Posted on August 2, 2016 - Filed Under 2016, pito, self reflect
I caught myself staring at my calendar today. There has been a lot of activity on it lately, but oddly the annual and somewhat critical reminder for Pito’s Birthday was missing. I don’t know when I deleted it. I don’t remember how I was feeling when it disappeared. I still keep his photo and phone number on my phone’s favorite list as if he will call; as if I can call him. My ipad oddly still has his calendar with random reminders about Jag and Rolls Royce club meetings, Gizmo Spa Days, recycling day, and when to change the filter on his air conditioner. It always startles me when I get a reminder, then I giggle at his sense of humor… especially when I bumped into the birthday reminder for his Jaguar XK120. But that is gone too. Things about his life just keep falling away, like old paint, and suddenly I feel tremendously sad that there is less and less of him to hold on to.
I can almost feel my body in the recliner, his computer glowing, his glasses on his nose, while I plunk myself down to update him on what life has been doing with me lately, between his DVR pauses. I miss the way his humor and little gems of my sarcasm would dance around the more challenging stories of my life. I miss the eye rolling, “t-uh”, that would tumble from him when he found my emotionality or response ridiculous. I miss his dorky dad encouragement. I really miss how he had made me coffee in the morning when I stayed over night at his house. I loved that he “saved me” coffee. Dad’s house sold in June, and the day before closing I stood in that empty house, barely enough sunlight to warm the room, and took a deep breath of what-ever DNA was still floating around after painting walls and steaming carpets. Surely under the fridge there was still a beard fuzz or two. I hoped his shadow would be there. It was empty. Another fleck of paint…
Gizmo has been mopey lately, and I caught myself stroking his little head, cooing about how we both missed Pa; Gizmo’s warm brown eyes gazing glassy and intensely into mine, I am fairly sure we understood each other. I find myself calling him buddy, like Pa, when we finally come to an understanding about the “event” (walk, meal, treat, play) that isn’t happening at that moment, which is CLEARLY on Gizmo’s calendar. We both knew there was an event brewing, it just wasn’t on my calendar.
I’m not sure what to do with grief sometimes. It shifts so much, one day feeling too big to wrestle, squeezing me until my eyes leak and I tumble around with grunts and sobs until I land somewhere in reality. And on other moments, grief is like the wisps of hair that get in my way when I bend over or go on a bike ride. Subtle. I know they are there, a soft tickle that I can feel but just can’t brush away effectively. I don’t know what to make of the grief I read on Facebook, or in the Media, others with their fathers, their mothers, their precious sisters, their brothers, partners, family, friends, animals… I don’t want to be in their chain of grief because it brings me right back to my own, and that deep sadness that I keep thinking I can control. And yet, I carry gratitude for the ways it opens my arms to the part of me that falls into that grief-y, miss-y, weepy, sentimental, sad, knowing space.
I realize that somewhere in me, I am counting the space between my grief… the distance getting wider between “episodes”. I absurdly seem to think that the measurement is an accomplishment amidst some bizarre “pathological” goal to be done. I haven’t “bawled my eyes out” about dad for ## weeks! Then… I stare at my calendar, that same little clock noting the events that I am missing with him… Father’s day. Birthday. Jag Swim Party. Heinz’ birthday. Death day. Christmas. Jag Club Holiday party. Slalom races. Father’s day… and another piece of paint… another calendar day.
Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. No one needs to remind me, although I am sure Facebook will chide that it’s time to send that “birthday greeting to Papito Paul Harder!” I don’t want to. I will likely read my beautiful sisters post about Pa, a picture attached, and cringe that I can’t do the same thing. Do any of us know what to do with ourselves on these “events?” Or do I just miss him? For father’s day, I couldn’t write a word about how wonderful my wonderful father was. I changed my profile picture to the one of me sitting with him in bed, while he eats the breakfast I made him (or I felt I had made for him at 3-4 years of age; I recall toddling in with the tray, my mother chiding to be careful) while I munch on my own pile of scrambled eggs. That was all I could do. A picture of being in his presence. Actually, a rare photo since Pa was usually the one behind the camera. And tomorrow, I will miss him still, just a little more, even with an empty spot on the calendar where his birthday belongs. I don’t know why I thought I could possibly delete my grief with a reminder. I guess I’ve picked up that fleck of paint, given it a lick, and pressed it back in place… in so many words. I miss my dad. I’ll make sure to make myself a great cup of coffee in the morning. And perhaps drop a few lower octaves to churn, like Pa did at everyone’s birthday; (trust me, the eye-rolling, “t-uh” just tumbled from my mouth as I write…)
“Happy Birthday… happy birthday…
People dying everywhere,
People living in despair…
“Happy Birthday… happy birthday…”
Squeezing into my first experience with a wet suit and dive gear, the 72 degree water lapping at my knees, I find myself adjusting to much more than the gear. I am staring into an experience I have deeply mixed feelings about. My sister, her love of diving something I envy, days of being mermaids long behind me, leaving her to continue on with her fins before fear took mine, speaks to all that I have lost. I stand hopeful, feeling that terrified voice bellowing from some deep cavern in my being, all the ways in which the sea is more powerful than I am. Feeling the little girl, lost in that same cavern, her swimming tail a bit damaged yet functional, coaxing me to step in, deeper… Perhaps I will find her there.
Gustavo, holding 32 years of experience like a bubble of safety, goes through easing me into the water.
“Do you know why the waters of Cozumel are such beautiful blue?” He asks.
I go through a barrage of answers, filled with scientific knowledge, doubting myself as he shakes his head, his lined and weathered face grinning.
“Because every morning the little fish all wake up and go… (He puckers his lips) blue… blue… blue.” I laugh. The water is spectacular.
He eases me further. Reminding me.
Breathe… Deep… Slow… Calm… In…. Out… Steady.
I practice above water, then we slide under the embryonic seal, arms of mother. I panic. I pop my head out of the water. Fear traveling to my mind… Reminding me that I don’t breathe like this. Slow and steady, Gustavo reminds me I have early memories of this, slow… Deep… Calm. He holds my hand. We are safe, he says. It is all in the mind. I know this.
