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Loss’ Mantra

A newly found, good-quality grey wool hat. One brown half glove. An earring received as a gift. My grandmother’s turquoise ring.

These are a few of the things that have gone missing in the past two weeks. I believe many of them will show back up. I’ve found through experience that getting myself rattled and expending energy to dig and sort for them doesn’t do anything. I also believe that some are gone forever and I’ve come to have a non-attachment to objects that would have been impossible for my younger self to fathom.

Still, I beat myself up for some level of inattentiveness that allows this losing to occur in the first place. Spaced out? Not careful? I’m not sure how to characterize this tendency to slough objects with such haste and altogether too much ease.

We rarely lose things that don’t matter. The Yoda wool hat that I bought as a joke, for instance, is with me for life. As are the earrings I inherited from a friend at her post-divorce give away event. If they were to disappear tomorrow, maybe I’d hardly notice and so I wouldn’t even bother to characterize it as a loss. Maybe it would just be an evolutionary moment of form seeping back into formlessness.

My grandmother is currently struggling with her memory. When we talk, I can hear her wrestling and gnawing at that person, place, or thing that is just around the bend in her cortex. “You’re in Wisconsin?” she asks me, sheepish and triumphant all at once, knowing she’s both failed and found something true all at once. My uncle is in Wisconsin, so she has pulled something correct out of her brain, and yet I can hear in her voice that she has lost me. I am slowly moving from form to formlessness; I am moving to the shadows.

As the shadows grow heavier, enveloping more of my grandmother, I wonder what she’s finding there. Her childhood self? I asked about her own mother recently and she admitted to me that she can hardly remember her. She knows vaguely that she was a nice woman. So if it’s not her mother in the shadows with her–and I’d pretty much bet big money that it’s not either of her husbands–then, who is there? What is there?

Will I eventually with my shadows as my waking life dims? This is not an easy place for any of us. My vulnerability, my victimhood, the needy child who I am ashamed is still around–all live in my shadows. I shove them into the alcove and put a blanket over them, hoping they’ll compost into nothing. But unlike a lost glove, they never entirely go away. And like my grandmother’s memories, they come out not when I intend them to, not in a way I can control. Rather, they have their own incongruent schedule.

Like an Indonesian shadow puppet play, I try to engage with them in this liminal world. I give them full admittance of my not knowing, sometimes even muttering “I don’t know, I don’t know,” with the sacred tones of a mantra.

When my marriage fell apart this summer, it seemed like something solid had crumpled, as though a major bridge had an unseen engineering flaw and dramatically, tragically caved in. Now, it feels as though the marriage had been a candle, the flame snuffed out and now, still, the smoke wafts and dances in unexpected waves, fire evolving into a new element.

I gaze at the sinuous smoke and repeat, “I don’t know.” I think of where I last saw my grey hat, imagining a lost & found box behind the movie theatre counter or flattened and muddy in the street, and repeat, “I don’t know.” Someone asks what I’ll do next — for work or where I’ll live — and all I can say, with a half-smile that holds both sorrow and anticipation, “I don’t know.”

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I’ll show you mine.

What are you googling over and over, not able to stop your hand before it types out the words even though you checked it less than an hour ago and even fast news isn’t that fast? Mine is “Malibu fire map.”

What are you longing for that feels out of grasp and beyond this one life you’re walking, like a dotted line on fading asphalt that leads to an ever clearer horizon line? Mine is to be of use.

What does your child yearn for, awake in the night in her smallness, only willing to come out when the world can’t take her down, can’t belittle her further? Mine is to be held.

What does your grandmother’s frailty and hourly disappearance mean – her voice a whisper from Florida, her emailing capability long gone, the word game now silent, but her heart still moving in its up and down fashion, just barely spiriting her through another day? Mine is enraged impotency.

What is the project that sits in the back of your heart, on the upper left lobe of your mind, and taps now and then to remind you that, yes, I’m still here and it would be really wonderful if you could pay me some heed because actually I matter? Mine is autodidacts.

What is the place that calls to you to comebeherenow, to stop it all and just rest on this ground and honor this space? Mine is Pt. Reyes.

———-

I open the book I am reading to remind myself of which passages brought me alive. My eyes land on a paraphrasing of Grace Boggs: “Every crisis is an opportunity, which is amazing theoretically, and requires great emotional fortitude in practice.”

Grace Boggs was an autodidact. This moment is a crisis. Aging and dying are a practice of fortitude.

Each point can be threaded to the next. Keep embroidering the pattern on my heart, I tell myself, until it makes more than sense; until it feels whole. This is the pain of aliveness in my heart. What is yours?

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right here, right now

I’ve been receiving the rain this morning. Its conversation with the ground. Its unity in its disunity. I’d intended to go to a yoga class this morning with a lovely visiting teacher who led kirtan last night, but the rain drew me into my son’s room and we laid in bed and talked about e-sports and dogs, about painting the house and Mary Poppins. And then we were quiet as he scrolled through his phone and I thought of all of the books we’d read in that room. Picture book after picture book. Chapter books and mythologies.

