nine year old does karate, and he recently brought home a trumpet which I have vowed will not make me crazy at all.
Is there such a thing as a karate and trumpet mom?
Emily is almost five (oh man how it hurts to say that, as opposed to saying she is four and a half) and she thinks she would like to do dance. But being the crunchy and neurotic freak that I am, I am too scared to sign her up for any old dance class, because I am fairly certain it will give her the same self-loathing and body issues that I had as a dancer for about 20 years before succumbing to a pudgy middle age of motherhood and sedentary work.
So I haven’t signed her up for anything yet because I can’t bear to think that the joy she feels for moving her body will ever be squashed or warped into something it shouldn’t be.
And I can’t lie to you. The trumpet is in fact driving me crazy.
It’s a slip shod style of motherhood I try to embrace, and for which I cannot find a label. It also bears zero resemblance to the perfect mother I thought I was before squeezing these two critters out of my now unrecognizable lady bits.
Meanwhile, I can’t decide if we should spend a third night eating leftovers so they don’t go to waste, or if I should cook up the tortellini Trader Joe made for me. . . It’s humid here and I really do not feel like cooking, so I’m thinking it will be leftovers for me and the hubs and Lunchables or English Muffin pizzas for the kids.
Yes. I feed my kids Lunchables.
And also yes, I make them separate dinners than what I make for me and the hubs. I know, I know. I’m breaking all kinds of “rules” here, but as a working mom, I would rather we all sit down and enjoy each other’s company than endure tantrums at dinner time.
Also, we don’t always eat dinner together, even when we are all home together. But usually we are all eating at a vaguely similar time, just in different rooms. We call it parallel eating. I like to think of it as an ingenious parenting hack as opposed to a ginormous parenting fail.
Although it still makes me nervous.
But it doesn’t take much to make me nervous. I’ve been prone to anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. Add to my already neurotic disposition that I am a social worker, and you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve diagnosed everyone in my family with just about anything possible.
A lot of people don’t get it.
Like my perfect Coworker who grew up in an intact family and has probably never worried about the sky falling in her life. She made a crack that she had never met someone as anxious as me. I think she meant it in a tender and friendly way, but do you know what it did?
If you guessed that the comment made me more anxious about being anxious in front of people, then you win the cookie. But it is a keebler elf cookie. I do not have time to make cookies from scratch.
One of the biggest compliments I ever got in my life was when a colleague said, “I always forget that you are actually anxious, because you always seem to have it all together.”
I try to channel this compliment on my darker days, and it makes me feel quite ravishing, but in a photoshopped kind of way, because if one thing is for certain it is this: I do not have it all together. Not by a long shot. And it makes me crazy.
It makes me cringe when I hear mommy labels passed around. . . Tiger Mom. Helicopter Mom. Bad Mom. Attachment Mom. Drill Sergeant Mom.
I mean, is anyone really just one label?
Sometimes I wish I could be just one label. It would be so much easier.
I suppose that the label “Good Enough Mom” comes close enough to describing me, but like Dorothy said to the Wizzard, “I’m afraid there isn’t a label for me in that bag of yours.” I’m paraphrasing. We actually have not watched the Wizzard of Oz in recent years because it terrifies my daughter and then none of us sleep for weeks.
Oh, and apparently “Wizard” only has one “Z”. Who knew?
Probably that Drill Sergeant Mom. She knows everything. (Cue exaggerated eye roll.)
How about “Mixed Bag of Contradictions Intense Love and Inconsistent Energy”? Is that a title worthy of me?
I love my kids. Hopefully that counts for something, if not everything. And hopefully we will all laugh about all the times I’ve yelled and stomped off because I am so frigging overwhelmed by how much I love them and by how much pressure I am under from all conceivable angles to get it all right. Motherhood. Marriage. Work. Laundry.
And no I don’t sort my laundry.
And I think I’ve decided to do the leftovers. I don’t feel like cooking and we have karate tonight after all.
Still with me? Congratulations. You have just taken a hike through the meandering mind of an overwhelmed working mom whose life feels almost perpetually in a state of careening chaos, if not lurking danger.
In short, I don’t really know who I am, other than to say I’m not your average soccer mom.
Or rather, that I’m not a soccer mom at all.
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Aside from the bat-phobia-induced sleep deprivation, this summer hasn’t sucked too bad.
I’m exhausted. Work has been crazy. And I mean that literally. When you work in the mental health field and you say work is “crazy” it is because people are quite literally struggling with their mental health. Usually summer is a little bit more laid back, but this summer has been pretty intense.
It might be because I’m still adjusting to the new position I took about seven months ago. I’m getting used to a different ebb and flow of clients, a different work culture, and a different schedule. For the most part it has been awesome. For the first time in ages, I wake up excited to go to work. I love my little office, and am continually fascinated and challenged by the folks with whom I sit. I also have some quirky, silly, and extremely intelligent and dedicated colleagues whom I am growing to adore and trust.
So, all in all, it has been pretty good.
Plus no one had to be vaccinated for bat rabies, like last year, so we can consider that a big WIN.
Next week, I am going to take some time off, and I hope to get back to blogging as my Jacky boy goes back to school.
In July I was notified by the amazing robots at WordPress that I’ve been blogging for four years. Dude! FOUR YEARS!!!
One, my poems seem to get more attention and appreciation from the readers out there in the blogosphere. And while I write for myself, I also enjoy the interactive process of blogging.
Two, I have been experimenting with short and sweet poems, like this one. They seem to suit the time I have available for writing these days. I’m finding as my children are a bit older and more active, they require more of my time and attention in different ways. And obviously I feel it is important to be HERE and THERE for my children. I mean, mommy blogging kind of defeats the purpose if you are doing it at the expense of your relationship with your kids.
