The construction site

The other night, the kids are supposed to be asleep when I hear this from their room: “You have babies in your tummy,” says my three-year-old, C, to seven-year-old J.  “No I don’t!” “Yes you do!” “No I don’t,” on and on, back and forth.  I tell my husband, D, about their conversation, and we burst into laughter, despite myself.  He goes to their bedroom to squelch the argument, chuckling to himself.  (This may have come about because C has been looking at his baby pictures lately with himself as a “baby in mom’s tummy”).  Anyway, I have been feeling grumpy, because C has been sick with hand-foot-and-mouth disease the last few days, which means D and I have, basically, been taking turns being on house arrest.

For example, my most recent exciting outing is taking C to the doctor.  Have gratitude, I keep reminding myself, when the nurse tells us it will be another twenty minutes until the doctor is ready to see us.  I panic inside for a moment—twenty minutes is no joke waiting in a medical office with your toddler.  I am not talking about the waiting room where they have some pretty sweet, old school toys, like those colorful, wood beads you get to clack around those twisty, wire tracks.  No, at this point, they have ushered us into the actual doctor’s office, with that weird, crispy paper on the examining table, that my kids always rip when they sit on, and all that medical equipment that is just dangling by their reach, but is not to be touched.

Again, have gratitude—thankfully I have two granola bars in my purse that we happily eat.  C finds a kid’s book lying around.  When he first pulls it out from a magazine holder on the wall, I silently cringe, imagining all the kid-seeking-doctor-germs having a pool party on that thing.  But I am able to keep this to myself and muster up some enthusiasm.  He wants to read it together, on my lap, which ends up being so cozy—that it melts me—and when I hear the knock of the doctor entering, it is like I am waking up from somewhere else.

Somewhere else—when the chatter of my mind finally quiets down enough to experience what is actually happening.  Or to be able to have contact with my heart that is always there but can be hard to access, because emotions, like anxiety, can sometimes make everything too busy inside and haywire and cloudy.  For example, C has a recent tantrum, which happens to be on Mother’s Day and involves him screaming bloody murder, while laying himself on the ground, in the Ferry Building of San Francisco.  D hands me his waffle cone and C’s, so he can scoop up the poor little guy, and I almost drop all of our ice cream all over the floor, like a panicked clown juggling too many desserts.  But we make it outside the building, and of course, C eventually calms down.  We eat our ice cream and have a lovely ferry ride home.  However, witnessing such intensity of emotion undeniably whips up my own inner turmoil.  In those moments, hearing his cries, I can feel so much happening inside—the anxiety secretly whirling about, intensifying the chaos that takes me away.

All this requires work to settle, and for me, this includes trying to zoom out in ways that I can.  Like meditating, which sometimes feels like a waste of time—sitting there on my mat, when I could be doing so many other things, like going to bed.  But I keep at it, because I do think it helps me to recover from intense moments like the above.  It brings me back, away from what my mind creates, and into what is really there.  And I need this.  Because sometimes, when denied or left unchecked, the internal buzzing can make it unbearably hard to be present, especially with my kids.  And their little beings are growing up at such lightning speed, I do not want to miss a single second of it.

Like recently, on J’s last day of first grade—D and I pick him up after school for banana splits, and I keep my sunglasses on so I can secretly cry a little bit, feeling the passage of time so intensely.  D jokes around and J grins over his pile of ice cream with his new big, front teeth and asks questions like, “What happens if you shoot electricity at the sun?”  Or the other night, after bath time, when C roots around his drawer, looking for a pair of basketball shorts that match his dad’s, exclaiming excitedly, “See, the same!”  Or when I kiss C goodnight and he gently taps my head, saying, “I love you haircut, mommy.”

So I keep meditating and reading about Yogis, because for whatever reason, this helps my inner world better manage the situation.  I have two recent dreams that change me, in a good way, in this experience of really trying to be here.  The first one, I am standing on a balcony watching as a fire is coming and there is no escaping.  My mom is there, and I turn to her and tell her I am thankful for her as my mom.  In that moment, it is like thankfulness is my superpower, transforming fear into peacefulness and love.  And when I wake up, I feel incredibly brave, like I could face anything.

