Friday, August 27, 2010

Right Now

My right nows fill my days with unexpected tidbits.

Early this morning's now found me grimacing from the demands of my darling children. Clingy, tired and needy, they seemed to want to suck me dry.
Panic descends when my beautiful children, (whom I thought I was supposed to enjoy at all moments (ahem)) swirl, nip, demand everything at the exact same time and drive me up and down the wall again...Truly, their needs this morning were benign and lack of sleep and cold removed my coping skills and patience. These moments, the ones where I'm bitchy and crabby and intolerant, I wish that a large pink eraser would allow me to edit that moment away....


I know, as I've reflected many times before, that the splendid nature of the next moment would be lost, merely beigey-blending into all the other nows.

I jettison my past beliefs that all nows need to fit a prescribed mold.

As other nows, past and future nows, intersect and meet, I gasp at their brazen ability to deliver such vastly different experiences. Other nows hold wafting of yummy cooking smells as hubby prepares tasty morsels in the kitchen while I fling pounds of wet clothes from washer to dryer, peacefully folding, flinging, repeating. Henry and Abby playing happily (no screaming, no one-upmanship, no mediation required). We suspended in the bliss of that moment's bubble.

This now, the one I embrace as I write, arrived on the wings of a cool, dry breeze. The house sits quietly and I sit with it. The weather--crisp with a side of early fall--allows me to wear my fall uniform of faded gray cargos, Woodstock t-shirt and it's-seen-better-days black, fleece vest. My sunglasses sit perched on top of my head. Yesterday's eye make rests smudged under my eyes. Open windows invite the smells and sounds of late summer into my office.

I breathe. In and out. Relishing this now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Devouring Dani

I still remember the brilliant summer afternoon that I cracked open my first Dani Shapiro memoir, Devotion. The sky, cobalt. The air, dry and cool. I sat on the back deck with the warm sun pounding my face and arms. I had no idea the fabulousness that awaited me...nor did I know that I'd fall in love with Dani's writing. She is now one of favorite authors, EVER.

The only good thing about just discovering Dani is that she'd already published many other books; huge, glittering gifts, just waiting to be devoured.

Dani, she creates such transcendent phrases and sentences that I felt as I'm being led by a skilled dancing partner. Her talent and tenderness are phenomenal. From the first sentence of Devotion, I was in love. I sat the book down and ran into the house to grab a pen because I desperately needed to be able to highlight her words that spoke to me, that whispered to me, to parts of me that are dark and hard to reach.

I almost find my own words if I cannot do her words justice. Dani Shapiro hypnotized me as she took me through her spiritual quest to live now, and to live the questions. Dani writes,

If I opened myself-as an adventurer, an explorer into the depths of every single day? What if--instead of fleeing--I were to continue to quiver in the darkness? It wasn't so much that I was in search of answers. In fact, I was wary of the whole idea of answers. I wanted to climb all the way inside the questions and see what was there.

She elegantly cracks open her inner-most self and through her honest reflection, her words acted like a I nodded through her story, I felt normal. And whole.

This book came to me in my nascent journey and attempts to live within my moments and as I read,
I tried not to lean so far into the future that I squandered the present, my pours opened and I exhaled. I've often wondered how I can manage and plan the necessities of the future while being present and appreciating what this moment gives. I felt as if she articulated my insecurities, my challenges, my spinning worries with laser accuracy. But, when faced with the spiraling angst, Dani wrote that she gently reminded herself that she was, always, held in the infinite arms of the present. And I, therefore, felt as if she reached her hand out to me, handed me a flashlight bearing her words, and illuminated the next steps on my path.

I am tempted to fill this post will all of the passages I've marked from Devotion. But then this post would be really, really long...and there would be the issue of copyright, I will leave you with one of my favorites:

Sometimes I want to run away: have a few drinks, take a sleeping pill, but those overpriced stiletto heels. Anything to sedate myself--to mute the endless loop of stories. And sometimes I give in, and do exactly that. The clarity is too painful, and I want to forget. The problem is, it doesn't work. Not in the long run. There is no permanent forgetting. Though the world of things is persuasive and distracting, the stories always come back, circled in neon. They are all the more alive for having been hidden.

I've had many neon colored forgotten bits in my life. The colors definitely fade once thrown into the bright, harsh light of honesty. Through Dani's journey, I realize that with careful attention, and with wide open arms to the infinite possibilities of now, I will learn. And grow. Thank you, Dani, for this gift.

ps--After telling my friend Lindsey that I feared Dani Shapiro had ruined me for all other books, she urged me to read Dani's other books. So, I've started devouring them. I finished Black & White (fiction) in two days. It is amazing. Next on the list are Family History (also fiction) and then Slow Motion (another memoir)...I wonder if I should start a Dani Shapiro fan club...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stay With Me

The past couple days I've felt as if I'm moving through a mental mass of molasses. With slow synapses and a foggy head, I've pushed through my recent days. Nothing bad, or serious, just a let down of sorts. A sadness accompanied this mental haze, one which I could not define or corner. So I decided to just sit with it.

