Let's take her to the Lake...
The women who fortify me gather ‘round like a virtual pashmina ~ never at the same time yet always ~ and they whisper their support through the years as a strong wind at my back pushing me forward and a gentler headwind keeping me upright.
It comes in forms unexpected that rush about with an easy chatter. A bag of groceries and Smithwick’s on my front step when I have been crying all day and am too weary to shop. Soft fingertips through my hair but without the expectation. Salty chicken soup that makes my home smell like home. “Drive by hugs.” Butterfly bushes to welcome me to a new chapter. Safely guarded childhood memories of four – singing sharp, the LifeSaver Game, and buckwheat pancakes after a night in contraband Jordache jeans. Kindness in the absence of judgment when my legs won’t carry me as fast or as far on a run together. Frosting on our noses at every black tie occasion. Pasta with fresh basil and none of the effort while I nurse my newborn twins in front of the bay window. The courageous and honest question I should have answered honestly before venturing down the aisle.
True girlfriends can’t always be there when you need them. Sometimes they don’t even know that you do. But, the very second that they either suspect or realize that you are in trouble they step in with an earnest desire to support or at least to understand; and they most certainly never minimize you or set you aside for convenience.
Bobby Pins and Cinnamon
There were certain days when I didn’t want to wake you. I just wanted coffee for a few minutes longer. You were hard to put to sleep in the first place and would begrudgingly greet the sandman only if I patted your diapered bottom in groups of seven with a pause in between and backed out of the nursery with steadfast caution to avoid the squeaky spots in the floor boards. You always were particular ~ no tags in your clothing, resting your stuffed bat upside down in your shoe at nap time because “that is how they sleep,” nothing mushy on your plate, and always with a makeshift hat whether it be your sister’s leggings, a butterfly net, my breast pads for nursing or a baseball cap “inside outed”.
My First Breath ~ Again
There’s a strange kind of joy that comes with bobby pins and cinnamon…the first things for which my children asked on this particular morning. One to pin their hair back so that despised stray curl would not obstruct their view of the cute boy two rows over in German class. And the other to savor and start their day with an unequivocal feeling of home.
Olfactory Day in Review
There is one universal thing that we all do as our first act in this world. Breathe. Some of us come to it naturally as if we have waited lifetimes in the womb to fill our lungs with air; embracing this change. Others need a violent smack on the bottom to bring it about. But, regardless of how we arrive we all start the same way. We take a breath.
I am finding during these past many days, months and years under extreme pressure I have apparently forgotten how. I am at an age when many of my friends are talking about biofeedback, yoga, and meditation as if to finesse the art. I would just settle for “in” and “out”. I’m not trying to finesse anything. I’m simply trying to remember how to do it.
A Moment, For Myself
Tide and bounce on my pillow case smell of morning and night at the same time. Tugging somehow to pull me both in and out of the day.
Coffee beans. Banished before. Necessary now. Three weeks of illness make it difficult to wake. A sick day ahead ‘to rest’.
Newsprint on my hands smells of braggios ink impatiently screaming the day’s news and the oily smell of ‘wash me’.
Joy dishwashing soap with lemon.
She Called to Me
This was one of the worst weeks of my entire life.
Don’t get me wrong. There were some significant high points that I will not forget. Like a teambuilding evening at BCN Kitchen in Barcelona with my team of 12 men and me cooking tapas together with wine, laughter and, for the briefest of moments, trust and friendship. I will hang onto that with both hands for a long time. Or the look on my friend Michael’s face when he ate fungi at a Catalan restaurant in Sant Cugat that elicited a laugh from the very middle of me that was so loud and so sudden that it brought a conversation of more than a dozen people to a halt followed by a quiet question from my boss, “are you okay?”
But, the truth is, I’m not okay.
Trees are something more to me.
The weeping willow that held court for my dolls at age three. The white birch in mom’s front yard too lazy to hold its bark and too apathetic to betray my summer secrets. The cork tree at Colgate University with its low-stretching, cradle-shaped branches that rocked me while I wept for four difficult years. The affable oak at old Roy’s farm where the cows still gossip and I leave my troubles.
Trees have always been something more to me. But this one is special.
For a lifetime people have asked me how I do “it”. I wasn’t really sure what “it” is. But, I think they mean keep going and not be overcome by fear or frustration. Sometimes even doing the “impossible”.
It’s pretty simple. I lean in.
I used to refer to this as doing the counterintuitive but recently found the term ‘leaning in’ in the book Fearless at Work by Michael Carroll. I like it better. Short, sweet, no bullshit. Like me.
One of my Israeli colleagues struggles with the English language. He is forever finding creative substitutions for English words and has a sense of humor when I correct him.
One day recently I mentioned to him that my project was “a mess” so he quickly inquired if, in fact, I meant it was “a festival.” I laughed out loud until I realized that, in this case, he meant exactly what he said. He prefers to think of difficulty as a festival. Ever since then and with this simple substitution I suddenly feel “lighter” about challenges in my life.
I am ashamed to admit that I began to take for granted my virtual freedom. To some extent, I have forgotten to appreciate fully the joy of browsing the internet without interrogation or fear of retribution, without attempts to create guilt or fear, without angry outbursts in the next room or menacing stares. I had simply forgotten.
Today, as I searched for a place to share my poetry it all came rushing back. It immediately struck me that each organization that provides support for Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse victims and survivors prominently displays a button entitled “Quick Escape” ~usually in neon red or bright orange ~ so the victim who is looking for help in the quiet moments that s/he can steal is able to click it and instantaneously switch to an alternate home page and clear the cache. But even at that, they warn that the “Quick Escape” isn’t failsafe and that those who are still living with their abusers may be at risk by even visiting the very page they need to get help.