About a month later, the second dream shakes me awake.  This one is harder to describe but I will try—it was like I was watching the final construction of something very large, and when the last piece was added, all went dark.  I felt afraid, but then suddenly, joyful, as what was being built all peeled away to reveal something behind it—another layer.  I could understand that this layer actually wrapped around and held everything, and was the divine, whatever that was.  And in this moment of the dream, part of me was surprised, while another part, hidden deep down, somehow knew about this place all along.

Excavator on a road construction site

Posted in childhood, growing up, mamapieces, mindful parenting, mindfulness, mom blog, motherhood, Parenthood, parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Worry Dolls

I wake up from a dream, in which I receive a piece of paper that contains the following sentence: You are one with death.  Morbid, I know.  But also, beautiful.  So, I go meditating on this and an image of a candle comes into my mind—and the idea that when my life blows out, maybe “I” am really the wick, joined into infinity, that sea of nothingness that is actually everything.

During J’s Spring Break, I get stuck going down a water slide.  Yes, this actually happens, because, 1) I am at Disneyland with the fam, trying to be a fun person, who does not only spend my free time pondering death, and 2) I forget how this is done and make the mistake of sitting up on the water slide, causing lost momentum and requiring the most awkward slow-motion-butt-scoot ever—as water rushes past me—until I finally start sliding again.  Somehow, I even end up with a gash on my spine from the event, which requires band-aids for several days.

But, walking up to the water slide, I get to hold C’s hand and see him smile and go down after him.  “Is this okay for adults?”  I make sure to ask the ten-year-old lifeguard at the top.  She smiles and says yes.  Well okay then, here goes.  It is worth it, even days later, as I keep, accidentally, reopening the back wound, every morning, with my thumb nail, when I am fastening my bra.  Sometimes, the ride is just that much fun.

Our one big day at Disneyland, we go on the merry-go-round (C’s favorite), the Matterhorn (J’s favorite), the Peter Pan ride (my favorite), and watch the Star Wars 3D show (D’s favorite?).  We eat cotton candy and have brunch with Minnie Mouse and watch the light parade and the fireworks.  I love hearing C’s thoughts after the rides: “It was fast!” “I was like woa!” “Darth Vader said stop!” and experiencing J’s excitement, his little arms hugging me fiercely after Space Mountain.  I also have a moment, while in line at Pirates of the Caribbean, when I kiss D, feeling thankful to be in this life with him, his energy and solidness and partnership—the foundation of everything that is love and that is real.

However, sometimes, I cannot always see this, and I make life more convoluted than it needs to be.  For example, I suggested we make this trip a surprise for the kids, even though I hate surprises.  Why would I do this?  I think I was hoping I could be, if I pretended hard enough, someone I was not—a cartoon version of myself who LOVES surprises.  But of course, this never works, and somehow, I end up mad at D about it.  About a week after secretly planning, I ask him angrily, “Why can’t we just tell them?” even though, again, the whole surprise thing was my idea.  And, when I embarrassingly start to cry into my morning paper about it, he looks perplexed.

Surprise or not, it is a special time.  On our last night, we stay in, cozy in our hotel room, eating burgers and French fries in bed, watching cartoons.  It is so ordinary and yet, illuminated—an ultraviolet light onto the invisible—flames burning, wicks connected and intertwined together, forever, with all of everything—loved, lovable, loving.

When I was little, I thought about death and the sudden thought of nothingness made me feel animal-like terror.  I carried around a tiny wool pouch with Worry Dolls the size of thumbnails inside, made of wire and colorful fabrics.  I kissed them and made homes for them out of old cough drop containers and tucked them into their minuscule paper beds at night.  When I was old enough to go on roller-coasters, I stitched them to the insides of my pocket so they would not fall out.  I believed they kept me safe, and maybe they did.

