The Parent Trap
I write about difficult things all of the time. And I’m told by many that, while my experience is entirely different than theirs, the fact that I fearlessly share my struggle with such honesty is helpful. So, I am going to do that again here.
In 2006, I left a marriage that was literally killing my body and spirit. I was advised by health care professionals and counselors at the time that, if I did not leave, I would not survive. And a few months prior to leaving and reclaiming my life I had the unenviable responsibility of telling my young children (then ages 11, 9, 7 and 7) that their father and I were divorcing.
Loosening the Corset
The Bandages are made of Shadows
You and I both know, the dark doesn’t make the bruises disappear.
It just makes them harder to see.
Too Tired to Hold Color
I have been learning how to loosen my own corset; not so easy when it took an army to cinch that motherfucker so tight in the first place.
But, bind by bind, it’s coming undone.
Like the corset laces that feign a cheerful bow, I have been constrained by physical things that are unnecessary and unwanted limiting my space and movement. Books full of ideas that other people thought I should hold, t-shirts given to me by men who no longer have permission to graze my breasts, clothes in a size zero from when I tortured myself in order to be attractive by someone else’s standards. Letters full of lies. China that was never used. Photos of ‘happily ever after’. Stuff that looks pretty but has no substance and occupies the very space that I so desperately need to breathe. Ruthlessly and with diligence I allowed myself to feel them one last time before tossing them in the Good Will bin and making another pilgrimage to the donation center. And with each van load my house is beginning to feel like home. I will never again neglect it in favor of another’s needs. I like being here. It feels like me again.
Showing Up and Holding Space
Tonight we hiked apiece through the woods to the place where the colors pass to pine. The days are shorter now and, with more urgency I was craving the last few moments of daylight uninterrupted by conversation; like a hungry lover dreading the end of an embrace before a lingering absence. I sat amidst the pinecones and drifting oak leaves and invited the sun to have its way with me one more time. When I am content in this way I am bewitching. I am grateful this image was captured; this hidden side of me.
These two things are on my mind today and I spent a fair amount of time with them in meditation and during a walk in the woods.
When people talk about ‘showing up’ they usually envision the physical manifestation of this. Attending a wedding. Sitting at a bedside in hospice. Loaning money. But, this is not all of it. Some of us ‘show up’ in very different ways without attendance taken. These count just as much…sometimes more…and take many forms. We set something in motion and get out of the way. We listen for hours in a living room with no ‘credit’. Some people pray or send light and love. Other people heal with words or hands. And sometimes our absence is the best possible way to ‘show up’ because it is what is needed most.
Tattooing is spiritual. Sometimes representing a transformation in our lives or an acknowledgment of our connectedness. I have only one tattoo but it is vital to me. I recently placed it on my left rib cage near my heart to guide me on my journey forward.
The idea behind my particular design has been tugging at me for a decade. When I first visited Ashland, Oregon in 2010 I knew that this would be the place where I would have it done; and upon meeting the artist I knew instantly that it would be he that did the work. Despite all of this the timing still wasn’t right. I had much to discover about myself before I would be ready.
The Beauty of Ashland
For a great many years, I have played a mean game of musical chairs at work. We have acquired big companies resulting in duplication and layoffs. We have spun off parts of the business resulting in workforce reduction. We have restructured and eliminated entire divisions to stay agile and profitable or to, quite frankly, move the work to more affordable offshore options. For at least 18 out of the 20 years I have needed to both (1) look over my shoulder and (2) navigate what might be ahead.
This past year my employer told me that I would need to relocate to Georgia, Idaho, California or Oregon or lose my job. The only consideration was my zip code. I was able to locate another job in the company that includes travel and customer interaction so I was able to stay on the payroll and in Fairport, NY. This time. Barely. And just after I became situated there was an announcement that another 30,000 employees (10% of the employee base) will lose their jobs in the not so distant future. Perhaps me this time.
I do not know how to describe this place to honor it properly. Or how to ever repay it for the kindness and healing it has shown me. But, I will do my best with my simple words so that, even for one second, you can ‘feel’ it, too.
Peace flags faded from sunlight hang askew from porch dormers. And the uneven steps prop bright colored pots full of chive, dianthus and chamomile which people pluck directly to season their meals; even the restaurants. Every porch is inviting with a swing and creations by local artisans crafted from metal and retimbered wood; punctuated with mosaic bird baths and resident blue jays who live out loud.
Pollen gardens invite me to lie in the grass in the shade of the nearby Redwoods and the bees are more interested in the flowers than in me so I just listen to the buzz of their wings; to the buzz of real living happening all around me.
Not a Word
There is something unique about the bonds we have with people from our childhood. They are the ones who watched us take a header over the handlebars, gracelessly break someone’s heart in 7th grade or accidentally squish a toad to death by loving it too hard. They were there. From the beginning. And therefore know all of ‘us’.
Our particular neighborhood was filled with Hirsch homes and Dutch Colonials. It was also filled with children between the ages of 9 and 0. Oodles of us running around in packs who would descend upon someone’s yard together for a game of Wiffle Ball or Kick the Can. I later came to learn that the stay-at- home mom’s had a secret pact that the woman who lived where they landed would be responsible for the entire bunch until they moved on. This is when the other women sat for a minute with Reader’s Digest or took a bubble bath.
They were lovely. The letters, that is. Actually, more so the words themselves. Or perhaps what lived inside of those words which was truth.
Those words and their precious cargo arrived at first with trepidation in short staccato sentences. Clumsy. Nervous. If they had palms they would have been sweaty.
But, over time they blossomed. Rotund in fact. Plump and full of candor; with a heartbeat and a pulse. Completely naked and sweaty everywhere as we would soon be ourselves.
Our words danced.
“Other people’s opinions are driven by their needs and emotions – not by magical insights about my worth.”
This ‘balance thing’ is difficult.
• Live with intention – but let things flow.
• Focus – and breathe.
• Change – and accept.
• Feel whatever you feel – and then feel gratitude for it (including those things that hurt).
• Understand your wholeness – outside of your story.
For me, these things are more challenging than learning to write with my non-dominant hand. Or mastering a yoga balance pose on shifting sand. Or apologizing (particularly when I know I am the one who is wrong). Or listening patiently when I have something to say. Or being open to examining myself ~ truly examining myself ~ and then being willing to change.