This quickly began a whirlwind between the acidic and stinging fear and my desire to find my courage. I hear a part of me navigating with encouragement, hearing her remind to breathe deeply, steadily. Again, another wave of trusting, then battling a current of fear that moves up to my lungs and constricts my breathing… tossing me into a frenzied effort to find escape routes. To find air that isn’t feeling squeezed into me, or the voracious energy of endless consumption, big gasps of air that are not satiated by the regulator. I seek air that is there for me… I am awash with anger at fear. IT HOLDS ME TIGHTLY! There is a little mermaid child, waiting to be found again… And then, somehow, I return to the fish dancing in and out of castles of rocks and coral, flashing their colors, watching me swim. Then I return to the distraction of beauty, of the crackle of the sand as it swish-swashes with the currents, of the waving fans of coral, of the hand that is taking me on a walk with fins. Blue, blue, blue go the bubbles from my regulator. I watch them, silvery ubiquitous dancing blobs of air. “Never come up faster than the bubbles,” I remember Gustavo saying, and again the fear, and again the distraction.
Sometimes I really wonder what we are capable of if we didn’t navigate with so much fear. I didn’t find fear under the water until my early 30’s. Before then I was a fish, landlocked, often starving for a chance to swim. Florida offered waters that were warm and calm. I was returned to something familiar. I knew how to swim. I spent days with my sister snorkeling when our parents traveled, or in pools practicing our mermaid form and grace. I love water, and under the membrane of the surface, there is a different kind of calm. As children we practiced staying under, holding our air and our bodies still, discovering how the gentle steady and light release of air furthered our time beneath the surface. Yet, as I floated along with gadgets and tanks attached, I wanted to know how much air was left. How much deeper we were going to go? I returned Gustavo to the shore twice, so I could check all my parts were still attached, both physically and emotionally. After the second return to shallow waters, he asked if I wanted to go out again… I shook my head no, but I heard myself say yes. He took my hand, and we went a little deeper, a little further… Breathe… Deep… Slow… Calm… In…. Out… Steady… Blue, blue, blue went the little bubbles. Striped yellow fish watching me with curiosity. “What is to fear?” they coaxed, and I held tightly to the hand guiding me into the deep.
I emerged from this, still deeply conflicted. Did I like this? Fear and self-soothing, a continual wheel in my being, one after the next. I went snorkeling with my sister a few days later, watching her legs swish and move, following her pointed finger to discover smaller things as she dove down and up, while I hovered, close to the air that is a ruse. It isn’t just the air or fear, it is so deeply about trusting myself. Trusting my body, recognizing the ways in which I believe I have control and lose connection, lose that state of presence. When I am properly connected I discover depths to myself and beauty that open me further. Staying present in the depths was challenging. How many ways do I disengage, failing to see what is right here, now. How many fish dissolved from my sight when hot liquid fear found its way into my regulator, into my field of vision. Like water in my mask, it burns and distorts the world.
Step back to 2000, barely into my new marriage, with a man who at the time placed music and his dreams well ahead of connecting to me. I wondered a lot, that first year, about his raging resentment, or perhaps regret, a sentiment I assumed he carried once he drove me across the USA to Florida. That denied anger triggered my first protective blocks amidst the beautiful waves of desire to be closer to him. It was a levy. Although we found a much healthier dynamic in later years, I had already started to find my own way alone, through activity and exploration, without him. He was too busy. I had no friends, was new to Florida, and needed that quiet time that settled me amidst second guessing the enormous move I had just made.
We were staying at a beach-side hotel. He had a show the night before, so I knew he likely would sleep well towards the afternoon. I, however, desired to put my feet in the water. The ocean has always been a cornerstone to helping me reground myself. I seek it. I need it. It is made of the tears of this planet. It washes away the hard edges of my soul. It provides me truth in the quiet of lapping melodic waves. So, I quietly took to the ocean at 7 in the morning. Heading in, I found snorkelers swimming and enjoying the reef. I tossed myself into the waves, letting them hold me, as I watched clouds, and swam.
A man, early that morning, along with his niece, were fishing off shore. I was sandwiched between his line and tide pools and reef. Seeing those snorkelers, I figured I could also poke around, badly equipped but trusting my mermaid legs, my ease with the ocean, my love of the water. She swam near me and warned that it could get strong by the reef, but not gauging my movement I got pulled in by the waves. She swam just outside, looking worried. As the waves began pushing me towards the tide pool edges which dropped nearly 8 feet into the shoreline, I was unable to avoid being slammed into the wall of coral. Every effort to pull away back into safer water resulted in being drug under the edge, my body gasping for air amidst the salty and turbulent break. Coral tugging on the fibers of my skin.
I remember my panic bubbling forward, a light socket of fear I had been plugged into. Coming up for a breath, seeing her scared face, and hearing the edge of her fear call to me, “are you ok?” I immediately was infused with a vision of my son without a mother. I was not ok. His father, a drunken and gifted man, disillusioned by his anger and depression, being all he would have left to guide him, my family fighting to be part of his world once again. I could not fathom, in that moment, allowing the ocean to take me from him. I emerged from another pressing wave to call to her, grabbing the wall of coral, the rough edges eating into my ribs and legs. I clung, I clung with the love of being a mother, for dear life, gasping and struggling to keep air in my lungs against every breaking wave. And she, her own mermaid tail, back to shore to call to her uncle who had come running, barefooted and strong, across the tide pools, to the edge of the wall, to pull me free from the antagonizing waves.
As I drew air at the surface, holding his hand as I navigated the tide pools, my vision blurred from salt and fear, my body dripping with streams of blood where the coral had etched its warning into my skin, I fell into awareness and anger. I don’t remember my rescuers face, or that of his niece, who sat me at the shore to watch me collect the fragments of myself together. I do remember the deep gratitude I felt, the tears that fell, as he reminded me it would be ok. I was just married. Just 30. Just so new to Florida, having left everything behind for this marriage. Where was he? Where was the safety of having him near? Where was my mermaid tail? Where was my ease with the ocean?
