not a day has passed
i haven’t found you in trees,
their limbs streched like veins
Cross posted on my sister site, As Many Loves As Stars In The Sky.
not a day has passed
i haven’t found you in trees,
their limbs streched like veins
Cross posted on my sister site, As Many Loves As Stars In The Sky.
Emily is in first grade now and the mean girl club has started with a vengeance. This has been a seriously rude awakening for both of us. For whatever lucky ducky reasons, my son (who is four years older and five grades ahead of Em), did not go through social crap in the same toxic, manipulative ways my seven year old daughter is already navigating with her peers.
Emily is a sensitive and empathic child, which makes the whole issue all the more heartbreaking. I’ve addressed it with parents, her teacher, and the principal and we’ve come up with some supportive ways to help Em cope with the stress of being a sweet little lamb in a lion’s den.
This week she went back to school after the holiday recess, and happily applied herself to her studies. She loves to read and is thrilled by participating in art. This morning, as I was in the bathroom getting ready for work, she approached me.
“Mama, when you go up to dress, can we have a talk?”
“Of course. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just need to do some talking about my feelings.” She said with a serious little face.
So, here’s another difference between Em and Jack. Both of them have the same goopy, social worker mom, but my son rarely willingly divulges his emotional space to me. Em on the other hand is all about the deep, emotional bonding.
As I pulled myself into my undies and leggings I asked her what was up. She disclosed to me that after school, when she was playing in the school yard, under the watchful eye of her babysitter, one kid had stolen her hat off her head and her special new toy, and run off with them, and threw them over a fence.
She told me this calmly and clearly as if recounting the forensics of a crime scene.
My heart sped up and it was all I could do to keep the steam inside my head. I hugged her. Her glossy curls brushed against my cheek and I felt the little bones of her back under my hands. We talked about how it made her feel and how she solved the problem and what she thought we should do next.
Then she wanted to play on the iPad.
She moved on, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.
I was pissed.
Had it been an isolated incident, maybe I could have let it go a little easier, but dude, I’ve been dealing with this social crap for the past four months now and I don’t understand why it isn’t getting any easier. It also seemed to suck and confound me because the bully this time had been an older boy.
So, at pickup, I approached the kid’s mom and mentioned to her that her son (who is four years older than my first grader) had been physically aggressive to my daughter. I let her know that Em is just super sensitive right now and I’m trying to keep tabs on things, and I knew her kid probably didn’t mean to hurt her hat, toy, body, or feelings, but that was the end result. I told her directly, but politely.
She told me it was inappropriate to mention it in front of her son and that she would talk to him and get back to me…….
Here’s what I REALLY wanted to say, “Heya bitch face, tell your poorly socialized excuse for a spawn to keep his grimy paws off my precious little baby and while you’re at it, maybe you want to have a convo with him about consent and how to treat women because clearly you are training him to be an abusive little shit! Boys will be boys after all!”
I didn’t tell her that at all. I smiled and thanked her for her time and then I went and privately had an anxiety attack that I had confronted this woman who was clearly pissed with me and didn’t have a grasp on where I was coming from.
TBH, I’m pretty much still shaking, even after texting and talking to several friends who validated that I was advocating for my daughter and did the right thing.
It is hard to address these issues with other moms. I appreciate that. Furthermore, I get that the other mom was also advocating for and protecting her son, but oh man, in this day and age, maybe we all wanna double down on those discussions with our sons about respecting the physical space of female bodies and set some good examples for future generations.
IDK. It got me thinking about all the things I sorta wanna say as a mom, but don’t.
Smile and nod. Smile and nod. . .
When does my politeness become complicit? When do I actually enable the abuse of my daughter on the playground by saying what is polite instead of saying what I really mean and feel?