There is a reason I do not like surprises.  And this makes me feel broken.  And in fear of being discarded.  So, I pretend a little bit.  Until I can no longer, these parts ricocheting out in unstoppable ways, like sun rays through the clouds.  But, when I raise my arms in surrender, D is always still there, loving me, bringing me in even closer.  I let myself fall into his arms—and, suddenly, a memory flashes through my mind of him, at the beginning of us, tapping at the front door, every night, to see me, because he did not want to be away, even in sleep.  I let myself believe that his love is real, not something that will ever evaporate in a single poof.  And I understand that it is myself that I am most afraid of, who creates this false threat of abandonment, and I go towards this.

I integrate a mishmash of spirituality and attention and awareness and thoughtful slowing down, and this helps me to process and be curious and a little removed, in order to escape my inner prison and experience what is real.  I practice letting my emotions loosen their grip—my tears fall but then pass, fear burns then fades away.  I am still engaged in the world, but do not let the stories wrap themselves around me, cutting off my circulation or ability to see and hear and be.  In this way, maybe I am more involved in life, touching realness, discovering deeper layers of love—looking into D’s eyes and my own and knowing they are the same—feeling and believing into those places inside that have tasted this truth and are satiated.

worry dolls.jpg

Gotta love Worry Dolls.


Posted in growing up, marriage, memoir, mom blog, motherhood, Parenthood, parenting, psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I love your heart

For homework, J is asked to find items around the house that are examples of “translucent, opaque, and transparent.”  Panic arises as I start thinking about all the information he is eventually expected to acquire—and it feels like trying to imagine what is beyond space, and beyond that, and beyond that, etc.  I take a deep breath and remind myself that his teachers know what they are doing.  Maybe this worry is a memory of how I felt in school sometimes—that my learning was like Swiss cheese, memorizing to get good grades, but underneath was bunch of holes, making me feel like I never really understood anything at all.  “Look mom!” he says, finding the objects he needs.

We are called in for J’s end-of-the-year first grade student conference.  I awkwardly try to hang my purse and jacket around the miniature chair I am sitting on, then hurriedly give up, letting it all fall to the floor in a messy heap—because time is ticking.  We are allocated a full twenty minutes until the next parents come tromping in, to hear as much as we can about our son’s life in this place where he spends most of his waking hours, hopefully becoming a citizen of the world.  “His letter reversals are almost nonexistent!” His teachers beam.  They show us his weekend log, where he writes things like, “This week end I selabated my brather’s berth day.  He got a lego set with 1500 pezise.  I bilt an ice casl. With his legos.”  His teachers say he lights up during science and bring out his observation journal with his sketch of a caterpillar in the chrysalis phase.  Upon seeing the drawing, we all fall silent for a moment—out of respect, his pencil lines so detailed and thoughtful, almost loving.

C’s preschool has Spring Break, a good reminder for some one-on-one time together.  It is raining so I take him to an indoor playground across town.  After finding the place, parking, walking several blocks, waiting in line, entering our information into their system, signing the waiver, paying, putting on the required socks, entering through the baby gate—he walks around solemnly, and any attempts I make to engage him with the toys he shakes his head no.  I am surprised, but at this point, I am already exhausted, so I surrender—asking him if he would like to go home.  He shakes his head no.  We persevere and when he eventually agrees to play Air Hockey, something begins to loosen up inside him, and he cracks his first smile.

Then he tries out one of the indoor swings, but immediately falls and the seat cracks him hard in the face, causing his mouth to bleed.  I hold him, wipe his tears, and find a staff member to help me clean him up and get some ice.  Now he is unhappy again, but still, he shakes his head adamantly, when I ask if he wants to go home.  When the bleeding stops, again we push forward.  We find a room with a basketball hoop, and he grabs a nearby dodgeball.  He starts shooting and retrieving the ball and a smile starts to peek its way through again.  I watch, amazed, as that layer of heaviness starts to lift, and it is like a microscope coming into focus—his movements becoming sharper, more energized and colorful.  The next hour and a half he plays uninhibited, jumping on the giant trampoline and crawling up the rock wall.