Collected but shaking, I returned to our hotel room, bloody and breathless. Scared. Scared of the current, of the ways in which the ocean exerted its power over me. My fins had been severed by the coral and taken out to sea. All that was left were scars.
I’ve struggled with my need to control the world for an eternity. I learned young, that the more control I had in my world, the more protected I believed myself to be. I could better identify potential danger and flailing rage. I learned to read people, their state, sensitive to the body language that could change my sense of safety in the world.
As children, our mermaid adventures were a haven of play and safety. Nothing could harm the courageous mermaid, swimming powerfully from coral castle to kingdoms nestled at the bottom of the sea. No one could harm me in the safety of that world, my little sister’s long lanky legs gliding her like a fish, little bubbles from our noses, speaking mermaid. But now, the ocean had betrayed me.
However, the ocean doesn’t cease to keep me connected, washing away stress. It whispers like a lover, soothing melodies to my soul, a memory of being a mermaid, a lentil in the womb of mother, a soothing current. So, I step into that deep blue, because that mermaid child is out there somewhere. I step into that current so that it might take me to her, trying to relearn trusting my lungs and resisting that the dagger of fear that wields itself. I step into the blue because my sister is there, her graceful tail luring and gentle. I step in, aqua green and delicate blue, listening to the fish, “blue… blue… blue.”
Posted on January 17, 2016 - Filed Under self reflect
As I am piling my almost non-existent hair into micro-pigtails so that I can feel somewhat comfortable with the mess that I frequently “label” my head, I began to reflect on what it is exactly that I am doing to myself each time I allow the series of thoughts about my beauty-worth into my mind. The last few days have been a cacophony of experiences, of things I have done, and I rolled through what they contributed or didn’t to my presence here.
Between jumping on board for a dear friend in a small health crisis, and finding someones credit card on the walkway of the post office where I promptly went out of my way to return it to the bank in which she was a member… I am a morally aware, caring, and conscionable person. I walk this planet with a loving gentle heart, making an effort to stay aware of my quick judgements and reactions to things I find particularly unpleasant. I carry a certain level of safety for those who know and love me, because I know and love them easily, without demand or expectation that they be anything but themselves.
Yet, here I am at a 5:15am, running to find an anti-nausea remedy for my recovering friend, and I pass by my neighbor, who 1) I haven’t seen in weeks, 2) offered a few dates in the past, 3) I am usually and almost instantly regarded first for my “sexiness,” before my actual “person.” Greeting him with a smile, I found myself immediately apologizing for my appearance. I am still in Pajamas, no makeup (but not really unusual,) messy hair, and clearly puffy with both lack of sleep and disheveled spirit. He smiles back, and tosses a sheepish remark, “You are always sexy to me, baby.” I drive off, refocusing on my goal.
What exactly was my garbled apology for? With him no less? Why do I value HIS perspective above my own? I’ve thought about rejoining match.com and just laying out there, “Beautifully spirited woman, intelligent, stable, losing her hair, not wearing a 20-year-old’s body, but a clumsily fit 46-year-olds. Seeking a similar measure of a self-loving human.” This very neighbor, nearly 10 weeks ago, shared his frustration at meeting a delightful woman, who he REJECTED because she was “larger” than him; because she didn’t bother to post, for his shopping pleasure, the true vision of herself between the breasts and the knees. Because that was dishonestly false advertising. Because he needed to feel like “a man” with her, and satisfy that itch to be the more powerful human. (Do you see me shaking my head? IS THERE ANY HOPE?) And here I am making excuses for being a $!@?#&! human being in his presence; tired, scared, determined, messy headed, and a bit emotional from lack of sleep.
Yet, when I see my smiling face among friends, when I hug them and tenderly kiss their cheeks and tell them how grateful I am for their very lives on this planet, I don’t think my self-degradation is of any help to me, or anyone else. When I am reminded of the beauty I see in them, it isn’t on their faces, or among the highlights of their thick hair, but instead in the hearts that radiate out to me who they are. I have toyed, time and time again, of just cutting it all off, but I shudder in fear. I agonize every time I see someone look at the top of my head instead of into my eyes when they address me. I weep for the fine little threads that fill my bathtub and sink every morning. I keep thinking that my worth is in what the world sees of me, instead of what I know to be my heart. I have been well conditioned to worry about my flaws and fantasize that if I had the money to throw away, I would fix all of them. But, is that what the people who love me REALLY see? They tenderly touch my hand and smile and remind me I am loved, it doesn’t matter, not one bit.
I have stayed away from the media for so many reasons. The depth of “programming” creates such emotional violence in our society. It wages a war not only among people, but within ourselves, as we gauge whether we fit the social constructs and societal norms. Between beauty and body image, mental health, religious perspective, political views, culture. I agonize at the generalizations and hatred that people create by failing to see how deeply human we are, that we carry our own burdens, that we love and agonize over our dying family, our broken hearts, our struggle to survive, our own thoughts of self worth. And I give rise to an apology about how I look!? I stand in front of the mirror and bemoan my baby-fine, and thinning hair, when there is so much more to me than that.
This topic, spreads broad for me, and isn’t just isolated by my hairlessness. It started very young in having to meet some expectation of beauty to satiate another’s sense of worthiness. It started in being told what I should look like, how I should walk and hold myself, what I should wear. It started with elders preening at my ear and telling me what I should be to them. It started with simple messages about the shame I should have for my body, my self-love, my desire to just be the spirit that was born into this world. I was incensed by an app that prompts a child to ensure a princess was beautiful by shaving her legs and covering her pimples and moles with makeup. I loathe the remarks I hear and see about my purpose in a man’s life, or when they begin to assert power over me when my intelligence becomes a threat.
What I say to men and women, girls and boys and everyone in between, however they identify, you are remarkably beautiful. What does your heart look like? Gauge your self on what that puts in the world above all else, then be in the world just as you most love to be. I still tumble the idea of cutting my hair off, more as an exercise in self-love and acceptance. My fear hasn’t yet let go. However, if you do find me completely hairless because mother nature made it that way, know that I am not the labels this world sets upon me, and it is a difficult thing for me to let go of the subtle voice of society beyond my own tender voice of self love. I am learning, as I hope you are too.