What do you think?
i saw sunset,
through bare branches,
brush, and bramble,
and i rushed through my mind
to tell you.
it was nothing spectacular,
a streak of gold and a
pouch of pink in an otherwise
yet i felt if you knew
how i ran out into the cold,
saw my breath meet sky,
it would be a secret
we could share
because you should know
i want to say
my heart is yours,
it is no longer mine to give,
and anyway who would want
such a squelchy thing
that beats so rampant,
from the world like a rabbit
into a deep den?
i want to say i am yours,
here, here, take me!
but isn’t that
what we always do when
we infatuate ourselves with things
we cannot have, when
we devise ways to
break our own hearts?
by the time
i scribbled these words,
the sky changed again,
was dark and plain
as a crow’s feathers.
it was something i also
wanted to tell you,
you’ll never know.
i wished ten times on stars,
whispered your name
into the cloudy, winter sky
and thought how sweet
a sign would be
to let me know
the tether holds fast.
The Hillary Step is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice at the top of Mt. Everest. It lies in the “death zone,” the altitude above which there is not enough oxygen to sustain human life for more than a day or two. By the time most climbers get to this point on Earth’s tallest mountain, their brains and bodies are starved for oxygen, making every step a burden. Hypoxia can cause climbers to hallucinate, opening the door to danger, disaster, and death.
Or so I have read.
For the record, I have never been to Everest. Nor do I climb mountains. Ice, snow, and heights are so not my thing. But over the past decade, I have become obsessed with stories of mountaineering, and read a dozen books on Himalayan expeditions.
What strength and hubris do climbers possess to scale a 29,000 foot mountain? How do men and women leave their cozy homes and beloved families to put their lives into risk of dismemberment and death? The tales of survival and rescue are grizzly, but also spellbinding and suspenseful.
I am also fascinated by the Sherpa. This Buddhist folk has a rich and mystical culture. Without their hearty endurance for high altitude while carrying huge loads of gear and supplies, ascent of Everest would be impossible.
These stories take me out of my element to an exotic locale where I will most likely never travel.
At least not physically.
Mentally and emotionally, I think of Thursdays as my Hillary Step- my last big push before the summit of Friday, and the descent into the base camp of the weekend, where I can breathe a little easier.
Thursdays are my long day. I kiss the kids good bye and do not see them for 11 hours. By the time I get home, around 7:30 pm, the children are exhausted. Both they and my husband are grumpy. I am hungry and tired myself, but set that aside to help finish homework, nurse, read stories, and kiss good night.
I wonder what David Breashears, acclaimed mountaineer, film maker, and author of some my favorite Everest books, would say about me comparing my life as a working mom to scaling an 8,000 meter mountain? No doubt, he would call me an “Armchair Alpinist,” or something of the like, with a haughty snort. (Mr. Breashears, by the way, if you have googled yourself and hit on my blog, I think you are sexy as all hell and would love to shake your hand, even if you are snorting haughtily at me!)
This much I understand: There is monumental mindfulness in mountaineering.
Climbers are totally in the present moment. A climber puts his or her life, and the lives of anyone else on the mountain, at risk if they are not completely aware of their breath, body, and surrounding at every moment. A misstep could trigger an avalanche or send them plummeting thousands of feet to their death.
My office is plastered with calendar pictures of Hawaii. I have trained my brain to respond to a quick glance of these pictures of surf and palm trees with a little endorphin boost, to help me through stressful times. Hawaii is my “happy place,” without a doubt.
But sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine myself clinging to a blue wall of ice and snow. There is peace, silence but for the sound of my breath, raspy in my oxygen mask. I hold on and calculate where next to plunge my axe, place my crampon. I do so, with great deliberation, and then slide my carabiner up the fixed-rope, open my eyes, and move on to my next task. (Yes, Mr. Breashears, in my imagination, I do climb with bottled oxygen and fixed-ropes. Mock away.)
So, no, people do not die if I happen to screw up at my job or in my home. The only avalanche in social work is of paperwork, and at home the only thing I have resembling a crevasse is my never-ending pile of laundry. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t equally important for me to be mindful of each and every step.