As I prepared to leave the kids with their adored babysitter, Henry walked up to me, wringing his hands.


"Yes Henry?"

"Mommy? Mommy, are you weaving now?"
(Brow now furrowed over worried eyes, hands wringing rapidly, white-blond tresses falling into his brilliant blues.)

"Yes, babe."

"Oh. Mommy?"

"Yes H?"

(Now hugging me...) "Please don't go."

But I did. I left. And I drove. I love the solidarity and peace of being in my car by myself. I submerged in the hauntingly beautiful, powerful lyrics of Pearl Jam's Just Breathe. It's one of those songs that takes my hand and seems to know exactly where to lead me. Each time I listen, it's about someone else. Some days it's Hubby, others it's my mom, or the kids. Yesterday, it grabbed my jugular. It was about Henry.

Just as Vedder sang, Stay with're all I see...., I passed a soccer field filled with young, male teenagers. Shirts off, they proudly displayed their newly acquired muscles and body hair, bold against the vibrant green of the field. I'll bet those young men barely deposited absent-minded kisses on their mothers' cheeks before escaping in a testosterone-filled cloud.

My tears collect and start to fall.

The ricochet of emotion shook me. Stay with me....You're all I many moments before Henry barely notices that I'm gone? The tangled pull between my needs and my children's needs still waxes and wanes, dances through my days. I'm not doing it right. I'm failing them. They're driving me crazy--the endless questions and talking and physical demands exhaust me. Am I enjoying it way I should? Are these the moments I must embrace, no matter how taxing? When the dance ends....our lives will be juxtapositioned and flopped. It will be they who want to, need to go.

Did I say that I need you?

I realize, once again, that I fear that I will get to that inescapable end, with college-bound boxes and milk crates piled high, with that once sweet round boy who hung on my leg now angular and antsy for his parents to leave. That I will arrive in that moment and ask, plead, beg for a do-over knowing full well that the gentle, yet inevitable, answer must be No.

I imagine after hours of unloading carefully selected college necessities, we'll hug and begin our goodbye.
I'll beg, Stay with're all I see.... and my pores will bleed and my heart will severe and he'll start to walk into his dorm building. Reading my mental telepathy, he'll look back, blond hair falling into his brilliant blues, smile and maybe wave, and then walk into his new life. And I will finally understand, with every pore, that every chapter, of every life, must end.

Pearl Jam--Just Breathe
Yes, I understand that every life must end, aw-huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw-huh,..
Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands
the ones I love,..

Some folks just have one,
yeah, others, they've got none, huh-uh

Stay with me,..
Let's just breathe.

Practiced are my sins,
never gonna let me win, aw-huh,..
Under everything, just another human being, aw-huh,..
Yeh, I don't wanna hurt, there's so much in this world
to make me bleed.

Stay with me,..
You're all I see.

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see,..
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean.

I wonder everyday
as I look upon your face, aw-huh,..
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take, aw huh,..
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave...

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see,..
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean, ah-ah...

Nothing you would take,..
Everything you gave.
Hold me till I die,..
Meet you on the other side.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Like Sea Shells, I Collected Thoughts

Gray clouds spitting. White capped, charcoal green waves spraying.
Sunglasses covered in rain drops. Refuge sought under the strained beach umbrellas, usually poised to block the sun. Four adults, crouching for warmth and dry.

Four lone children, oblivious to the inclement with the empty expanse of the beach their canvas. Architects, city planners, politicians, mayors. Navigating the perils of childhood--anarchy and disappointment, lines drawn in the sand. Compromise and resolution follow and copacetic rhythms return.

Raw weather beckons powerfully--pulsing and yelling. Daring us to stay, daring us to leave, to seek shelter under roof and within four walls. Gulls cry, warning of the storm's arrival.

We ignore them.

We stake our beach claim. Kids play. We observe. Souls settle into the space, the calm, the yield of beach vacation.

Sand. Prehistoric, jumbled particles of recycled rock and shell, shifting between toes. Adhering to body parts. Building beaches, play places.

Round rumps, saluting the sun. Busy hands below, engulfed in the sand. Digging. Building. Nothing and everything, small cities, leaning castles, shifting alphabets.

Long arms of the ocean, like white ruffles, pounding and dancing, creating my beloved beach. Past physical moments journeying to this point, my point, our point. Meeting and moving together.

Stepping into the ocean, I feel like I'm entering another's home. At the door steps of the magnificent sea. Benevolent, brutal, beautiful--hosting one and all, visitors, inhabitants and herself.

