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Safe

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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The end of 2016. How do I describe it?

Like a derailed train car screeching across cement, then finally slamming into a surface. Sparks and friction, the impact, then quiet.

The beginning of 2017: standing naked, clothes around my feet. (Dramatic much, Charlie? I know.)

In this season of weird, post-wreckage silence and gaping vulnerability; sometime between the old year ending, and the new beginning, I took a yoga class that started with us placing a hand over our heart. A protective gesture of self love and safety, with the other hand palm up on our knee, open to possibility and wisdom. It was a moment where I felt very present, and in that moment I felt my word for the new year.

I’ve lost my words in the past, forgetting or changing them. But this year the word is more than a word. It feels intriguing and a bit novel to my adventurous bent, and it’s tied to a growing platform of security and sense of value inside me that nobody else has power over. It’s a word that reflects an actual happening, a movement and shift in my life: Safe.

I’ve resisted safety, associating it with deprivation, boredom, and rules. All of my least favorites. Conversely, I’ve chased safety for years. Purchases to complete, travels to escape, arms to hold and affirm. I’ve spent a lot of money, energy and time chasing the high of a fleeting, fake security. Especially when life made me hurt so much.

It’s funny how backwards it all ends up being, how one can be so unsafe in the pursuit and craving of safety.

Life wrecks us; we wreck ourselves. The process is a brutal teacher and often it’s five steps forward, four steps back. But if at some point we can find the courage and kindness/humor towards self to face the truths revealed in the wreckage, we start to see. It’s vulnerable and scary. But then, five steps forward, only three steps back. We start to feel something new. We start to act and not react.

Back to yoga. For the last month, I’ve been working on core strength so that I could do headstand without a wall. Thanks to the ice storm I enjoyed extra time on the mat today, and finally floated up. If you’ve done headstand, you probably remember how you felt the first few times, when a new equilibrium takes over and your legs are being pulled by gravity; you feel vulnerable, knowing you could fall. But you probably also remember feeling grounded in your forearms, strong in your core, peaceful in your breath. And you stay up. Move your legs around in the new space, even. Play.

Maybe this sounds really out there to you; even I’m rolling my eyes at myself a bit here. But I think that the body can instruct the soul through a yoga practice. A few weeks ago, it helped me find my word for the new year, for this time of endings and beginnings. Today, it helped to define it.

Safety and adventure aren’t mutually exclusive. While I know I’ll have to say “No” more than I have in the past, and maybe even survive some boredom, living safe does not mean scrapping myself and staying in child’s pose (nothing wrong with child’s pose) because I’m afraid of the passionate person I am. On the contrary, I’m free to float on up. To play, to be me, grounded in my worth and value.

It’s been a long road road to get here, and the space is strange–wrecked, naked, dramatic. Surprising, to feel grateful for it.

 

 

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Mine

Friday, September 30, 2016

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Softly, I walk into his nursery. Sheep nightlight, white noise, kicked-off sheets and comforter. Teddy-bear blankie always flopped under one arm.

I sit on the bed, and do the thing moms beholding sleeping three-year-olds do instinctively: the brushing back of the hair, the kiss on the forehead, the sigh of love/regret/relief. I stand up when the thought comes, the thought that makes me quietly bolt from the room. The thought that feels like fear and has taken up a disturbing residence: This joy is not yours.

You’re not like life-plan moms. The ones filling Facebook with their firstborns because they’ve turned 30 and are at just that perfect place where they’ve traveled, remodeled, and established their careers.

Not like the country-song moms. The ones who married high school sweethearts and returned to hometowns. Now with a baby or two, seamlessly embraced into the secure warmth of a dream life.

Not like the mom-moms. These ones who somehow seem to know how to do this thing: they order clothes in time for season changes, they schedule AND frame family photos. They’ve got big green yards and garages full of kid-things; they’re the ones you text when there’s a fever or a nursing question. They’re the women who take care of you, too.

Not like the creative moms. Who seem to neutralize life’s chaos into calm and decorate their houses with thrifted treasures. Taking time with the things they touch, moving slow enough to actually see the art growing before them…living art becoming heavier in laps, always needing a size bigger. This joy is not yours.

I realize that I romanticize these women, blot out the parts of their lives that don’t fit my desired narrative. In a mixture of self-pity and what seems to be solid reason (they didn’t lose a child, and I did) I choose to hold onto my bits of evidence, like so many photos. Soul crouched over as it builds this mean mosaic: Proof, substantiating the fear that I am somehow cursed.

I leave Tobin’s room, my heart unable to take in the tender sight of him sleeping. I know it’s the same reason I sometimes have trouble looking him in the eye when he’s awake. I’ve run hard. Not one to surrender, I’ve pushed away: every stubborn ounce of me denying my story, the stunning disappointment I feel towards my life. There’s no sadder cliche than a heart hardening to love and happiness, but damn, it’s so much easier than staying soft.

And this is why I write. To name the lie, to give it words so I have words to fight back with. To next time linger on the edge of the bed and open to it all, to my boy and my story. Maybe that’s healing, that gradual opening back up, even if only for a few seconds. Lean over and smell. Let my heart be a mom’s heart, whatever kind of mom I am, because even though I’m battered I’m not left out.

It feels like the lie, but it’s not: This joy is still mine.

Photo | Molly Lo

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Your 5th Birthday

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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On your third birthday I got a tattoo on my collar bone. The Roman numeral three, three for your third and three for the three days that matter: the day you were born, the day you died, the day I’ll see you again.

The farther away I get from the day you left us, the better. I’d blot out the whole month of November. The more time between that day and now, the closer to hope of seeing you, the better.

The day you were born I remember waking up in labor, so excited, showering and straitening my hair. Driving to the hospital in the middle of the night, just as we hoped it would happen, like leaving for a road trip when it’s still dark.

I remember my forehead pressed against the cool window as the sun rose, having a contraction and watching the headlights of cars driving down 70th. Cheerful and abstract, the world starting another day.

Oh my God Lucy, the moment I scooped you out of the water to my chest–we didn’t know if you were a girl or boy, and I forgot to look.

There is only one time. The pink wrinkly skin of brand new new life, the clenched delicate fingers and tiny nails, the temperature of your skin on mine.

Only one time you see a daddy behold his tiny daughter. So perfect, you in his arms swaddled and he held you kind of like a question, becoming a stronger version of himself. Everyone thought I’d died in labor because he cried so hard announcing you’d arrived.

Only one time your family walks though delivery room doors to see such a perfect treasure. First grand baby, first niece, first everything; dark-haired, so beautiful to every sense.

Your birthday, Lucy, I want to feel. I sneak out to my car at work and cry. I cry in yoga; I cry in a second. I plan a party for you. Doing my best to part with everything I flirt with, to go directly to the soft place underneath the compulsion to escape this pain. Your birthday is a good day.

I remember waiting for you to come during this lovely season change, this season that feels like waiting even if you’re not waiting for anything in particular. It’s always pricked my soul with a touch of melancholy and I wonder if it’s always held a secret.

You’d be 5. I’d be different if you were here. I’m so different than I was when I first held you. I love you, Lucy Garland.

“A new soul—I imagined a little flame, burning bright and given to me for a time.

 The miracle of it.” 

Above, from Lucy’s birth story written five years ago | Pic, my sister Talia’s farmer’s market flowers for Lu