From what I understand, there is euphoria at the top of the mountain, and joy in the art of climbing. But this is not to say that every moment on the mountain is a joy. I’ve never read any climber write that they relished a bivouac at 27,000 feet with 100 mile per hour winds whipping around their tent, sleepless in minus 30 degree temps.
If that isn’t analogous to my journey as a parent, then I don’t know what is.
Originally posted on Momaste 1/21/13. Sharing again at this time as a Throwback Thursday post because it just seems particularly applicable. Thanks for reading, and I always love to hear your thoughts in the comments section! xoxo.
If you’ve been following along over the past months, you may have noticed my once plucky mommy blog has been devoted almost entirely to the death of one of my best friends.
E. died in October. She died suddenly, or at least it seemed sudden to me. Had my eyes been open, I might have seen it really was not so sudden. She’d been ill. I’d been in denial. Part of my grief’s rawness these past months is in acknowledging that, had I not been in denial about her age and health, I might have had prioritized more opportunities to see her, to love her, to speak and share with her.
Sometimes I don’t make the time I should. While juggling the responsibilities of my life as a working mom and wife, I forget to make the call or send the card. I’m not assertive enough about making plans with people. It’s a crappy excuse, and an even crappier feeling to realize you missed a chance because you were stupidly blinded by the day to day.
I take comfort in knowing my last interaction with her was loving, sweet, and happy. And about a week before she died, I left a voice mail for her which ended, as it always ended, in “I love you.”
I’ve also taken comfort in writing about her.
E. was my first major loss. It doesn’t matter that I’m a therapist with training in grief and trauma. When you experience this stuff for the first time, it’s like any other new, uncomfortable experience. I’m bumbling through the dark tunnel, and channeling my frustration, and sorrow into posts and poems.
Grieving as a mom has also been challenging.
When E. first died, a friend said she hoped I could find space to grieve because it’s hard to do when you are a working mom, already stretched translucently thin. I’ve thought a lot about this over the past couple months- how as moms it is so hard to find the space we need to integrate all of our parts into one cohesive package. We can’t sit around and cry in bed when kids need to be brought to school, karate, and dance; need to be fed, washed, and snuggled. We still have to rise and go to work to keep heat on and food stocked.
In some ways, I wonder if my grief is taking me twice as long to “go through” because I pigeon hole it into these tiny chunks. As moms, we keep bits of ourselves in little boxes, high up on shelves. It seems we rarely have time to take them down, open them up and spread the contents all over, let alone pack it all back up in the proper compartments. I tell myself things like, “If I just hold it together for the next seven hours, I can cry in the car on my commute home.”
It’s exhausting, but it is what it is.
Despite the lack of time and energy, I’ve tried staying emotionally open to lessons this time has to teach me. I’ll share what I came up with so far:
1. It sounds like a cliche, but if I learned one thing about bereavement, it is that talking and sharing about the lost loved one helps. A selection of special people have been ready, willing, and able to bear witness to my memories and stories about E., and this blessing has not escaped me as it heals the heart.
2. Part of me knows I will look back on this time and see it as something precious, painful though it has been. E.’s final gift to me was the realization, that in leaving of this earthly plane, love remains stronger and truer than ever. There are ways we still connect and touch one another. It is a time rich in wonder and affection.
The intensity of the emotion paints layers of it’s own complex beauty onto my existence.
I haven’t written much about my kids, family, or life as a working mom. I’m still doing and feeling all the stuff that goes along with being a mother, but in my writing all of that has taken a back seat to my need to process my friend’s death. Anyway, there isn’t really anything new or different I can say about all of that right now. I’ve had mixed feelings about this shift in content, but it has needed to be, so I let it. Which leads me to my next lesson of sorts. . .
3. It is more helpful to hold our pain, sit with it, cradle it and explore its bizarre face than it would be to cover it up and hide it away. In my professional training, I learned, years ago, that trying to suppress trauma is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It is slippery, unwieldy, and untenable. When I sit with client’s in the crisis of grief, I often share this analogy with them. I’ve been granted an opportunity to practice what I preach.
These lessons seem to be gifts from beyond.