Later, when we are home, and he is napping, I think about this process that unfolded, of fear that holds us tightly sometimes, with that reality of the bleeding, and that there is no way to disentangle, to unknow what you know.  And that not-knowing would be not-living either.  So, the fear resides, like a dragon cozying up by the fireplace, until it is fought back, broken through—by things like Air Hockey or love.

When I was little, I was afraid of so many things.  I hated the feel of people’s eyes on me, hot and blistering, like a blow torch.  I remember a holiday gathering, when I was around J’s age, and the adults laughed because another kid I was introduced to, similar in age, stared open-mouthed at me, following me around the house as I tried, politely, to get away from him.  Finally, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried while he sat outside the door, waiting for me.  “Please stop staring at me,” I should have simply said.

But, at the time, I was also asking to be gawked at—I wore matching pants and shirt covered in rainbow-colored tie-dye, and a rainbow-colored hat to match, with a lime-green propeller on top that spun when I ran.  I wore this outfit daily, obsessively, and this felt so comforting, like it was my fiery armor against the world.  “Are you a Dead Head?” laughed most adults when they saw me.  I smiled and said nothing, not understanding the reference.  “Spiritual connectedness,” a therapist said to me once, when I mentioned this stage with the propeller hat.  She nodded her head adamantly as she spoke, her long white hair making her seem especially wise and other-worldly.  She gestured to the space above her and said, in a scratchy but firm voice, “Your crown chakra. That’s why witches wore those hats.”


I struggle with survival guilt—from some events in my childhood regarding a sibling—and it is like being immersed in another dimension of pain, pieces of yours and someone else’s.  There is powerlessness at being unable to pull the hurting person out—confusion, and then the possible solutions—each one like a shiny Barbie doll still in its case, until the plastic comes off, and the family dog runs away with her and chews away at her feet until there is almost nothing left.

It comes in waves and at times, can be almost unbearable—making me sad, but now, after over twenty years, also mad.  At everything.  At the fucking universe—for allowing someone I love to be hurt in the first place, and in a way that does not seem receptive to healing—and for, year after year after year after year, dangling hope like an oxygen mask, and then ripping it out of our hands, again and again and again and again.

For me and my mom, because of all this pain, no matter how the universe stirs our current lives around, we are always mending, circling back, like little wayward magnets, finding each other underneath the refrigerator, occasionally walking, talking and crying.  I understand her the best when I am cuddled up with C for bedtime and he tells me, “Mom, I love your heart.”  In this moment, I can imagine how she still does it—her patience, love and forgiveness, insides breaking and then mending again—marching across fire after fire after fire, her bare feet blistering.

On a recent warm, Sunday afternoon, we shop together for the boys’ Easter baskets.  “How about this?”  She says, holding up a bird-feeder with colored paints for the kids to decorate.  “Perfect!” I say.  We gather up a collection of wicker baskets and jellybeans and books and bouncy balls and giggle at the odd things we come across in the toy store—a giant stuffed sloth, sushi kitchen magnets, and a rubbery, life-size cake that smells like strawberries.

I find myself in the stuffed animal section, debating whether to get the boys two very soft and cute, pink and white bunnies.  “They already have so many stuffed animals,” I tell her, thinking out loud.  “But,” I say, my voice softening, feeling a sudden, sweet sensation as my mind reaches backwards, somewhere, into the mist, “you always gave us bunnies for Easter.”  She smiles as I add them to the cart.

