Y is for Yearn

Y

yearn
yərn/
verb
1. have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.
2. be filled with compassion or warm feeling.


When I was a kid there were no parties, there were no presents. The first gift I remember getting was a 12 pack of Play-Doh for Christmas, that I shared with my brother, and that was it. Later (from age 9 to 13) I lived with my mother’s parents and they did give gifts, in fact they were the giftsole expression of interest and love. During a therapy session I had told my therapist that my grandparents never told me they loved me or showed affection, she insisted that I tell my grandmother.  I assume she thought it would be helpful. I told her, and her response? “ We provide for you, we buy you gifts at the appropriate times.” That’s it, that was her response, except to add that I did not react properly to said gifts and perhaps I should address THAT with my therapist.  So lets just go forward with the knowledge that I have some issues, big, cringey. pathetic issues when it comes to gifts and celebrations. 

6180_138001065751_6851742_nWhen my daughter turned 1, I made it, a big deal. My kid would always know how precious I thought she was, she would always know how celebrated her life was. Once a year, she would have an awesome party with everyone that loved her. Around 60 people attended her first birthday party, I took out a small park to accommodate it. I know this is more about me, all of my insecurities, and perceived failings, but sometimes self-awareness doesn’t even slow me down. Rented tables, crafted projects, tulle, costumes and full menus are all part of my yearly homage to the life of my daughter and she knows she is the princess of her own little tale.3oncouch

Soon after Asha turned 1, I finally kissed Robyn, who had been one of my best friends for years and secret crush for some time. She (literally) ran away, or as she says “walked briskly”, but she returned and kissed me back. We got married and she legally adopted Asha, bringing her official momma count up to, 2.

AquabatsAfter the first year, that party evolved to be both a celebration of Asha and a greeting of Spring. It’s the one time we have a big party and see everyone, especially the people we rarely get to see during the rest of the year. The Boy and Gretchen came the first year and the third, but Gwynnie was still teaching classes and couldn’t come. When Asha was turning 4, I made sure it would work for Gwynnie and they were all able to drive down. Gwynns sister and partner drove out from Brooklyn too. Asha and her cousins were into The Aquabats, so they were also making an appearance, in the form of one doting mother, and assorted Uncles and Aunt.

We had just moved to a sleepy little town on the Delaware River. The kind of place that is filled with walking and cycling paths. The weekends fill the main drag with antique hunters, bikers in leathers, cyclists in spandex and families strolling with sticky-fingered children. It was the first time since I gave The Boy up, that Gwynnie would be in my house; also the first time I was proud of where I had made a home. It even had a garden and tiny porch!

Everyone came, everyone talked, laughed, and ate well. As Gretchen sat on the porch talking music with my broth-in-law, Gwynnie chatted with her sister in the backyard and The Boy chased his sister around while she squealed, I realized some deep shit.

 I could, maybe, let up on all of the heartfelt yearning, because..here it comes.. I had a family.

It was filled with people who didn’t have any blood connecting them, and there wasn’t a language to easily explain it to outsiders, but it was strong and fierce and mine. More importantly, it was my daughters’ and her brothers’ and they would both be okay, neither of them was ever going to be alone.kisses4yrs

Advertisements

X is for Chemical X

Chemical X
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an EXTRA INGREDIENT to the concoction…. CHEMICAL X. Thus, the POWERPUFF GIRLS WERE BORN

In April 2008 my daughter was born. She was exactly 8lbs, had all of her fingers and toes, she was perfect. A c-section helped.Asha42508_zps40ff6b64

 

A small note about c-sections, I don’t understand why anyone would get one voluntarily. I’d choose the pain over and over again. My daughter was breach despite every effort to shift her. I was strapped down and I couldn’t hold this baby that I was getting to keep, it broke my heart. Thankfully it was a sad whisper among a joyful noise.

My room was filled with people and gifts and smiles. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome for this new life.  Spring, sprung in during the time I was in the hospital and everything seemed to of flowered to welcome this child destined for sunshine and warmth. It was  a stark difference from how alone I was the first time, or how very sad I was then. Instead of loss and heartbreak, this was all about love and life.

5660_148663340751_3041154_nI named her Asha which means “Hope” in Sanskrit and “Life” in Swahili. It seemed apt. I think names are important, they are one of a mothers’ first gifts afetr life and I hope hers’ shapes her well.

When I spoke with The Boy after she was born, he asked how much she weighed (he was 8.6) and he was quick to point out he was bigger. I brought her up to see them when she was 4 months old. It was probably one of the easiest visits I had ever had, as the dynamic began to shift.