How long have these sandy crystalline, beautiful specks traveled to get here? Much longer than I. Intensely understanding the smallness of my life, as microscopic as those pieces of sand. Yet unlike those sandy bits, I am fleeting, impermanent.

Intoxicating, hypnotic and banal, the ocean sings to me. With a sand-embossed invitation, she implores me to be. Begs me to watch. Insists that I ponder, wonder.

And I do.

Stretching shadow of western sun elongating my smudge on the sand. Communing with the raw, pure ocean while the evening ritual unfolds back at the beach house--
shake and hang the towels
remove the sand
shower the body
climb into softest cottons
pour cocktails

I sit, solo, with her. The ocean. And her symphony. I've missed her. Reunited, my heart now swelling, tide-like, spilling into my chest, legs and arms.

Painful trepidation surrounding tomorrow's departure. But now, I'm here. Full. Salt-soaked. Sand covered. Wind tousled. Damp bathing suit. Crazy hair. Now.

The patterned randomness of the pounding Atlantic, simultaneously rhythmic and sporadic. An artful cornucopia of vastness and dichotomies. She sings to me again. Syncapatic melodies traced with the undertow of dissonance.

Scattered sea weed. Resilient piers. Taut flags. Stalwart gulls. White caps far onto the royal blue horizon, meeting the robins egg blue above.

I am captive.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Following the Road

I'm preparing for two fabulous trips. Yesterday, I made my final list and plotted the points on my crazy errand run. Made sure each stop made the most sense, yielded the least amount of driving time, yadda yadda schmadda. Despite my best, type-A planning, the numbered, ordered stops jumped out of their spaces on my list (gasp). They became sporadic, like atoms heated from below. A slice...

I drove to two destinations (one of which included a divine Diet Coke from McDonalds). Then I drove to stop three. I forgot the gift card I needed. I drove back home. I drove back to the store, even checking to make sure there wasn't a more convenient location to the other stores I needed. I'd driven to the wrong store. I drove to the right store (which was adjacent to the aforementioned other stores). Ugh. Then I doubled-back to another store....

As this chaos mightily tried to unnerve me, I surprised myself.

I breathed. In. And then out. (And repeated many, many times.) My pre-trip nerves (unfortunately ever present and usually quite persistent) exhaled along with me. I blasted my iPod. Then, I allowed the spirited chase of uncertainty to be my guide. I let the unknown to settle in. And then...I smiled. I enjoyed a glorious afternoon of relinquished control.

Sometimes, I think I know where the road is supposed to go. And then, the road twists, throwing curves, blinding me with its unpredictability...while taking me in a new direction, a different direction and, I dare I say, the right direction.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Random Meanderings

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
- Mary Oliver, The Journey

I've been absent from my writing, from my on-line life, for about one and half weeks. I'm here this week, and then will be gone again the next. Such is summer. It's both wonderful and somehow melancholy. I feel a bit disjointed from myself. And I've been torn between my desire to enjoy the languid days that summer lies at my feet and my desire to return to the normalcy that the fall brings. I'm craving the smudged edge, hazy memories of summer--lake days, sand days, play days, moments unfolding onto the next--yet dreading the schlep of shit and stuff that makes those memories so. When we go to the lake (which necessitates bringing chairs, food, boogie boards, towels, umbrella, toys and children, I look like a walking freak show. I get indentations on my shoulders (lasting for hours) from the straps of the laden beach bags.) Does this make me a slightly tanned, summery-bitchy Grinch?

And then, I judge myself. The pounding of the judgments reverberate like the gavel in a courtroom. Bad mommy for not liking the trek through the parking lot. Bad mommy for not wanting to spend every moment with my children. HELLO? I know how that drama ends... beating myself down is so very counterproductive.

A dear friend said that maybe this particular summer heeds me to slow down. Lollygag. Putter. Hmmmm. I suspect she's right, yet, I'm not always that good at that.
Clearly my uncharacteristically prickly response to the loveliness of summer and the tons of togetherness with my kids hints at something... and I think, after rambling along here today, that it's fairly simple: I need more time for me. I want to traipse by myself for awhile. I want, as Mary Oliver beautifully writes, to allow the stars to burn through my clouds. I've gotta find quiet to be able to go deep, deep, deeper. And when I journey to save the only life I can...I hope, that after my inward trip, I will deliver myself to the present. And my kids.

I get the sense that I sit on the precipice of a metamorphosis. That I will shed some layers and shift. Tears and thoughtful contemplation will be involved--it will be transformative. I must continue to listen, heed my soul and the laziness that summer brings. I've gotta be open...and be there to appreciate the change--and it's catalyst--when it comes. Even if I'm wobbling down to the lake with teetering beach supplies strapped to my head. Even if I'm swearing under my breath. It takes all moments to save the one life I can.