Cute little bunny sleeping in the basket and easter eggs in the meadow

Posted in childhood, Easter with kids, growing up, motherhood, Parenthood, parenting, parenting first grader, toddler | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The seagulls

“I wanna watch mommy play rocks,” C says, making my husband laugh so hard he starts coughing.  C is referring to the times I often sit, meditate, and yes “play rocks”—hold in my hands the various healing stones I have collected, such as rose quartz, amethyst, and a smooth, heart-shaped rhodonite stone.  Sometimes I lay on a yoga mat in shavasna and place the stones on my stomach for healing.  It is weird, I know.  But it helps.

I start working with a clinical hypnotherapist/shamanic practitioner who helps me journey into my past and integrate.  As a psychotherapist myself, this time allows me to be the client so I can re-charge, connect with my inner strength, and clear away stuck energy that needs to move along.  However, unlike the traditional talk therapy I offer to my clients, this modality I have found for myself involves feathers and drumming and whistling and spirit animal calling—and I am not going to say much more about that, because, like “playing rocks,” it is hard to really describe in a way that does not sound, well, crazy.

J gets invited to a movie playdate and has entered the age when I do not attend all his social events anymore.  I cannot tell if I am excited or devastated about this.  Probably a little of both.  A few minutes before the friend’s parent picks him up, I cannot stand the anticipation any longer and erupt into a cleaning madness—spinning through the house like a whirling dervish—as if tidying up the house can somehow calm my chaotic mind.  The doorbell rings, J’s friend collects him at the door, and they go skipping down the walkway together.  “Bye!” The other parent waves from her car window.  “Bye! Thanks again!” I say and just like that, they are gone.

A friend of mine, who is very close to my heart, is getting married, so I spend a weekend away from the family for her bachelorette weekend.  I feel light and excited, thankful that I have cultivated and maintained nurturing friendships, a life outside of my children, which is not easy to do.  Each day is filled with laughter and sweetness and relaxation.  The bride-to-be is a best friend I grew up with, who has always been there for me as a solid force of unwavering light.  We have shared so many heartbreaks and celebrations and milestones that now, seeing her this happy makes me teary-eyed, like sailors undocking into the wind, gulping that fresh salty air as the seagulls swirl high above, chirping and wailing in celebration.

The second night away, I have a nightmare that I am standing alone at the post office and cannot find J.  I am crying so hard in the dream that I wake up with tears in my eyes, feeling disoriented.  I fight the urge to get in my car that instant, pajamas and all, and drive straight to my kids, my heart feeling like a coconut cracked in half.  That same morning, C is turning three years old.  In addition to the nightmare, his birthday also pulls me home, in an almost violent way—perhaps the spirits who helped bring him here, demanding to be honored.  I hug my dear friend goodbye, who understands these things, and make a beeline for home.

When I open the front door, J and C run to me, and I drop to my knees for a hug, my heart steaming with hot glue joining the pieces back together again.  I let out a cooling breath.  We settle into the living room and C plays with a new fire truck.  I mention to my husband that I rushed home a bit to be with the kids, and C looks up from my lap where he is playing and says, “Thank you.”  This startles me, his constant observation of life around him—and his sweet gratitude a surprise party, filling me with aliveness.

C’s grandparents give him a trampoline for his birthday and he jumps with glee until his cheeks turn red.  Before naptime, he wants to take a warm bath and brush his teeth.  He curls up with Blanky and Bunny and asks if he can snuggle with his brother.  I call down to J, who hops up the stairs, humming a song to himself.  They embrace in a hug and C laughs.  “You’re so cute,” J tells him sweetly.  J makes his brother a Lego creation for his birthday and wraps it in paper he colored in with little stripes.

Later that day, C asks me if we can go for a walk in the rain, so I get out our umbrella and rain boots.  He stops at a large storm drain, watching with fascination as the water whooshes down the grate.  Soon, hail starts to ping our umbrella and bounce all around us like popcorn, coating the earth with white specks that disappear as our footsteps crunch along.  Thunder startles us from the sky and he turns to me with wide, curious eyes.  Thunder, I tell him, and he says, “very loud.”  He asks me if we can run now and I say yes.  He laughs aloud as he moves his little body in a sprint, holding on tightly to a little orange kazoo in one hand.  I try my best to keep up, feeling bubbles of lightness as this moment, his birthday—this life—continues to unfold and freeze and rewind and charge forward into the water.