You are Beautiful!
Posted on October 31, 2015 - Filed Under self reflect
My mother, who isn’t prone to sharing articles, popped a link on to a private message to me. Majestic Unicorn wrote a phenomenal, and yet, for me, triggering post on “Broken Things.” It touched on the tougher moments of parenting, and the love-ness that is taught and nurtured when we are faced with anger. As I wrapped up reading it, everything ached. Tears fell, my voice moved furiously through the spaces between my heart and my head, dripping, sad, tentative, yet loud; “How the fuck do I find love in the steaming pool of anger that burbles so deeply in me with regards to my own mother?” and it fell on the page…
I had a place of forgiveness once, once I felt done with all of it. Once I got quiet and heard her agony, told time and time again, the burden of her memories, of her pain, or her unworthiness of love. Once I got quiet and wrote whirlwinds of regard for her courage. And once, I ran far, far away, from the judgment, the discouragement, the unpredictability, the endless fighting. Once I saw her, deeply entangled in the little girl she is, just like mine. But I could only take care of one child. She clung to me, orphaned. Once, twice perhaps a lifetime more times, I held that little girl in her. I felt compassion for that part of her, but still, below the love and compassion, I didn’t want to be holding my mother as the frightened angry child that she is. I didn’t want to soothe her guilt and pain, laying out all the work it takes for me to walk compassionately on this planet, dismissing all the time I have been alone, all the time I have taken care of myself, all the times I protected myself alone, to soothe her in the work she runs from. The work she reflects on me to do. I have my own fucking work to do, I bellowed. I have my own little girl, I have my own experience to process.
She held up an empowerment weekend for nearly 6 hours with her agony, all the while leaving me to wait outside as she spoke her guilt and pain; I waited, while the sun set, for a call to allow me back in. “You are doing great,” they said. “Let her have her voice,” they encouraged. “You are being such a good daughter,” they pushed, as I sat alone in a back room waiting. Then she emerged, lightened and exhausted. “It was amazing,” she said. “It was healing,” she stated. “I feel better now,” she remarked. Recovery offered her the same audience. “I am clean now,” she encouraged. “I am safe now,” she suggested. “I have put down my arms,” she pronounced while the white flag dropped to the floor. Nothing changed except knowing that all of it was deeper in her than I could even fathom. It affirmed that I was still the daughter who is not enough. I don’t love her enough. I don’t offer regard the way she needs. I owe her. I scream the same things inside. I have the same desire, to be mothered; to fall into the safety of a mother. You don’t love me, I scream. You point at me in the world when you have been in pain, and say, LOOK what SHE has done to me. I have been shamed, deeply hurt by your vengeful punishment, I stutter. Nothing changed except that I don’t reach for the belt to assist in my own beating. I depart, ignore, detach, look away, and abandon her, because I will never be enough. I am defeated. And she fights, demands, and she is orphaned.
I am so angry with her. I stare at the broken mirror shattered by both our rage, and I just want to HAVE MY ANGER. Not anger mounted from blame, but ANGER for being denied the pain of my experience. For all the times I have been told it was nothing, it didn’t exist, I am dramatic about it, it is unjustified, I created it, I caused it, I was stubborn, I caused her pain. For all the moments my whimpers were scoffed at. For all the times my anger was not allowed to be bigger than hers, all the times my pain and fear was a splinter compared to the creaking, snapping trees of her raw and vicious experience. My only job has been to love her, OR be sent to my room and close the door to the rest myself. “Hush, you are not worthy of your anger, because MINE is bigger,” she would say. “Hush, you are not deserving of your pain, because MINE is deeper.” She would draw a line in the soil between us. And her trees would grow, tangled and large in that space. They would creak and groan and I would be frightened in the forest of her agony. “YOU MUST LOVE ME,” she would wail like the wind through that fearsome forest, and I held on to the little sapling that was my heart in her forest, hoping to survive.
The quiet, detached, lonely child in me has resisted even that. “You WILL NOT TAKE LOVE FROM ME,” my inner child laments in that deep dark forest. It has taken me years to see that aching child in my own soul and coax her from the shadows. To try to understand how she guides me, to offer consolation when she is confused and navigate for her as the strong woman I have become. It has taken seeing that child in others to gift me with a knack for connection, compassion, and regard. And my mother watches, and wails, the orphaned child, “Why not me? Can you not love me?”
Loving her has been frightening, dangerous, uncertain. It has stood trembling against demands, expectations, disregard, pointed and gestured accusation. It has fallen apart in moments in which I didn’t own my body, or my space, or my words. When I couldn’t say, “NO!” and be honored. My love has been taken as her property. I don’t know how to love her; because the ways I love are not what her orphaned scared child knows. She gazes at the petals of tenderness I lay at her feet, saying, “you do this because I demand it, not because it means something.” And I back away, with regret for offering any part of myself. I retreat into the shadows, figuring that, I too must be unworthy; this is so hard.
The relationship between mother and child is perhaps the most intimate of our lives. We start dependent on her energy, her life, her nourishment. As we float in the womb, feeling every energetic moment, every echo of emotion, every word she utters; we are one. She is the first skin we touch, she is our first source of sustenance, she is our first mirror to our self. The violence she inflicts on herself is the violence she places in our own deepest sense of self. It plants in us our first sense of how safe the world is out there, it breathes life into our ability to give and receive love. It is a primitive and deep place in which to grow a sapling.
This article fluttered in and out of my feed for nearly three days. And just four days ago I had a dream that my mother had died. My first thought as the information came through the wisps of sleep, “Are you fucking kidding, she can’t die without having some resolution to this endless struggle and dance! WHY did we keep wasting our time! Now it will never be healed!” As I work on a memoir that revolves around the love of my father, the story of my mother vacillates in and out of the current that feeds me. I turn away, repeatedly to writing them. I leave her orphaned because I cannot speak of love in her story without giving voice to my anger. I am shamed for having a story that perpetuates a spoken history of the ways she knew not how to be mother. I fear adding to the ways I injure her. Yet, I continue to stifle and turn my back on my own anger. I tell it, “Hush, you are not worthy of your anger or your pain, because it can NOT be bigger than hers.” My guilt for having suffered in light of the voracious forest that twists and suffocates her, is profound. Perhaps I can not love if I can not understand loving my mother. Perhaps she can not love until she has found a love for that orphaned child, and first learns to nurture HER. I have transplanted that sapling to gentler forests in my own space and heart. I have mothered myself, and as I grow, I continue to find the boundaries, the voice, the compassion for my own tender self.
