Friday, October 28, 2016

After the Gauntlet, Ice Cream

tables arranged
into a grid
neat aisles
for passages
of hopes and fears
parents running a gauntlet
of blood, sweat, and tears
the heart of our hearts
broken down
into feedback

assessments and averages
percentages and pop quizzes
letters and numbers
tattoos on a future
permanent records
marks never erased

i listen attentively
to the good and bad news

tears rise from within
a truer voice

of joy
of sadness
steeped in love

those kind of tears

i reach for a tissue

when i close my eyes
to wipe
potent droplets
an image of us

we sit under
a tree near the ocean
salt and sand
sun on our freckled faces
our toes dipped in
dancing water

we are eating ice cream
and laughing

simple, free
not a mark in the world
in the natural state of things

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Midlife, Destruction, Creation and Game On

I just turned 45.

It's hard to believe. I don't feel 45 or at least not the way people led me to believe I would feel.
I don't feel tired, I don't feel settled, I don't have things figured out. I also don't feel like I actually know who I am. I don't think we ever become a set person, a solid identity, we evolve. We are constantly changing and growing. Shift happens within us, as it happens all around us. Change and transformation is the nature of things.

I think of butterflies, babies and how dawn comes after night. The forces of creation, constantly birthing. I also think of floods and fire, volcanoes and glaciers. The powers of destruction that paint new landscapes and clear spaces for what creation will bring next. Darkness and light. Yin and yang.

Joan Didion said, "I have already lost touch with a couple people I used to be." I get that quote. As I think back on these 45 years of life, I am astounded by how events have come and gone and how some of them were like brush fires, unforgiving, brutal and cataclysmic, but clearing a path. Others the moment of arising, flowers blooming, sun shining, the butterfly emerges.

There are times that have split me into before and after.

When I was twenty I was arrested on felony drug charges. I was confused, traumatized, angry, but underneath it all a sad and very scared girl. I pretended to be all punk, all I don't give a fuck, so tough. When they walked me into the cell block, the women laughed. I looked about twelve, red eyed, wearing a university sweat shirt. One actually said to me, "What are you in here for?".

The DEA said my best friend and I were drug dealers. They knew one when they saw one. The women in the jail saw a little girl with no business on the block. The women were right, but they sure couldn't save me. They were in the same fucked and powerless position as me. Loser scum of the earth, criminal wastes. I only spent a day and a half in the county lock up, but I saw where it could take me. I was released to await a preliminary hearing. My public defender said the evidence was strong, I would probably do hard time.

A couple months and a plea bargain later, my lead counselor in court ordered rehab would throw a box of tissues and a teddy bear at my head, and tell me that it takes the same muscles to smile as it does to cry. I was talking about how much I hated myself and my life, all with a big smile on my face. Emotionally disconnected, torn from my own heart, in so much pain.

In rehab for criminal offenders, no bullshit got by. They had my number and I was not getting off the hook just because I was a college kid. Tough love epitomized. It worked. I have often wondered what the outcome would have been had I gone to state prison. I doubt it would have been positive, I got lucky.

Getting arrested had seemed sure to destroy me, in the end it saved me.

My future husband and I got back together at that same time. We had dated and split up before. He was there for me and supported me. He picked me up when I was at the lowest of lows. The emptiness started to take on new form. Destruction shifting toward creation.

We got married two years later. embarking on a new life. College graduates, so much hope and excitement. We got jobs and an apartment, we went out after work, we had fun and friends. We had ups and downs, young and still immature, breaking the cocoon, wet winged, clumsy. But headed in a good direction, together. It felt good to have a together to lean into and rely upon.

Married with children. A show we liked to watch, but an idea that terrified me. I felt that I should never have children. I feared I would be unable to love them enough, what with my heart, patched up and sewn together, but far from whole or completely healed. I had visions of how they would crumble in my arms, how I would turn cold and cruel when they came to me. I couldn't bear the idea, but when our son arrived, I arrived with him. He gave me the gift of my true heart, full of love.

Four children that I hold in my arms and my heart are the very best of me. They are the jewels of my life. My family is the greatest blessing I could ever have asked for. When I go to the dark places that still live in me, it is my family, just the thought of them saves me. I love them so fully and faithfully, that I am restored to knowing the light that I am, and that I have always carried in my heart.

45 years and it has been many things, but never boring. I have lived on three continents and have been to four. I have studied photography, become a yoga teacher, a dancer, a writer. I have run marathons and done triathlons. I say yes when opportunity arises, and I take risks, I put myself out there, beyond my comfort zone. I strive to stay in growth, to maintain forward momentum.

I still make mistakes too, and I struggle with my shadow side, depression, anxiety, trauma recovery. One day at a time.

I may be at midlife, but I am a force to be reckoned with and the first 45 was only a warm up. I am just getting started.

Life always has challenges. I say bring it. Game on.