Posted in childhood, growing up, mamapieces, mom blog, motherhood, parenting, therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day after day after day

When people ask me if my kids get along, I feel like there’s no simple way to answer that question. They love each other fiercely, are each other’s funniest comedian, crave each other’s company, but are also each other’s main competitor for attention—that spotlight of recognition we all so desperately seek out and require for growth, like sunshine or the earth.

The other day, when we went to the swimming pool—and J was occupied with a swim lesson—C spent the entire half hour walking forlornly around the pool in his swimsuit and goggles, calling out J’s name and refusing to get into the water until his brother could join him. It was clear that life without his big brother was no fun at all. Once reunited, J took C riding on his back in the shallow end and they spent the entire time laughing together, the universe back in alignment for C. J also so deeply connects with his brother, for example, insisting they share a room and do most things together when possible. One day recently, Grandpa M took J on a special trip to the science museum and was incredibly moved when, upon entering the gift shop, J’s first question was, “What can we get for C?” Their loyalty and love for one another gives life a layer of such softness.

At the same time, C, in full-blown toddlerhood, is fiercely competitive, striving so hard to be taken seriously, to be noticed, to be acknowledged—pushing himself to the brink of tears trying to learn new skills his brother is so nonchalantly trying out, like dribbling a basketball. Often, any attention towards his big brother cannot be tolerated for him. For example, I will ask a question like: “J, how was school today?” and C will immediately interrupt with literally: “What ‘bout me?” before I’ve even finished the question. Or, C wants whatever toy J is playing with and if he doesn’t get his way, he tries to grab it for himself, yelling “Da-dumb-face!” which understandably angers and exasperates his brother.

Sometimes all the mediating and explaining and working through and cultivating patience and love can get so exhausting. Like the other night, when I got hit on the head a with a Nerf ball from C, while J was reading to me from a Lego Star Wars book, and suddenly it was all just all too much—the circularity of it all, so deafeningly dull but also so piercing, like screeching in my ears that makes me want to scream or dance or sing or paint or jump out of a goddamn airplane. I went upstairs and meditated because I needed to gain a sense of freedom again, spaciousness, to know that I wasn’t trapped, but alive here—to just feel it, even if that meant thinking there was something wrong with my brain in that moment—because all that came was negativity, until finally tears arrived that made no sense, had no meaning, just traced the stillness of my face. And then C came into the room, followed by my husband D, who was laughing about something C just said, and then I was laughing too, because C said it again—and it was something no one else in the world would think is funny except the two of us, because there’s a backstory and a backstory to that, here in this strange existence of time and space and lives woven together in their own dimension.

I’ve been reading The Bonds of Love by Jessica Benjamin and feel so validated by how she describes toddlerhood, the “crisis of parenting” during this time, and the inherent tension: “Suddenly the child’s demands no longer appear to be merely the logical results of needs that ought to be met with good grace, but, rather, as irrational and willful. The issue is no longer what the child needs, but what he wants. Here, of course, is where many a mother-child pair come to grief. A variety of feelings well up in the mother: the distance from her no-longer-perfect child, the wish to retaliate, the temptation to take the easier path of giving in, the fear or resentment of her child’s will. What the mother feels during rapprochement and how she works this out will be colored by ability to deal straightforwardly with aggression and dependence, her sense of herself as entitled to a separate existence, and her confidence in her child’s wholeness and ability to survive conflict, loss, and imperfection,” p.35.