I was only a few years older than their oldest niece and nephew, yet I was not a peer for those kids or for the adults, it had always been an 1113_51130610751_8253_nunsettled place to find footing, along with all of the rest. Now, a decade later,  I was a mother in the true sense, and it was new unblemished ground.

4503_110684995751_3927311_nI still don’t know if it’s accurate to say that Gretch and Gwynn started speaking to me differently or if I just started listening better. The shift felt massive to me, but again, who knows? I spoke to them about baby stuff and they happily shared their experiences. I didn’t have this anywhere else, there was no mother, Auntie or grandmother to call with questions. I don’t want to give the impression that they were my go-to, because I was never that comfortable (which is on me) but they were a touchstone that I didn’t have anywhere else. I’m sure they would of answered had I been willing to reach out.

6180_143747750751_2056230_n

I was the first of my friends to have a child, and they assumed I’d just figure it out, I had always been that type of person. I do not know what parents did before Google.  I was at a loss and in the ER, for diaper rash, more often than I would like to admit. My daughters first year, like the rest of my life was a lot of trial and error.

When I had left the hospital with her, I remember thinking “What is wrong with these people? Why are they letting me leave?? I have no idea how to take care of this tiny person!”.

4923_117602705751_2372088_n

Most days, I still feel that way.

W is for Wayward

W

way·ward
ˈwāwərd/
adjective
1. difficult to control or predict because of unusual or perverse behavior.

I told Gwynn and Gretch about being pregnant and the reaction was….cautious. Wondering if I had thought it through, if it was the best decision for me, if I was ready. I was upset and wanted to take deep offense to this caution but after a few minutes (hours, days….whatever) of attempted self-awareness, I realized that they had every right to the questions.

storm coming

From their point of view, I had been flitting about for years, getting into trouble and then seemed to stabilize and commit while I was with Nikki. I started working decent jobs and stayed at one address. Then I just broke-up with her for no discernible reason, got rid of everything I owned and decided to move to China. All of this was within about 4 months of time and then I call and say, “ I’m pregnant! Surprise!…hold-up..why aren’t you excited??”

 

Secretbox (1)They had almost no exposure to my friends, which had shifted and matured over the years; they had no idea that the relationship that seemed to stabilize me was one filled with suffocating abuse and leaving was the best thing I had done for myself in a long time. They didn’t know, because I never told them any of this stuff. Like everything else in my life, if I was keeping this kid, I had to change my modus operandi. So I told them and asked them to trust me and to believe in me, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Despite my own surety that I was having this baby, I was a mess, because really, who knows if they are strong enough before they are tested? I had lived a rather selfishly fearless, wayward life so far and being a parent seemed more terrifying to me than any of the other incredibly risky hitchhiking-in-australiastupid things I had done prior.I had watched loved ones die, been beaten and betrayed,  I had hitchhiked across states, dove into ocean depths, taken candy from strangers, ingested unknown substances,ran with scissors, committed crimes,  fallen wildly and stupidly in love, lost everything, left everything and had often wondered where I might sleep that night; yet this idea of motherhood and being responsible for another’s life caused more fear in me than any of those adventures combined. I didn’t regret any of it, but I wondered if it was a foundation that another life should be dependent on.

belly 197

 

V is for Value

V

val·ue
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
verb
 1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

How do you qualify value? I sat around a lot with that question rolling around and bumping against old wounds. Joseph felt I didn’t have any. My own family felt I had even less. All of that really felt like the faded strains of an old sad song that I really didn’t have time for. I was just sick of that sad, sad tale. What did I have to offer NOW?

core-values-wordcloud1

Joseph had been right about me not having much, but I had people. I have written about some of them, a few that were part of seminal moments or personal realizations; but over the years, those numbers had risen, friends that grew over time through trial, tribulation and celebration.

I was surprised by their reaction to the “Oh fuck! I’m pregnant” news. They seemed to of had caught Jori’s fever, they said “Yay! Baby!”. I had never been good at asking for help, I went hungry or homeless instead of asking for help, but that all had to change now. I asked, and it was like they had just been waiting for that allowance of pride from me.

Jori and her partner Diana headed up the posse. They sent out emails, made up ads on craigslist and called in favors. They took out a much larger storage space, than I had for my pile of books and they started filling it. Diapers, formula, crib, car seats, clothes to cover this new life for the first two years of its life…SO much stuff, we had to upgrade storage space.  Another friend let me have first crack at the estate sale of an interior designer, and my friends filled up another van full of the furniture, I was never in one place long enough, to collect.