Even as I embrace these things, I feel uncertain. Someone remarked that dealing with grief is almost like having another child to care for. It’s an apt analogy. And as though I am holding a newborn child, I am wondering if I am doing it right, if it will like and respond to my touch, if I will be able to handle it.
My uncertainty lies in the fear people won’t like or understand my current poems; that people will get bored with me and stop reading; that people won’t appreciate how fully my blog has shifted from life of a working mother to dealing with death. I worry people won’t see the connection.
But there’s always a connection, tenuous though it may be.
Being a mom is my most important role in life. I mean, two living and breathing organisms kind of count on me to keep them alive. But other parts of me sometimes do not get the time and attention they truly need. My blog gives me space to process and complete my emotional self so I can tackle the other stuff I need to do. It helps me integrate and consolidate the contents of all the little boxes into the whole me.
I have faith in myself and in the process. Being a mom may have prepared me to patiently nurture and understand grief, even as it has complicated my grieving process. We are always stronger and more flexible than we think or dream. Sooner or later, I’ll get back to writing about all of the other stuff. In the mean time, thank you for bearing with me and for bearing witness. Every like, comment, and share has meant more to me than I can properly explain.
someone once told me
scars are beautiful,
as they traced mine in the dark.
someone once urged me to believe
but I don’t remember who,
or if they could be trusted,
so my mind flops now,
a breathless fish on land.
if you allow your fingers
to move, to hold the space
maybe things would quiet,
maybe the moon would not tug
so mercilessly at my eyes
and i would know peace
or something akin to it,
as the tide goes out for good.
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.
How’s your summer going so far? What’s life like for you? Do things change a lot for you in the summer? Does the change in summer routine affect your blogging/writing habits?
Life has been a flurry of activity lately.
Getting the kids ready for camps and transitioning out of the school routine into the summer mode.
Making potato salads and picking strawberries for strawberry buckles.
Optimizing time out and about in the pleasant weather.
Celebrating my 42nd birthday.
I honestly do not know when I would have the chance to sit down and actually write a thoughtful blog post. Someone always needs something– a fresh application of sunscreen, or bottle of water, or help getting into/out of a bathing suit– and as soon as I sit down I have to get back up, or I feel guilty for not spending all that glorious time with the fam.
Then at night I am just to tired to construct anything, so I climb into bed and watch tv until I fall asleep.
Even now, I am running late for work, sitting here with wet hair and a dog who is anxiously trotting around me because she needs to go out.
I’ve coughed up a couple poems lately because it is what I’ve felt moved and inspired to do. But also because it is what time would allow.
There is this other interesting thing happening. . . I don’t feel the same urgency to write as I did when Emily was a newborn and Jack was four. It’s like I’ve gotten to this spot where I feel like I know the kids for the moment and things are going okay.
Don’t get me wrong. Life is still super stressful and I’m still juggling way too many balls for my comfort and feeling like a lunatic about 87 percent of the time.
But it’s like I’ve been here and done this and have run out of desperate things to post.
It’s like I would just be writing the same post about how stressful it is to be a working mom to two very strong willed and passionate children. (Wonder where they got those obstreperous qualities anyway. . .)
I’m sure this will change and life will present me with a bunch of new stuff. . . but I’m kind of bored with writing about how fucking relentless motherhood is and I just want to kind of sit in the pocket of quiet that my mind is offering me at the moment.
So, while there may be a few poems or photos this summer, I think I am going to cut myself some slack and think about being in the moment as opposed to writing down every moment. I might also think about some new ways to retool Momaste, because growth and change happens.
Yes it does.
Thanks for being here with me on this journey. You will never have any idea how much it has meant for me to have your compassionate witness.
So, I’ll see ya in September, or sooner, or later, or you know, whatever.
Jen confessed she had been anxious to meet me. And that her family had been anxious about her meeting me too.
In truth, I was a little anxious also. And not just because I’m almost always anxious about everything (some people think it’s charming, I swear), but also because I’ve never met anyone from the blogosphere in real life before.