While of course, there’s never an easy solution, or a prescription for such messy life matters, I have found something magical that continues to help me and C during this crisis—and that is looking at family photos together. I brought them out one night when C was having an especially big tantrum about bedtime, remembering that J went through a phase where he liked to look at his baby pictures every single night before bed (I recall this got so exhausting, but that there was almost a spiritual sense to it that I had to honor). And, not surprisingly, this worked—immediately soothing C, bringing him out of whatever identify torment was happening inside his little body. Page after page after page, we looked at how he was once a tiny baby inside mama, and then—day after day after day—has grown into the big, separate boy he is now. They say the road to strive for during this phase is for both caregiver and toddler to be able to tolerate the inherent and unavoidable tension between dependence and independence. So perhaps snuggling close with these pictures, his soft sweet-smelling head resting on my chest, calm little puffs of breath in and out, little hands working together with big hands to gently turn the pages—is a way to accept and honor his journey into separateness while, at the same time, still feeling each other’s skin, that powerful force of our hearts forever intertwined.


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To the market

Never turn your back to the ocean, my dad told me when I was about J’s age.  He also taught me that sometimes, getting crunched by a wave is inevitable and that there are ways to reduce the pain—letting go, allowing the water to spin you around and spit you out, because if you fight—in this case—that only makes things worse for yourself. I remember these moments happening, rare but powerful, the deafening crash, being pulled underneath, losing all light and sense of direction, my limbs flung about like a rag doll, experiencing for an instant, a panic that feels near-death, like a jolt of electricity—knowing all I could do was wait and beg for breath, my life to return to me.

Last month C was playing around with a tape measure and cut his little thumb deep enough to warrant a trip to the ER. It was a pretty terrifying scramble getting out the door, with all the crying and blood and uncertainty and then riding in the car—me sitting in the backseat holding pressure to the wound—a similar panic inside begging for things to turn out alright, knowing the reality that sometimes it doesn’t. We were lucky, and it wasn’t serious. He was such a trooper, sitting still at the hospital, letting the doctors clean and help close it back up with medical glue. Later that night, he held up his little thumb and summarized the whole experience in four words: “Tape-measure. Hospital. Doctor. Band-aid.”

C likes singing the Birthday Song.  He makes us all laugh when he greets his dad in the morning over the breakfast table with, “How you doin’ Dada?” He says, “I want, I want, I want…chocolate, marshmallows, pizza, cake.”  One night he insists on trying raspberry jelly mixed with ketchup, and happily licks the combination off his plate. He says, “Go shoot hoops” and “Play rackets” and is quite serious about both activities, engaging with excitement and laughter, until sometimes tears of exhaustion. He often echoes full sentences from his older brother, trying desperately to be included, recognized, taken seriously. He brings me bobby pins he finds around the house, saying proudly, “Here Mama,” while opening up his little palm.  When he sees me doing laundry, he says, “Need help Mama?” and gently attempts to fold a pair of his little pants, wearing a serious look on his face. When he hears construction sounds coming from the garage, he opens the door and asks, “Need help Dada?”

J is such a big first grader he doesn’t want me to hug him at school anymore when I pick him up.  But at home, he wants snuggles at bedtime and asks for “This little piggy” where I sing that nonsensical rhyme about the pigs going to the market and tickle his toes and tummy until he’s rolling with laughter, and I feel like all sadness in my tummy dissolves into sweet strawberry taffy. He reads aloud from Henry and Mudge books (about a boy and his dog), cracking up at the picture of Mudge rolling around in Henry’s dirty socks. He delights in Legos and asks if he can give me a “Lego tour” where he tells me about the latest monster he built, the “good guy base,” and where the crystals are hidden. He performs in his first school play, and I am secretly nauseated all day with nervousness—until finally seeing him up there on stage, I’m reminded of the separate, amazing, confident person he is. There’s nothing to be afraid of, I remind myself. Never turn my back to the ocean, and I’ll be alright. And when I’m not alright, that’s okay too, just some darkness that will end and salt water up my nose until the earth is ready to spit me back out.

Splashes of wave at sunrise.