It is not that I do not love my mother. It is that I love her so deeply I suffer against the impenetrable tangle of roots and branches. Loving is easy, I say often. It is all the other stuff that is so hard. However, if I get quiet, if I look through the eyes of the woman I have become, through the eyes of wisdom and time, that forest is not so voracious. It is a microcosm of a much bigger, primeval, wildwood built of generational and cultural matter, lifetimes of barriers. And it isn’t that we need to chop and yank and pull against the growth, but instead tend gently to the roots, that deep desire to be worthy, to be seen, to matter. My roots, my voice, my journey, and my healing.
Upon completion of this piece, I awoke the next morning, my subconscious roused from the process that often comes from strong emotional moments. I remembered an article my sister had sent several years back that resonated. On my hunt to find it in the web of the internet I found a corresponding article (same author) that speaks exactly to the dilemma for parentified daughters;
She sat with the dog tucked in by her feet, the plane lurching its way to her final destination. She didn’t know how she would feel, the anxiety a bit like bringing home her newborn 20 years ago. Well, not quite like that, but like that. How is this going to look? I am alone, just me and the dog…
I’d had what my sister and I are now referring to as a “Pito Visitation” on the eve of my return from over 6 weeks of traveling. I admit feeling frayed at flying home with Gizmo (our family dog), as there has been an edge of distress about having him, much like the distress each time I walk into my father’s home. Gizmo has endured a kind of grief I can’t fathom, having spent several days with the body of my father before help arrived. Gizmo’s frantic energy around my father’s passing, and the days of long sighs while gazing at the front door added to my own grief. I felt the same way, deeply, unable to digest the idea that he was gone. Gizmo has been with my mother and step-father for nearly 10 months. Letting him go was a two-fold awareness for me. He reminded me of my own aching sadness, and I knew he would help relieve my parent’s grief; it felt best to send him with them to California. Something in me certainly sensed keeping him with me may have been very important for us both, and then the meandering abandon of my aching heart just couldn’t do it.
The night before my return home I remained restless, secretly wishing that my parents would change their mind. I’d had months of adventure and fluctuating avoidance. I was up at 4:30a, then after what felt like hours to get back to sleep I found myself awoken from a dream, the gut wrenching heaves of tears at the edge of my throat. I had been moving through a hotel, or some resort, in a viscous world at the edge of sleep. I moved through changing spaces, changing energy, when suddenly I heard my father’s voice, “Nite Nite, Gizmo!” Startled, I began looking around for him, and found myself looking down from an upper floor, to see him with Gizmo tucked under his arm, a huge dentured grin across his face. He had been walking with Falco, a Jag Club friend, and they both smiled up at me. I could not join them from up above, but my father looked exultant to have Gizmo in his arms. I woke, feeling the sadness of only having him in my dreams, and wondered what that all meant. My first thought; “Hey, you can’t take Gizmo!” thinking perhaps the little guy’s demise was upon me. Then, I thought about the relationship we all have had.
My father came with me and Justin to pick Gizmo out from the pile of puppies. The pup was soft natured, timid yet connected. I had asked the daughter of the breeder which pup was her favorite, and having named them all herself as they emerged into her care, she said, “Gizmo.” I figured that after weeks of observing the pup’s temperament, she would know best. Clearly, it was one of the best decisions, as we ended up with a highly intelligent miniature dachshund. Gizmo quickly learned that sneezing got our immediate attention, and that responding to our double fingered gun point with a “bang, bang!” got him a rigorous belly rub! Gizmo spent his first four years with us, and my father supported the effort with “grand-puppy” sitting days when all of us were gone for an extended part of the day.
After my divorce, Gizmo demonstrated a profound awareness of time, eager on Thursday mornings when he knew he was headed to Pito’s house. Thursdays were a frenzy of “are we leaving yet?” Gizmo would shake with anticipation at arriving to Pito’s house, filled with dog adventures, play time, ear scratching, and trips to check progress on the renovation of the Jag. Later, Justin and I moved to Tampa for a new work opportunity, so my father eagerly took care of Gizmo during the transition. When I realized that little Gizmo would have long unaccompanied days, I asked my father to keep him longer. I felt that the two of them would be remarkable company for each other, and they were. I was moving 2 hours away. Gizmo needed Pa as much as Pa needed him. That relationship turned into nearly 4 years of adventure for the both of them. We have videos of Justin racing to solve a cube as fast as Gizmo could swallow a Wendy’s patty. Gizmo took part in Gun Safety lessons, filled in as Pito’s side-kick, and when cute “chicks” approached with the familiar, “He’s sooooo cute!” my father would reply, “Yeah, and my dog too!” Gizmo raced at the slalom races, entertained the Jag club with the balancing of treats and an eager waggly tail, and almost every business in a 10 mile radius of Pa’s routine knew him by name. There was “spa day” and the super secret Gizmo sneeze-code for every need he had, and clockwork walks, checking of pee-mail (with occasional spell check), teeth brushing routines, and the ongoing reminder of when it was “siesta time,” and “bed time.” The whole family recognized the beautiful relationship between Pa and his, “little buddy.” When I asked about Gizmo moving back with us after the purchase of our house, it was clear that Gizmo wasn’t going to leave Pa.
So here we have been together for nearly a week. It is amazing to me the adaptability of animals, and we are establishing our own little routines. I’d forgotten just how safe I felt when I had Gizmo. We have discussions about routine almost daily… mostly because the thinks he knows what my schedule should look like, and I can’t miss a sunset, or dancing, or bike rides. He is adjusting well to sitting on the back of my bike in a basket, and our evening walk to meet the other pups for sunset. And it has been clear, when I consider my son’s request to keep him… Gizmo is home. Falco, my father, both were part of things Pito loved in Florida.