She had suggested a place on the water in the southern part of our state for us to meet for coffee or tea or coconut water, which was eventually what I chose because I’d been drinking green tea all day and was extra jittery. It was a great choice and not just because it was super convenient for me to hop over to after having my annual physical, but also because it was beautiful, sunny, and breezy.
I got there first and scarfed down a pesto, turkey wrap. I had purposely starved myself all day because of the annual exam, and not wanting to weigh even a half pound extra. Because I’m crazy like that. (Note to self: Work a little harder on that self acceptance shit and eat a sandwich).
When Jen arrived, we did the nervous peeking at each other, and then embraced warmly like long lost friends. I prayed to the heavens and muses that I did not have pesto in my teeth because I had planned on doing a lot of smiling.
And pesto or no, a lot of smiling I did.
I think Jen, from the amazing blog Chopping Potatoes, was immediately put at east to see I was, in fact, merely a plump 41 year old mommy blogger, and not the 47 year old, male ax murderer her family and anxiety had maybe suggested I was.
But just in case there was even a shred of doubt left in her adorable, curly head, I pointed out that male serial killers don’t usually spend quit as much time as I do writing about breastfeeding.
Or maybe they do. I don’t know.
Either way, we had a good laugh.
Then we set about trying to remember when exactly we “met” each other online. She started her blog in January of 2012 and I started mine only seven months later in July of 2012.
One of the greatest things I’ve found in blogging is a sense of community as moms, that even as quirky moms with “issues” we are not alone. Jen’s blog does this in a way that is graceful, articulate, warm, and well researched (wink-wink, Jen!) as she writes about perinatal anxiety and depression, maternal mental health in general, and all the other nuts and bolts of mommy blogdom.
We shared about our families and I even showed her photos of my children, which for privacy reasons I never share on my blog. It was a leap of faith that just felt right.
Jen and I discovered that we have led oddly parallel lives for decades, since we were small. We actually grew up within minutes and miles of one another, then lived in the same neighborhood for a time as adults– how awesome is that?! We went to the same college, and may have even passed one another in the dining hall at one point or another.
We talked about this era we are living in of “highlight reels” on social media, and how it can make us feel so envious and strange and pressured. When we talked about children and behavior (and our reactions as moms to our children’s behavior), I felt kinship, but also relief that I am not the only mom out there who has primal, monkey children in the car or Target.
We were able to share in our sense of “Is life really this hard?” and talk about what it is like to live with anxiety while striving to do our Type A best as moms.
We talked about our blogs, of course, and shared the stories behind birthing them, how and when and why we post, and where we find inspiration. It tried, albeit ineptly, to explain why I am an in-the-closet blogger to my family and most of my friends. And she shared about her writer’s group.
We were also able to relate deeply to one another on the subject of maternal depression and anxiety, which is a special thing over which to bond with someone. Not everyone understands the shame, guilt, and despair that goes along with maternal depression. But when you meet someone who has been there, and gets it, it just feels like arms are opened and the universe winks and says, “It’s okay. I got you.”
Plus, it’s not every day you can engage in a conversation with someone about intrusive thoughts and turn it into a bantering competition about who has the weirder thoughts that plague them. And laugh about it.
The universe does indeed work in funky ways. Which is awesome. I felt perfectly at home next to Jen, and was my regular, neurotic self, which was a relief. And that is how I know a person is a true friend– when I am totally at ease saying whatever thing comes out of my lips.
Jen brought me a lollipop from a Warrior Mom conference she’d been to earlier this summer. She had invited me to go, and as much as I would have loved to, I had to work. But she brought me back a little treat and saved it for me for weeks until we were finally able to meet up.
Someone gave me a picture frame once that said, “A friend is a gift you give yourself.” That’s exactly how I felt after meeting up with Jen.
Jen, thank you for all you are doing to normalize and empathize with women who struggle with stuff. You are amazing and I’m so honored to be your neighbor and your friend. Until we meet again. . .