Monday, May 30, 2016


Sometimes I don't want to be a mother. The constant need, the constant demand of my attention, my thoughts, my heart, my soul. My ears tuned to him, to the constant stream of "Mama. . .Mama", to the laughter and the coughs, the banging and the sudden silence followed by a wail of pain. Silence. Silence used to be a splendid thing, but now, with a child, silence is rarely good, silence signifies an attempt to not get my attention, an attempt to do that thing which a thousand times I have said "No! Do not do!" Silence is climbing on a kitchen counter, eating candy at 3 PM, digging a hole in the front yard. Silence is never true silence, unless they are sleeping. And even then, in sleep, their hold does not lessen - for in sleep, we listen, we strain to hear, are they breathing, are they comfortable, are they sick, are they waking up oh god no, don't wake up, please just go back to sleep.

The child is born, the button is pressed, there is no reprieve, it never ends. The child can be 1,000 miles away, visiting family in another country, and it is still on, you still feel the pull, you wonder, are they OK, are they playing in the pool, is someone watching them, are they safe, are they loved.

No reprieve. You forget yourself, the bubble of protection you always groomed around yourself is formed around them instead. You would do anything, you would stop a speeding bus, you would fling yourself off a cliff, you would do anything to keep them safe. You would starve your soul. You pretty much do.

A symbiotic relationship, is that the right term? What we learned about in science class years ago? The two organisms who cling to each other for life, using each other, feeding off each other, cannot live without the other. The child gets so much - love, food, shelter, protection, knowledge, attention - and the mother, the mother gives so much, gives all of that and more. Gives too much at times. In return. . .what? What is received? Love, need, trust. Late night cuddles, a hopeful face upturned. You are godlike to them - they love and fear you, they want to please you yet constantly fail you. They want your approval and they try to hide the bad things. . .but you know, you always know.

You are the kisser of boo-boos and the cleaner of faces and hands. You are the one who is run to when things go wrong. You are the wiper of tears and the carrier of sleeping bodies, so heavy, how are they so heavy when they sleep? You are absolute truth - the child trusts you with all, the child trusts what you say. You create the child's universe.

No pressure or anything.

Labels in life. We have so many - friend, neighbor, nurse, woman, daughter, wife. We can be any and all. Mother, though, mother comes in and trumps the rest. You are mother first, all of those second.

All of this I wish I had known. But there is no way to know, no way to truly know, until the child is born and the button pushed. By then, it is too late. The button is final. Once pushed, your life is forever changed. For good, for bad, it doesn't matter, it just is. Mother. You are now two hearts, two souls, too bodies. You will be in two places at once, your focus forever divided.

You will never be alone again.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


I have been reading voraciously these past few weeks, inhaling books without stopping to relish the scent, swallowing chapters whole without pausing to chew. Ravenous, needing, double-fisting books. . .ingesting them with both my eyes and my ears. Always a book waiting for me on Audible, always a book waiting for me on Kindle, always a book waiting for me (patient, old-fashioned) on my coffee table.

Non-fiction. Am I lonely? Is that why I have been craving the memoirs and the personal essays? Am I looking for conversation? For friends? For mentors to learn from? For people, for stories, for words and thoughts and emotions free from the restraints of relationships?

Or am I just feeling a bit lost, trying to find my path again, hoping that while strolling down other people's roads I may just stumble back upon my own?

Books chosen by random, what happened to be on my bookshelf, what was "recommended" by Amazon's algorithm. Read without thought as to Why. All by women, by very different women. Women I would never be friends with in real life. Women who dress differently, speak differently, react to grief and loss differently. So foreign to me. Women who I would pass by in a cafe without a second thought, women I would likely judge.

I have found insight in the oddest places, revelation in other people's confusion and answers to my own questions in the thoughts and words of these women, who, removed from myself by time, distance and culture, are safe and nonthreatening. I can react to their lives freely, without worrying about giving appropriate responses or offensive opinions. I am free to like or dislike them, agree or disagree with their choices, and I can close the book at any time, set it down, walk away.

A memoir about a woman wrongly imprisoned during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960's taught me about staying true to yourself, no matter what the consequences. A woman journalist living and working in the middle east taught me to accept and embrace my own crazy and, most recently, an analytical and introspective look at the grieving process by a female icon taught me about love and marriage and the difference between the two.

I have always loved to read, ever since I was a child and systematically read every book my small town library had to offer. I used to love fiction, likely a need to escape my own life and live in a variety of fantasy worlds. In fiction, no matter how realistic, there is a sense of freedom, of complete possibility, of infinite choice. There is separation - too painful, too bold and you can tell yourself, it's not real, it didn't happen, it could never happen.

But non-fiction, solid and absolute, non-fiction is truth. It happened. It could happen again. The person survived or didn't survive. The pain was real, the pleasure a possibility. It is a way to truly live another life, then come back to yourself with more insight and knowledge.

It is a shift from fantasy to reality, from passive dreaming to active planning.

It is a shift from reading to lose yourself to reading to find yourself.

Next step? The shift from reading books to writing them. . .

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I can't believe I bought this book - the title annoys me and the idea of some zen Japanese chick telling me that organizing my sock drawer will change my life really pissed me off. However, I bought it, I read it, and I'm following her plan.

I'm tidying up my life.

Yes, the book is about tidying up your home - simplifying your existence, paring down your massive mountain of belongings to just those things that truly bring you joy, making sure every item in your home has a place and that you return it there - but as I go through it, it truly is affecting more than just my possessions - it is affecting my heart and soul.

First, Zen Lady wants you to take every shirt you own - every sweater, t-shirt and blouse - and throw it onto your floor (or your bed, if you are lazy like me and don't want to bend over) and then take each item and lovingly hold it in your hands to see if it inspires joy. If it does inspire joy, congratulations! you get to keep that shirt. If it does not bring you joy. . .or if it brings you annoyance, anger, guilt or rage. . then into the reject pile it goes.

As I gingerly lifted each item, it got easier and easier to feel the joy or lack of. It also got easier and easier to feel other emotions pour through me - frustration (this shirt is too small, why am I so FAT), anger (I wore this shirt during that shitty job interview), guilt (but this shirt is brand new and I never even wore it!), sorrow (this t-shirt was once soaked with heartbroken tears) and jealousy (this shirt is so cheap, I wish I could afford a better brand). As the emotions swelled, so did my reaction to each; I no longer tossed each rejected item into the pile - I balled up, threw, kicked and violently slammed those infuriating pieces of cloth into the mountain of color that grew at the foot of my bed. With each discarded item, I felt a bit of emotion leave me, until, when I was done, I was left feeling infinitely calmer and less anxious. I bagged up that mass of garments without a second thought and as I tossed the bags into the back of my car (to donate tomorrow) I felt relief and. . .well, joy. It was truly a cathartic experience. . .and a little exhausting.

And all of that from just SHIRTS. Imagine what will happen when I get to accessories, books and, gasp, memorabilia!

The book should really be called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. . .and Letting Go of All of the Pent Up Rage, Frustration, Sadness and Regret that Courses Through Your Body and Gets Transferred to the Mountains of Inanimate Objects You Choose to Surround Yourself With. But I guess that is not as catchy.

On to sorting my pants. . .