The grief I thought I would experience has turned into ease. We know each other so well. I am reminded, by random sneezes and nudges, it is time for bed. A few belly rubs and I feel like I am taking care of something precious to everyone in the family. Pa likely knew this was exactly what we both needed. “Nite Nite, Gizmo!”
I could feel Asheville before I even knew how close I was. A deep quiet breath and a weightless, sort of sinking, relaxed feeling in my body as my dad’s little car buzzed up and over hills and mountains. There is an undercurrent of safety in the arms of the earthy people who live here, and the air itself is cool and easy, hugging my skin at just the right temperature and pressure.
Our first venture was a picnic on top of the Blue Ridge Highway, overlooking the illuminated clouds of sunset, and the misty layers of mountain after mountain. Dani, as I described on our way back, with windows down and the smells of farms and trees moving through the car, is a profoundly sensory creature. She has this delicious gift of bringing to our consciousness the flavors in the air and the feel of the things around us. I relate to this so well, but am always in awe around her constant awareness and mindfulness. “Oh, do you smell that? That sweet earthiness…” and I am magically present, deeply drawing in the experience like an ice cream tasting at my favorite ice cream shop. This is delightful to me, as I love this quality about myself, and yet find myself disconnected from it often in the movement of daily life. I appreciate when I reintegrate rolling in the sensory world like a dog on grass.
And so, I asked if I could sleep on the porch. Layers of padding were collected. I curled up under the midnight sky. Every time I opened my eyes during the night I was met with another vision of clouds and stars, a changing landscape, including a white rabbit with starlit eyes, and an entourage of faces all laughing and enjoying my bundled self, cocooned in a rough weather sleeping bag.
Stirring under the warming sky this morning, I am filled with the sounds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was reminded how loud nature is, as the hidden creatures sang their lullabies throughout the night, only to build to a crescendo with the start of early birds seeking breakfast. The morning dew rested on my nose that peeped out from blankets and pillows. The air crisp and cool and cleansing. Quite the adventure on a little raised porch at the home of dear, loving friends, and I am so grateful they are the kind of people who appreciate sleeping outdoors, and mindful hugs, coffee and laughter. Gratitude in the Blue.
I woke up yesterday morning curled up into a ball of deep heaving tears. As I sit to write this I realize today marks exactly 6 months since our father was identified as certifiably dead. Not exactly the easiest or best way to put it, but flat out, it isn’t the day he died, it is the day they identified him as dead. However, I didn’t wake up crying because of the anniversary, but rather the last moments of a very active and visceral dream I’d been having with him. I have not dreamed of my father up until now.
We were traveling around, as if we were doing errands; shopping, collecting things and shoving items into a vehicle we were in. I vaguely remember my mother being along for all this, nagging her Pito about the things we were collecting. I remember struggling to get some things in, and when pulling things out of the back, feeling as if there was no way we could get all that stuff back in there again. Also my father, in a way that felt like a playful joke, had written on the back of my calves while I was driving, a model number and serial number for something. I recall not having my glasses to clearly see the numbers.
We were not “home” but it felt as if we were staying in some transitionary space.
My father opens a door to a “bedroom” and says, “I’ve got some things to get down about the cars, then I am going to bed.” I suddenly feel as if this is my only chance so I tell him, “I have something to talk to you about,” and I follow him in. I feel anxious and timid about even approaching what I am there to talk to him about. He sits at a computer running through an application and asks to see my calves. The serial numbers I feel are related to the Jag. As the program runs, a document is created on the screen and there are signatures inscribed on “sign here” lines; the name Julie something is signed, like a Jane Doe sample, on numerous pages.
I ask, “So this is something we need if we decide we need to sell the Jag?”
Pa turns to me, puzzled, “Why would you need to sell the Jag?”
“Pa, it’s a huge fiscal responsibility!” I can hear my exasperation with him, and he is looking at me with similar sentiment. “How is that even practical? It’s not like I can make it my primary car, Pa!” For a moment, his face changes as he recognizes that this is so powerfully true.
Then a different transition of expression as his face shifts into a soft, almost childlike expression of wonderment, and he looks out the window in front of us to the Jaguar, “That’s what I get for having a toy that beautiful,” he whispers. (And because he whispered this, I am still not sure exactly how he said it, but “I get,” and “beautiful” were there, and I could feel the energy with which it was expressed.)
“And the color, Pa, that you picked for that car is by far my favorite. It IS beautiful!”
Our eyes meet and I can feel all my guilt and fear well up in me about both his most prized possession AND my responsibility for it. I quiver like a child, like his daughter coming for reassurance. “You won’t be mad at me if we decide to sell it?” I ask as I begin to feel my lip quiver in the vast space he holds. Tears come as he opens his big arms, and I fall into the crick of his shoulder and neck. I can feel his grey whiskers against my neck, and I can smell his Pito smell, and he holds me in a big embrace as I weep against him.
I wake up, crying. I can’t tell which is real for a few moments, so I keep my eyes closed and cry into the dream as best I can, for as long as I can, because I miss him. I’m afraid I will forget his smell, the way his hugs feel, and the warmth of his body when he has held me close.
The 1952 Jaguar XK120 Roadster has been really hard to figure out. None of us kids really want the responsibility of it, it’s just too much “car”. So, my heart has ached about letting go of it, while knowing there really isn’t a lot we can do to make it financially easy to keep. Storing it, the mechanics, gasoline, INSURANCE! It’s a huge fiscal responsibility. It will sit in a garage again like it had, and that Roadster really wants to be screaming along roads, roaring and showing itself off. Our father knew that car intimately, involved in every aspect of its renovation. Additionally, he has had it since he was 19, purchasing it from his brother who owned it briefly after acquiring it from the original owner. We have a picture of our Great Grandfather sitting in that Jag. I have faint memories of riding with him in that vehicle down the highway in San Diego when I was young. When he got his dream job in New York, the Jaguar was the last thing they carefully packed in the moving van, and the first thing out.