My friends didn’t want me to leave and they wanted to be a part of this baby’s life. They talked me through panic and tears. They helped with plans and finding a place to live. I don’t know how to sound anything but trite with this, but these people who chose to be in my life, they made keeping this baby possible, they let me keep my promise to provide support and a net to hold us up when we fell. They thought I had value, that I could be a mother, they believed in me.

What was my value? If it could be measured by the company I kept, it was far greater than I had given any merit to.

Ultrasound 11.02.07 (1)

Of course, they could all be delusional..

S is for Sacrosanct

S

sac·ro·sanct
ˈsakrōˌsaNG(k)t/
adjective
1. (esp. of a principle, place, or routine) regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.

Let me tell you why I  loved fighting, then  acid and later, meditation. They make the world shiny. After a  throw-down fight, a good trip or a long deep meditation I have gotten the same feeling, like the world is new and shiny, like I am seeing it anew again. I adore that feeling.

My friends and I went directly from the meditation seminar to The Boys’ home in Portland. It was the first time I was bringing friends with me. The Boy and his moms never came to my home in NJ, which made minimum exposure to my friends rather simple. This time I was making a choice to do so.  It was all about choices.

If they didn’t see where I lived or meet the people I associated with, they only had what I chose to show as fodder for the picture of me in their heads and I liked it that way. I only spent a few days of any given year in their company, that time was sacrosanct and I could play pretend for that long, mostly. Yes, of course I was perfectly healthy, yes my girlfriend is great and not an abusive jerkface, yes my job is fulfilling and interesting, yes my social life is full of kind, intelligent, generous souls, everything is GREAT.

Addressbook (1)

I am sure I didn’t fool them, they are smart cookies and Gwynnie had long ago,  given up on writing down any of my contact information in pen, it just wasn’t worth the mess of crossing things out so often. I was never stable, not really.

turret2I brought Robyn and Rosencrantz because they were my closest friends, I was proud to be their friend and additionally, I needed SOMEONE to play witness to the insanity that is the Maine Hive Household. EVERYONE is awesome… it’s tiring. I have met scientists, professors, dancers, master fire dancercarpenters, inventors, tattoo artists, fire dancers, nationally syndicated comic artists, yoga instructors, castle builders, performers of all sorts, artists, singers, musicians, activists, sustainable farmers..so many people and most of that list can be found on their block and many of those people do two or more of those things. They are all intimately connected, in some way. Everything is made from scratch, there are handmade cookbooks and a constant string of baked goods being kneaded and pulled, there are compost piles and supplies bought from local purveyors and farms. There are gardens tended and preserves jarred. I once called the house about something and was told “ Oh! We just went strawberry picking at our friends place, you know the one that built that turret? We picked about 65lbs of strawberries, and we’re making jam now”. It’s hard not to feel like a failure at existence before you finish your filtered coffee with foamed milk and crystalized ginger scones in the morning at the kitchen table where there are people up and running hours before I’ve left my bed.

None of this is braggartly. they are just living their lives and this is how they live it. There is a constant stream of friends and relatives in and out of the house, coming up and down from the basement that connects some of the houses inhabitants. So many people are visiting during the warm months of the year, they have to juggle the bookings. People are taking ferries, meeting ferries, skateboarding, snowboarding, sailing, hiking, twisting into yoga knots and dancing hither and yon.

ashtray_ (1)There is a chair on their porch, to the side of the house, that is made from bent metal, with finely woven rattan covering it, it is almost like a modified rocker, and beside it is an old smokeless ashtray, most likely, salvaged humanely. It is slightly hidden, and this is where I hide. On this trip, I had comrades in arms and I was happy to have them, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

So much genuine friendliness, passionate interest and graciousness, was just really hard for me to process. I always felt like the Grinch, looking down at Whoville with such cynicism and really, who wants to be the Grinch?  Like the Grinch, I secretly wanted to be a part of that joie de vie, but it was always just out of reach. My envy was debilitating.

I wasn’t stupid enough to believe my new shiny eyes would never get clouded again by my own insecure stupidity; but for this trip, they weren’t and it was the first time it wasn’t so overwhelming, I could just faintly see the hope of finding my own path towards this kind of life. It was the first time I saw a roadmap instead of a warning sign that blared “ Danger! Do Not Enter! Authorized Personnel Only!”.

dangers

R is for Relief

R

re·lief
riˈlēf/
noun
1. a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.
2. assistance, esp. in the form of food, clothing, or money, given to those in special need or difficulty.