And third, on the note of mommy blogging. . . I’m feeling less enthralled about blogging about mommy crap. It seems redundant. And it feels like I have to force myself to do it, where as the poetry flows out of me a bit more naturally. My children continue to fascinate me, but I just don’t have the same desire to write about them. Also, as they are getting older, I am feeling a bit more protective of their privacy, and feeling like perhaps I should not be using them as fodder for my material.
I don’t know.
There is a lot going on up in my old noggin.
And I guess that was three reasons and not exactly “a couple.” Apologies.
I mean, I have about 45 topics about which I would like to write at this very moment. But time and energy and other demands are nipping at my psychic space.
It has also been on my mind to try to get some of my previously written posts published online elsewhere. . . that seems like a really big risk, and is somewhat scary. And it also feels like it would be time consuming and anxiety provoking.
When I started blogging I was advised not to wander too far afield from the original content and purpose of my blog.
And now I am feeling like I want to explore. . . I have done that a bit over the past year by experimenting with erotica and fan fiction. I have also written more poetry and have been paying more attention to the urge to write poetry. Like if I start to feel, wow, that would make a good poem, then I sit down and jot it out.
I think that motherhood has so permeated my life, as had aging and growing, that no matter what I write it will still be tinged with maternal thoughts and instincts. . . does that technically still make this a mommy blog, even if it isn’t directly a mommy blog?
When I first started blogging, I also couldn’t understand those met posts in which people blogged about blogging. Well. Here I am.
Anyway, my darling and dedicated readers, if you have any input on what you would like to see on Momaste, I would love to hear from you.
Also, if you have any input on previous posts which with you really resonated that you would like to see published elsewhere, I would also love to know that.
And if these requests are way too demanding or narcissistic, please forgive and disregard.
(I warned you in the title this was a stream of consciousness.)
As always, thanks for reading and commenting and for being generally wonderful and supportive. It has changed my life.
You look in the mirror, hating on your puffy eyes and the two deep lines in between your brows. You look in the mirror, thinking your lips are thinning, but your cheeks look fat. You look in the mirror, counting gray hairs, extra pounds, stretch marks. You look in the mirror and step on the scale, weighing your disappointment in yourself.
You are okay.
You are wonderful.
Your body is a miracle.
Your hips will never fit back into a single-digit-size pair of pants because your pelvis has been stretched to accomodate the new life you brought into this world.
Your thighs and bum carry an extra store of fat, put on to accomodate your little one’s need to be nourished at your breasts.
The corners of your eyes have become creased from hours of smiling down on your children, teaching them the world is friendly and safe.
The commercials are correct, motherhood changes everything. One of the things that changes is your body, and likely your attitude towards it. But consider the miracle your body performed.
Your body did what it was created to do.
You are a mom.
You do not need to compare yourself to the mom who proudly sported a bikini after having twins. Maybe she was blessed with different genetics than you, and that is nice for her. You do not need to hate on her, but more importantly, you do not need to put yourself down for not being her.
Your body accomplished what it was meant for in a pristine and gracious manner, to be compared with no one else.
It is okay for you to enjoy cake on birthdays, burgers off the grill in the summer, pizza on Fridays, and mashed potatoes with butter on winter holidays. It is okay for you to show your children moderation is a wonderful thing. Show them we can treat ourselves here and there without feeling ashamed, fat, or ugly.
Your children will be happier and healthier if they learn to love their bodies, and all the wonderful, physical activities their bodies perform- jumping, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, kicking, twirling- to keep them fit and strong. Your children will learn to love their bodies if you love yours.
Your children will be happier and healthier if they grow up not thinking the “F word” is “fat”.
Your children love your body. It is their home. They will not believe the place from which they seek comfort and love is anything less than beautiful, unless you convince them otherwise. Were you a size 0 model on the cover of a magazine the gazes you attracted would not be more adoring than eyes of your children.
Keep yourself healthy and strong for them, but also for yourself. Make wise choices about how you use your body, and what you put into your body. But know, also, that your sum total is so much more than a number on a scale.
Your stomach jiggles when you run, and is tie-dyed with bleached tiger stripes of motherhood. These are talismans to be worn with pride and confidence, not to be covered with shame or self-loathing.
Your breasts are big and floppy, lumpy and bumpy because they produced the most amazing food on the planet. Your breasts have done what they were meant for, and they have provided nourishment, comfort, and bliss for your babies. Your bra size is bigger because of this evolutionary miracle, not because you didn’t log enough hours at the gym.
And speaking of the gym. It is okay for you to miss workouts to stay home and snuggle with your children. It is okay for you to take them for long nature-walks by the bay or in the woods instead of running in smelly isolation with your ear buds in at the gym. But if you do feel like working out at the gym, that is okay too, and you do not need to feel guilty for leaving your children for an hour to take care of yourself.
Tend to yourself.
Be healthy. Be reasonable.
You are beautiful.
You are allowed to love yourself as unconditionally as you love your children.
You are not a bad person for calling yourself names in the past. It is never too late to turn to loving-kindness. You do not need to be your own worst enemy when you look in the mirror. Instead, consider the art you created.
Loving others begins with loving ourselves. How much better would the world be if we could support and cherish ourselves, rather than constantly putting down or insulting? How much would kindness be increased if we could bring ourselves to view the changes motherhood creates in our physical beings as pure and natural, not abhorrent or aberrant?
Try it now.
You are ok
Extra special thanks to my dear friend, Dani who has sent me these blossoming roses through the magic of the internet over the past few weeks as they have bloomed. This post was originally posted on Momaste in November, 2013. I feel very close to this post over the past week, and it will resonate with my post tomorrow. . . Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Your comments truly make my day wonderful. xoxo.