After years degrading in his basement in NY, it was again packaged for its trip to Florida after his retirement, and he started the slow and arduous process of bringing it back to life. Although he never quite shared her name with me, I call it a Jaguarstien, and amalgamation of old and new, and the brainchild of his own hobbyistic “secretly wild-boy” enthusiasm. There have been a few changes to the beast that us kids have cringed at, and one in particular that he never finished (thank god!) after my sneering disapproval (I’d like to think I am responsible for the prevention of foreign headrests).
Regardless of the purity of his Jag, he joined the Jag club, and I began to attend Jag Rallys, Jag breakfasts, Jag parties, and Jag crawls (though I think they call them “prowls”) because of the length of time getting from point A to point B on any given afternoon among a caravan of enthusiasts. We took pictures of his treasure, and I became part of a tender group of people who were quick to enjoy our father’s humor and playfulness.
The Jag club even made a special award for him, and by the last year or two of his life, he was the active Badge Master, assuring that everyone had their name tags, and brought them to events. He worked to help at every event, and at his “happy hour” celebration, his friends arrived to celebrate him and present an award for being the most involved member (that story has a funny edge to it too!) I am known by the club, and I could never express the depth of gratitude for their arrival during our grief and the loss of our father. Every event was on his calendar (that he kept shared with me, so I also know about appointments, spa day for Gizmo, trash day, target Tuesday, and other regularly scheduled events).
My favorite thing however, was to ride shotgun with Pa when I would visit. Sure, I attended events and enjoyed the socializing. I loved that I was his date for every January Holiday party with the Jag club. However, he had a sort of zen energy when we took those back road trips, much like we did when I was a teenager. As my hair whipped around my face, and all the grit from the joints and wing vents pelted me on a ride, I would feign the terror of being on a death ride with him. However, inside both of us would be beaming. THIS is one of the ways I could connect with my father. I would joke that I went around with him just so I could be the “eye candy” for all the goats who had to stare at us on the road. He relished that car.
So I think the conversation with him was really to get him to understand, or for HIM to get ME to understand. Our brains are amazing… that conversation was really so succinct and EXACTLY what I needed. It felt so clearly of him, even when at first I recognized that he didn’t like the idea… then as it made sense he assured me with a big hug that none of his love was wrapped into his feelings for the Jag. The Jag, it was just a vehicle to help us on this plane to connect with each other when he was alive. And this is so important, because NONE of his LOVE is wrapped up in any of the things left behind, but rather in the space in which he holds each of us, and we him, and the ways in which we know each others hearts. His love beats though my blood vessels every moment, and his pride shines from my smile, and his being is all that I am, and more. I honor him when I continue to grow in the world, when I shine my light on others, when I love and live as big and brilliantly as possible. And, that hug, falling into his weight and warmth, just his daughter, just my father, was a reminder that all we have is love.
Posted on April 14, 2015 - Filed Under self reflect
April 1 Flight…
I haven’t felt too inspired to write much of late… pictures are easy, and the movement of wheels in my head shifted by a plethora of play and distraction. There is a deep part of me that doesn’t want to move back into the world the way I have existed in it. I reflect on what has been over 30 years of “working, working, working.” The story of late has been around heartbreak and losses. I have moments where I just breathe in the air and watch the sky, lost in the movement of nature beyond the edges of my skin. I rock in the hammock, grieve, smile broadly, laugh. My feet are bare, my skin exposed to the sun. Eating has fallen away, finding nourishment in being…
Some ideas have been snapping into place about my life that I hadn’t quite seen. After the loss of my father, my job, and of love, within moments of each other, I spiraled. I began to wonder about the purpose of these events in the scope of how I come to know the world, or the meaning that I make of it. What purpose, what synchronistic anomalies, have bounced into play to pull me through these bundled events to this moment, or this one… or this one?
Love cradled me through the heartbreak of my father. My job loss made me cognizant of my father’s passing, the lost communication that indicated something was wrong. My father’s passing nudged me into wandering and essentially, adventuring, through my grief and self awareness. So many connections, such blessings, such heartache.
In the early morning, before consciousness pulls the blankets from my quiet, reflective mind, I discover these lucid little morsels of awareness about my existence that a regularly assiduous day buries under the sand of “being busy.” I turn around, in my mind, failed love, successful love, the art of work, the art of play, who I am, who I have become, where I am to go… This all churns under the unconscious guise of sleep. I have been on the brink of throwing up my hands and announcing, “fuck it!” while running wildly through the untamed flowers of my own dreams. There is a strong desire to just explore all the things “I didn’t” during the work laden days I pressed into my being, shrouded in the idea that somehow this created in me a sense of worth. My over-responsibility, my constant “doing,” often for others more than myself, the record that played about being a burden unless I did, and did more, and did the most. Suddenly, there is no need to work so hard. Suddenly, I feel as if I have a choice. There is nothing to lose, because things will be lost. It is inevitable. Death rides the edge of life, until one day it jumps the tracks, and there we are – with a pile of stuff and a few souls grieving the loss. What is the point other than taking life a bit more adventurously, because I have no idea how much time is left to play and explore.
- I want to see Spain.
- I want to see Italy.
- There are many more museums to see, art to explore, and meals to eat.
- I want to spend several weeks among family in Colombia.
- I want to drive across the USA and find all the Art-o-Mats and buy at least 1 piece of art.
- I want to submit my own work for Art-o-Mat machines.
- I want to take art classes again so my hand relearns to sketch as it had so fluidly before I finished college.
- I want to see every sunset.
- I want to bike more.
- I want to teach all over, not in one place… all over.
- I want to dance more, and play Pandora loudly in every room of my life.
- I want to giggle with my sister.
- I want to revisit Chicago.
- I want to see more moonsets.