I went on a trip to Maine that wasn’t to Portland, which was a first. I went to a meditation seminar, given by a woman who builds and organizes such things for a living, and she needed guinea pigs for a new project she was working on, Robyn, Rosencrantz and I went.

polar bearI have no idea how to write about deep meditation without sounding like I was taking hallucinogens. I can say a few things, it was two days and 8 hours a clip, I felt like the days could be counted in seconds;  my totem animal or spirit animal is a polar bear which is pretty fucking cool; when I imagine a forest setting it is always dark with dappled light, which probably has some significance I’m not capable of parsing out right now. We were asked to bring something we wanted to get rid of or get past, psychologically and spiritually speaking, not the bag of donation I have in the trunk. I brought my perceptions of my place in The Boys life, which has been a problem, my problem, for all of his life.

This is what I dig about both the practice of meditation and yoga, they help change my perspective of my world. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, but at least for me, I see the world differently. If you have ever been through an eyeglass exam, you understand the process of having your face squished up on the little chin rest and the doctor changing out lenses saying, “which one is clearer? 1? or 2? 1? or 2? “ , then you can understand what I’m trying (badly) to explain.

We were asked to picture the things that we perceived as problems, the concepts we wanted to let go of. For me that meant leeches, I don’t leechesknow why, that’s just what my head came up with. Fat, full leeches, all over me.

I am not sure how much is being ready, how much is process and how much is intent, but I am guessing all can be the answer. I needed to let go of this concept of motherhood I was holding on to so dearly. I was comparing myself to a family I wasn’t in a competition with. I was failing at something I took myself out of the running for. None of it made sense. I’m sure that just recognizing that these were issues helped. The end result was such a sense of relief.  I just wasn’t the person I kept trying to convince myself I needed to be.

 

tree

 

Q is for Quirky

Q

quirk·y
ˈkwərkē/
adjective
1. characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.

My friend had a girlfriend. She started bringing her along to events and I learned something really unpleasant. My friend was a total asshole. She had chosen the girl based on a set of criteria she had for dating.

  • Higher level education; multiple degrees preferred
  • Beauty and skinniness
  • Family connections

I didn’t know this about her before, she was not a super close friend, but someone I hung out with occasionally and definitely didn’t date, therefore I wasn’t privy to the criteria needed to romantically associate with her. I found this out because I asked, after seeing her treat said girlfriend with an obnoxious, heavy-handed misogyny, which I didn’t realize could come from a woman, but have learned is pretty common sinse. She commented on her weight, figure and pedigree routinely, in front of people…it was upsetting. Despite the honking chip I carried about privilege, I started to realize that anyone can be reduced to the sum of their parts and not seen as the whole human they are, and I couldn’t play witness.

STP60251_zpsaa9b74d0

I started to speaking to the new girlfriend and found out she and I were much better matched, not romantically but as people. I told my “friend” that I had a criteria for friendships and she did not meet them, I chose the girlfriend instead. Thankfully she left my idiot “friend”,  as she deserved.

She was quirky and a dork, but so was I.

Have I mentioned my unhealthy love of all things NPR? If not, well, now you know. I know more NPR and WNYC names than I do popular Buscelebrities. She knew more than me. We traded stories, and unfinished craft obsessions. We wandered around Ikea for hours and bought nothing. We smoked American Spirits and drove for hours to nowhere often and to derelict buildings on occasion to sift through lives long past with cameras in hand. I do not how many hours have been spent over coffee at diners playing Scrabble.  She wore highly starched skirts, button up shirts and penny loafers and I was in loose jeans, hoodies and Vans yet we somehow found out we were a perfect match.

STP60255_zps95e4da36She and I talked for hours and never ran out of words, stories or adventures. We found something within each other, someone to be naked in front of. There are not that many people you can truly be exposed to in the course of one life; someone for which it does not matter what you disclose, whatever peccadillo, shame or heartbreak, will never judge you harshly or with malice. We each had plenty of these hidden recesses, things too dark and painful to let the world see. We hid behind different masks, came from very different places and on paper had little to nothing in common, yet we found kindred spirits in each other. You never know where you might find them or what circumstance will be an opportunity.

Over the years we have changed, each of us has moved, broken and been put together again. We have been apart and found each other. I think that any life that has held a lot of trauma lends itself to many forms of rebuilding, it’s a necessary part of growth.

We have only fought in the sense that we have both been afraid of that closeness and run at times, but neither of us could ever close the door.  I hope neither of us ever does, I need her to fill my hand of true friends at the end of this life, so I know I lead it well.

 

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”

― Bob Marley