Today, once again, I’ll try to fill out the FAFSA. It keeps bumping me off the web site and all the IT gurus at this fine government agency have been able to recommend is that I fill it out via an app on my phone. I just learned the word dyscalculia – the numeric form of dyslexia – which I undoubtedly suffer from, and so the thought of filling in numbers on a tiny screen with my clumsy thumb is not welcome.

I keep putting the FAFSA off for other reasons, too, just as my daughter keeps putting off her college applications. We don’t really want it to end. This 18-year ride together. It’s been so sweet. A cocoon of love.

I say to my son as he makes crepes, how weird it will be next year when it’s just the two of us in the house. And he imagines out loud all three of us in different places. All three of us on our own. He looks devastated. “It’s so depressing,” he mock wails and hugs me. And I realize that he’s worried about me being on my own.

Maybe I’ll do the Peace Corps. Maybe I’ll move to California. Maybe I’ll stay right here and bring people into the house. It’s too soon to know.

I’m still right here, right now. In the rain that will turn to snow later in the week. Trying to conquer that f-ing FAFSA. Prodding and supporting my daughter through her process. Buoyed by both kids. Doing my yoga of the heart right here, right now.

 

With a nod to Maya Stein for her “right here, right now” prompts.

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bloodied

Every day my heart breaks anew,

And the first thing I want to do is to tell you –

Because that’s what I’ve done for years:

Tell you of my lost wallet, of my bruised knee,

Of my mammogram results, of the nearly empty half and half.

I go to tell you, but then I remember

That you held the hammer, you tore off the bandage.

I stop before I dial –

Breathe into that battlefield that is my heart,

The bloodied soldiers and wounded knees all akimbo,

Waiting for the cool breeze of time to work her inevitable magic.

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Missoula

It feels like that morning in Missoula.

We’d driven from Seattle with the incessant thump of the U-Haul.

Hannah, still a puppy, nestled against me and awoke to the sight of cows —

Big, unwieldy animals that did not fit her still narrow universe

And so she peed right there in my lap.

It was dark when we pulled into the little house of your college friend,

The windows’ eyes of the rustic rental opened brightly against the plum black sky.

We knew there were mountains all around, but their quiet was complete.

Alexis made us a Greek pasta that was something like spaetzle but not quite —

Buttery and homey, the little rectangles probably shipped to her from her parents in New York City.

In the morning, when we climbed out of our bags into the September day, the sun misled us.

Warm it declared, but the ground had a thin dusting of snow and our breaths, when we stepped outside with Hannah, were full bodied-visible.

We were driving our late-20 selves to Iowa:  me returning home after a decade on the west coast,

You taking a chance on the middle of the country, a mystery spot on the map.

Once we arrived in Iowa, there would still be lingering heat and humidity, mosquitos and the final green tomatoes.

But here in Missoula, it was already that kind of crisp that makes you smile and wince all at once —

So gorgeous golden in the moment, yet saturated with the inevitable darkness to come.

What if we’d stayed right there? I sometimes wonder. Stayed in that crispy, mountain town, made a home among strangers. Raised Hannah on hikes and deer antlers.

I can see the veins and arteries of that existence spreading out, surprises and repetitions among them. We still come apart, it seems inevitable. But would there have been kids? Would there have been two of them? What we each be doing for work?

So many paths that lead from these hearts, the heart sensitive to that dusting of snow, those darkened mountains. The heart empathizing with the dog who peed at the sight of the cows. The heart that knows so much more than our silly brains give it credit for.

My heart, I now see more than two decades later, was ready to stay in Missoula.

 

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stardust

And so they pray for me.

Leap of faith – foolhardy or wise.

And so they pray,

For nine days, five men across the world

Will pray. For me.

And I will receive. Whatever I can.

Open into heart and roots, into limbs and womb

Receive and surrender to whatever this ineffable

Spirit carried across oceans and through stardust may bring.

And so they pray for me.

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hard sleep

“I met a young woman whose body was burning.” – Bob Dylan

 

This morning as we made eggs and packed lunches, my kids were talking about the storm – how it woke them up, that they had to close windows and comfort the dog. The lightening was so bright. The rain so hard.

I heard none of it.

My sleep lately has either been difficult to come by or the kind of hard, deep slumber that feels drugged. The kind of sleep in which I’m so caught in the undertow of the unconscious — my dreams full of patterns and faces, a gondola and a hotel on a mountain, a French restaurant and steaming, glacial pools.

I sense that I am rebuilding, recouping energy. Toward something Next.

A friend texted this morning that he’ll soon be in town to start rehearsals for a musical. But wait, I wrote back, I thought you’d lost your voice? After four months of its total disappearance and the doctors scratching their heads it came back – resurfaced in full, not uttering a word of explanation, just ready to sing forth.

My sleep feels the same. Pushing me down into this deep rest, forcing me to abide, rebuilding cells, soothing my system, preparing me to sing forth. Just wait, it whispers. Just wait. It’s coming.

 

{My sleep feels akin to Dylan’s classic Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall — and especially this amazing performance by Patti Smith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=941PHEJHCwU}