- I want to find more hot springs and disappear into the water, naked and smiling
- I want to clean up what doesn’t matter
I’ve had a strong desire to clean out, purge my space, of all the things that mean nothing if I am not here. I’ve been looking at things and asking how they bring me joy, or what purpose they have in my world. If none, then it goes in a bag to be gifted, donated, or destroyed. I am stuck on a few piles… like the piles of drawings and art I created in my 20’s, the love letters between Gary and me, and the pages of poetry and stories I wrote when I was on fire with creativity. I think about repurposing them into my art, or letting them fall into the firepit for a burning of the endless thoughts and serenades my heart spilled into the arms of others so long ago. All of these moves into the edges of my own creativity…
I think about creating – and yet my inspiration is shifty. I don’t seem able to hold it steady, once I sit alone with a page, or a canvas. What if the world wants more? What if I am expected to create more… What if I can’t? What if I am empty?
And I hear her, the creative part of me, she says, “You do what you can, THAT is your pace; like the pattern of your breathing, the pattern of your heart lobbing and moving life energy through you, it evolves as you do. It moves as it does. There is nothing more or less to do.”
All of this is important because I am very aware that I am refilling a well, long emptied and ravaged by the drought that my “work-worth” had created. I am aware that keeping myself on the hammock, by rocking and taking in the clouds, by exposing myself to nature and movement, I am filling that well. Travel and hiking and eating and art and taking the world in, is doing more for the repair of my being than anything else I could venture into.
“There is nothing more or less to do…”
it can encompass the horrific
the endless days of nothing
the twisted thread of lives
unravelled like an umbilical cord
tied to our center
severed and bleeding
full and nourishing
messy and empty
it can unfold in the mist of sandy days
the passing of twitterings and electronic lives
oblivious to the tender souls begging to be seen
beyond the screen
the tear of glass and solvency of images
it can be the skin
it can the bone
it can be the hairless amniotic state of quiet
it can be the shadows of trees at dawn
a freshly painted amber wall
a broken paintbrush of dried cerulean bristles
and somewhere in the daybreak of the story
words tumble and smudge along a page
Posted on September 10, 2014 - Filed Under 2014, breathe, fear, feelings, frustration, gratitude, self reflect
I am sitting in the dark in my Florida Room, listening to the rain pop on the ceiling and the storms moving through in waves above. The cicadas are warming up to the pause in the turbulence outside, and I am masticating again on the shifts and changes in my life. The door to the backyard is wide open, with just a few whispers of a breeze that make it around the corner of the building. My breath, slow and pensive. I couldn’t feel more blessed in this little house. It warmly opens its arms to me at the end of each day, speaking safety and containment from all the rest of the world. At night it softens beneath me, cradling my body and quieting my mind, the crackle of its age like gentle kisses on my psyche. In the morning, it lets in the light so that I know we have another day together, and releases me out into the many adventures I can find within a few miles. I smile when I return at night, its porch and borders lit up by the white christmas lights I keep on a timer all year.
I sit in this home. Alone. Grateful. Easy. There is nothing that interrupts that space unless I welcome it. Here.
It is out into the world that I find myself sighing a lot lately, a sigh of defeat and disappointment on the trails of what I know are unfulfilled expectations – something I should know better not to have. They creeped up on me when I wasn’t looking, with affirmative and soothing encouragements, and promises flooded by the busy-ness of being needed. They wrestled their way into my daily living, pushing me to do more, to prove myself, to earn a badge, to make me indispensable… yet, I forget that I am, dispensable.
“My sense of confidence in the mechanics of working life is unravelling quickly!” I shouted online, “I think my fingers are clammy and numb!” My sister remarked, “Unclench those fingers and let it go!”
My “career,” if that is what you call the part of my life that earns me wages, has shifted. I feel myself attending to all the pulleys and anchors and sails of a ship, disjointed in thought from the captain and some of his crew… each one attending to a small pile of netting in their lap, or a spot on the deck, but not fully making meaning of how the whole ship is sailing. It feels like my former marriage. It didn’t matter how much I loved it, how much I loved him, I was frantically darting to all the challenges on the sea, and no one else was looking but me. I feel scared that my hard work may crumble into a mechanism that is counter to the culture I have enjoyed. I have a few supportive crew who watch me sigh, and I expect, they feel helpless as to HOW alleviate my unhappiness with the decisions being made. I, myself, know my tired face does not help them either. I want to feel differently, but I am unable to detach enough to trust that ship to stay upright. I know it can, but the signs in my turbulent mind are not good. Again, the strategies I learned early in life to navigate the world are in my own way of finding ease.
I got approval for unpaid medical family leave… and I have two months of work before I can head to California and support the people I love. This break from working life also gives me time to regroup. It has been a year of immense gifts and blessings, and so many losses. I am whirling and dizzy from the battery of goodbyes. I am tired. I do too much.
Walking with trusted colleagues, I remarked, “Perhaps I am just a bad sport.” Essentially, the idea that I would even believe that remark is maddening. I am in a world where the very nature of my being makes me less “worthy or valued.” I was advised today to, “prove my worth, make myself indispensable,” by the very company that has utilized every facet of my gifts and abilities. And how did I come to believe in the opportunities that really were not intended for me? I shudder… I let expectations creep up on me.
So the rain comes down, hard. I stand at sunset letting it bounce about my feet and soak my legs. The wind blows and I cling to my big umbrella, tossing my shoes off so I can feel the ground beneath my feet. In this spot, the clouds dark and encompassing, and the light of the sun slowly being consumed by storms, I feel the joyful lull of gratitude. I have this. I have THIS for all my hard work. I have a place to peddle away my stress, and trails to lose my mind in. I have neighbors that include the locals at a restaurant, or neighbors with their dogs bounding down to the water’s edge to check for dolphins and sunsets. I have this, the quiet serenity of my casita, with its gleaming cold terrazzo floors and walls filled with my artwork. I have the pop of rain on the Florida room roof, as I sit, drenched, staring out into a forest of a yard bouncing with the light of thunderstorms. I have friends eager to see me, dancing or eating in their company, keeping me connected and loved. I have co-workers who remind me each day of why I go back, and who I am supporting with the work I do. I have conversations that ease the ache of this “career” enough to make me laugh and reflect on my positive influence. I have rain, and clouds, and photography, and people I love so deeply and so much. And the wind blows the clouds in, and eventually, it blows them away…keep looking »