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Hard caramel

It’s never about the fucking garlic bread, and I knew that the other night when I became suddenly so irritable for no reason (literally internally fuming about an excess of garlic bread that I discovered sitting in the fridge past its expiration date) that I forced myself to take a short break away from the family to be alone and journal, meditate, and lie in shavasana while imagining myself as a pancake on the earth because that’s how I was feeling – flat, drained, limp, lifeless. I knew something had to be going on below this irrationality, because wasted food—though a shame—is never something to get deeply angry at those you love about. So I sat with this, and tried to be curious, and then realized that underneath were feelings of disappointment, sadness even, over something from earlier in the day that was just one of those things…pain that can’t be solved but perhaps needed to be internally recognized and validated. And so, seeing this, I suddenly felt better. My pancake self felt more like a waffle now or even a scone, vital lumps and ridges rising back into me. I went back downstairs and asked D to takeover making dinner and I had the privilege to curl up with J on the couch and read Harry Potter together, while C “helped” dad make dinner (which involved the little guy sitting quietly at the table munching on tortilla chips). All felt peaceful again and it was a good reminder to look deep when enraged by stale bread.  This reminded me of the idea of using potentially painful emotional experience as motivation and information (Sandra Buechler, 2004), and so perhaps a silly example of exploring what is resiliency.

Here’s something else I’ve also been thinking about: my wallet went missing this week and my body kept taking me back to the car, like one side of my brain was remembering something, but the other side wasn’t going to let me know just everything yet.  I had no recollection whatsoever of taking it out of my purse, opening the middle console, and throwing it in there.  As if that would ever be a good idea.  I keep a tidy car to the point you might call uptight—there’s no clutter on the seats or the floors or even the cup holders.  However, the truth is that inside the middle console is a sneaky pocket of total mayhem—mashed up post-it notes, tic-tacs, pencils, chargers, a baseball, bobby pins, permanent marker, eye-liner, a bottle of cuticle oil—all clacking around, having a party in there. It was just so weird that part of me must have known the wallet was in the car somewhere, as I kept returning there to look for it, but the more specific memory of actually putting it into the console was MIA, as if my daydreams could be so powerful, I went vanishing to other worlds while my body decided strange places for critical items to be placed.  Embarrassing.  But also amazing.

I needed to laugh at myself this week because there has been so much sadness in the air, in my body, in so many people’s bodies.  It’s hard to write.  I’ve cried more than once in response to the news lately, and I’m not alone, of course.  The other morning, I cried when I read about Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who has visited almost 100 schools to tell her story, despite being called a liar and a whore, standing up so bravely to educate about an issue that has so much shame, so much confusion and darkness, sacrificing her own privacy and wellbeing and healing in order to initiate a greater shift—spreading understanding, empathy and change in a culture that continues to be so fucked up to live in.  So back to the wallet situation, I guess I had to play a trick on myself to lighten things up, or had to check out for a bit, lose a few things just to find them again.  I might recommend this to everyone, as it was so satisfying to find the thing that had gone missing.  But, of course, there’s also that chance of not finding it and then we’re just left stumbling through that middle console, hating the madness of it all—sifting through everything only to discover nothing at all.

“Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel…” I love this poem, “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop, as I feel like moments of disarray and confusion in life are unavoidable, no matter how hard we try to understand or keep things in order.  I think this speaks to change too, because its inherently flustering this traveling into the unknown, without knowing exactly where everything is and what is going to happen.  I love that Sandra Buechler mentions this poem at the end of her book, Still Practicing and writes, “I want to become a really good loser.  I practice every day. ” This makes me think that, perhaps, this constant losing of what we know is what makes us motivated to keep going and keep growing.  We “lose” so much everyday—our youth, our kids as we knew them in their youngest, most innocent versions.  How do we do this gracefully? Without gripping? How do we see what we are also gaining?  And then I go back to that thought about resiliency—as motivation, taking in new information, constant change forming new layers of age, pain toasting our outsides like a crème brulee, making us at a loss for words or reasons or understanding, and yet, somehow, more complete than we were the minute before.


Posted in #metoo, motherhood, Parenthood, resiliency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments