Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Daughter Once

She told me she had a daughter once
as if having a daughter is something
like having a blue sweater or a home
the flu or a vacation, a transient
belonging or fleeting experience
To have a daughter once
is to have a daughter
like you have a memory
and cells or bones
once you do, you just do
No matter if they died
or they disowned you
or you said you were done
they disappeared into drugs
or prostitution,  mental illness
marriage, career, motherhood
or they live in your basement
and refuse to grow up and out
The soul clings tightest
to things never possessed
that grow wings and fly
knowing full well the futility
of denial, come what may

Monday, March 30, 2015

Arriving Safely at an Awful Destination

There are, of course, the obstacles to consider. A million and one reasons why not. An entire book on being practical and settling for what quietly kills you in the name of caution. If you're not sure where to find this book, ask one of your parents, it's probably on their nightstand. This field guide to playing it safe is passed down through the generations.

It's an old book. Ancient. It is loaded with meticulously documented side notes about everything you've ever failed at, the times you were wrong, the projects left unfinished. It is written in your genetic code, replicated in your DNA. It has verses on being realistic and waxes poetic about not getting your hopes up. 

It holds the generations and their death-bed laments, because that is what we do. We put off our biggest dreams, quiet our most burning desires, and we do what it is we think we must do instead of risking whatever it is we think is on the line if we dared to pursue a satisfying life. We put off the lives we want until we have put them off for so long that life has run out. We surrender to death long before the diagnosis is at hand. And we shrug our shoulders and wring our hands, claiming that the "if only," and "I wish I had" scenarios weren't possible, even though we never bothered to find out.

I want to burn that fucking book. I want to ban it from the inner sanctum of my psyche, watch the pages go up in flames Fahrenheit 451 style, and declare it obscene and immoral. I want to rewrite the code, and leave something less murderous as a guidebook for the generations.

I don't want to hear one more word about being realistic or accepting what is. Don't hand me your soiled laundry list of all of the ways I could fail. As if I haven't already. As if it killed me. As if I'm still not right here after failing more times than I can count. Don't say it like failing could be any worse than being seventy-seven years old and thinking about what could have been, and how god damn average and ordinary the last forty years were, because I played it safe, not pursuing the life I wanted, out of fear of disappointment. Jesus, Mary, and all things holy, please tell me what could possibly be more disappointing than that?

I have considered the obstacles.  I have considered them at length. And I consider them nothing more than a stutter as I find my silenced yearnings, pull them from my throat, and shout out the one reason I have to do this and I have to do it now. I cannot wait another minute to begin.

I am never going to arrive at some magical, all conditions are perfect, now is the right time. No, not in a few years. No, not when the kids are grown. Not after retirement, hell no. Most certainly not someday. Now. This is my life and I am living it now.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Eternal Questions

There is salvation
but no redemption
in believing
in anything at all.

There is redemption
but no salvation
in disbelief
of everything.

Will it matter
in the end
as long as you
were kind?

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. I remembered in the morning, shortly after waking up, as I was telling my wife about a vivid dream. In the dream, I had taken my wife to my aunt's home in Indiana for a family reunion of some sort, only it was no ordinary reunion. The dead had all returned to join us for the celebration, and no one seemed at all surprised or frightened by this. My grandparents, mother, and an aunt were all there, as alive as the rest of us. 

And it wasn't a going back in time sort of dream, I was the age that I am now, and my wife was with me. My cousins were all grown up, and a few of them had their beautiful children in tow. It was pleasant. There was a whole story within a story about taking a walk and finding a toddler, and falling in love with him and wanting to keep him, but Jena saying we had to turn him over to the police. We finally compromised and agreed to go to the police, but to ask about the possibility of adopting him... but I'm not sure what that part of the story has to do with the rest of it.

Nothing makes me think about how I'm living my own life more than thinking about the people I love who have died. March 28th, my mom's birthday, also marks the halfway point on my own wheel of the year. We were born exactly six months apart, and for years I tried to milk this as a reason I should get a present on her birthday. It was my half-birthday, after all...

Halfway through this year, I feel like I've received more gifts over the last six months than I could possibly count. So far, 37 has been a year of transformation. In this metamorphic state, I feel like I am examining everything, scrutinizing every last detail about who I am and how that compares with who I want to be, the role I play in the world around me, and what core values and principles serve as my touchstones.

I have beliefs and values rooted in my faith, and those gleaned from the life-lessons I've acquired. I have innate personality traits that inform my decision-making and they dwell alongside qualities I have worked long and hard to acquire (or shed). All of these things shape me. They give me form and substance, and there are so many things I want to do and offer that are rooted in my character. But at the center of it all, is kindness. 

Kindness isn't the only value that matters, but without it, I'm not sure that any of the others do. If I can keep bringing myself back to that, I feel certain that the answers to all of my questioning will be illuminated and impossible to miss.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holes In the Story

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful. ..  what? Princess? Witch? Sorceress? Amazon? It doesn't matter. Put whatever you want in that space. And something tragic happened. Woe! And then someone saved her, blah, blah, blah. A spell. A kiss. Blah, blah, Blah. Happily ever after.

Once upon a time, there was a woman. Oh, there we go. See? Shit just got real. The story starts with a real woman, it continues with a real woman, and it will end with a real woman. Already, this story's got good bones, so let's just stick with the real woman thing we've got going on here.

I prefer to keep fantasy in the bedroom, which means I want to throw down without the little girl stuff. Somewhere along the way I think my life got so good and real that I lost my tolerance for the whole airy fairy, sunshine daydream song and dance. I am not bitter, angry, or disillusioned.  I am just in reality. I love my life with a burning passion that will raze all doubt that I don't see the magic of it all. 

I think the magic is simple. It's that I'm alive. It's that I've skated to the brink of death and back again. My heart is beating. I am inhaling and exhaling, over and over again. It's that after months of being so sick that I pretty much only left the house to go to a variety of doctor's offices and labs, today I went to the mall for the first time since September, and while I was tired afterwards, I didn't end up in the E.R., which is what would have happened a couple of months ago.

It's that I'm as I'm writing this, my wife is sitting beside me, and I keep looking over at her, and every time she smiles at me like I'm the best news she's ever received. It's that we've been married for six months and one day, and I'd say she's my dream woman, but no, she's better than a dream because she's real. It's that we're both human and imperfect, but we're perfect for each other. It's that we enjoy each other's company so much that when she gets home at the end of a normal work day, it's not uncommon for us to reunite like we'd been apart for weeks. It's the way steady, solid, calming, known presence can also be thrilling, mysterious, sexy, and perpetually new.

It's that my twenty year old daughter visited me last week. Twenty! She's MY child, but she's not a child. She's a grown woman. Not only that, but she's a really good woman. It's that she flew across the country to hang out with me for five days. It's that I gave birth to her. It's that I don't just love her, I really, really like her. It's that she likes me, too.

Things get hard. Then they get really fucking hard. Then they get easy. Blissfully, beautifully smooth. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I don't need anyone to save me from my life. I don't dwell on the positive with hopes that my attitude will shift the material world around me, I do it with the knowledge that it shifts me within the material world. 

I'm not a robot. I'm not always positive and happy. Sometimes I fall into despair. Sometimes I worry about all the made up crap I've created in my head. Sometimes I worry about the very real and very big things that are right in front of me. This is my life. I screw up and make mistakes, and I get it right, and I get it everywhere in between. All of that is shit getting real, too.

Please forgive me if you feel I've lost my sparkle. I'm in the thick of the dirty work of taking responsibility for my own life. I am caked in dirt and grime, I know. But it's a hopeful, rooted down magic. I prefer to feel my bare feet sink into the less seductive soft brown of a fertile and honest Earth, than to walk across miles of glittering fool's gold. This is the place things grow without the need for spell casting, magic wands, or wishful thinking. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ten Ways to Be Free

1. Stop waiting for permission.
2. Unfetter yourself.
3. Do not suffer fools gladly.
4. Stop running away from yourself.
5. Refuse to hide or change to please others.
6. Get honest.
7. In thought.
8. In word.
9. In deed.
10. Without apologizing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Something New Each Day

Every single year when I make my annual list of 100 things I want to do in the upcoming 365 days, you'll find at least a few new hobbies I'd like to take up. This year was no exception. There were scads of interests to explore on the list. This year, the only exception is, I didn't just put them on the list, I'm actually doing them.

A few weeks ago I started studying German. It's interesting to be so compelled to learn the language of a country and culture with which I have such a mixed up mish-mash of feelings and associations, but I do, and so I'm doing it. I also had an extra push when I found out that one of the leading Mast Cell Disorder doctors in the world recommends that her patients learn a new language, because she has found that even learning as little as one new word a day helps combat the brain fog caused by the disease. I've struggled with this brain fog, misdiagnosed as ADD, for years, for as long as I can remember. So every single day, I spend between ten and thirty minutes on Duolingo, and one teeny tiny bit at a time, I'm learning the language that has been invading my dreams for years on end. Not only am I doing it, I'm enjoying it so much that I barely even noticed that it is already helping with the brain fog until my stepdaughter asked me the other day if I'd noticed a difference, and yes, I have.

Another hobby on my list of new things to try in 2015 is learning to crochet, and unlike German, which doesn't interest my wife in the least, this is one that we share. We've been talking about learning to crochet and knit together for ages, and today we decided to stop talking about it and start doing. We're both writers, and it's lovely that we share that, but this feels different. We were both writers before we even knew of each other's existence, so while it's cool that we share that commonality, we would have been writers with or without each other. This is intentional. We wanted a shared hobby, one that is brand new to both of us, that we can learn together. So today we braved the treacherously artificial scent-laden aisles of Michael's to buy a beginner's book, a package of hooks, and several skeins of yarn.

As I was winding yarn around my fingers to start a ball, I thought about how these little things can be so easy to write off as unimportant. How many times have I pushed them off, bumping them so far down the priority list that they fell completely off the bottom? I've done it my entire adult life, over and over and over again. Doing this for myself feels like sort of a big deal. It feels like part of my self-reclamation process, to say, "Yes, I am learning a new language. Yes, I'm learning how to crochet. Yes, that means I'm dedicating time each day to do things that aren't obligatory, don't bring in money, and aren't in any way focused on what other people want and need. For these little chunks of time, it's about what I want to be doing."

It's about what I want to be doing, and it's about spending time with my wife, hanging out, learning, growing as a couple by trying new things, and just enjoying each other's company while we create. It's about moving through that moment when we approached the cash register when I felt the lurch in my gut as my brain started calculating all of the other places we could be putting the money we were about to spend that would have been more selfless and practical. It was about reaching the other side of that moment and realizing that we keep plenty of food in the house, the bills get paid, everyone is clothed, and the kids get all that they need and then some, so spending a small amount of money on something for us to do together is hardly an act of irresponsible hedonism, and why the hell would it have even entered my mind that we shouldn't?

Because I'm a mother, and everyone knows that to be a "good" mother means to put yourself last. Because I was poor for years upon years, and everyone knows that poor people shouldn't get to spend money for enjoyment. Because guilt. Because shame. Because unworthy.

And I'm so over it. I'm adding Get Over It to my 2015 to do list. Because life. Because living. Because growth. Because pleasure. Because I want to.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Year Underground

It has been over a year since I wrote in this space. It has been a year and four months since I left Phoenix to live in Amherst, MA. A lot has happened in that time. I got married. I almost died from anaphylaxis. I had another birthday. I was diagnosed with a rare disease, a Mast Cell Activation Disorder. 

And that's just a glimpse. There are dozens of other life changing events that have taken place during this time, but since they involve details that are highly personal to other people, I don't write about them publicly, even though they have altered the landscape of my life in ways I never could have imagined. It's been a lot to deal with in solitude, although maybe it's the type of "a lot" that can only be dealt with in solitude. 

In any case, I went underground in more ways than one. I lost parts of myself along the way, discarded some others that I was done with, and also acquired aspects of newness during this time of involution and evolution. And now I'm ready to surface. The darkness served its purpose and now I'm hungry for light. I've missed writing for myself, about my life, in ways that aren't connected to business and making a living. I've got three other active blogs, but they all have a specific focus: Dominate is all about Creativity Consulting for artists and entrepreneurs, Figuring Out My New Jewish life focuses solely on my musings on Judaism, and Masto-Say What? is all about my life as it relates to having Mast Cell Activation Disorder. That's a lot of blogging, but none of those blogs are the appropriate spaces for the types of writing I've been so desperately missing.

So I'm dusting off the welcome mat, spit polishing the mirror, and arranging the space for company. Pull up a chair. I've missed you.