untitled, pt. 1

Sometimes I wake at two-thirty in the morning. Beside me, the baby is shifting in his sleep, sucking blindly at little fingers. But there’s something else. The sound of rustling in the hall. Someone tapping gently at the door. I rub my eyes. I elbow KC in the ribs. 

“Wake up,” I hiss. “There’s someone outside.”

He mumbles something and lifts his sleep heavy body from the bedsheets. I hear bare feet sticking to the hardwood. The sound of a lock. The door opens, and closes again. After a moment, he’s back beside me.

“There’s no one there,” he says, “It’s only us.”

I sleep.

When I was pregnant, Aspen still tucked like a pearl inside of me, I remember him saying: “You haven’t been happy lately. Not really. Not since we’ve been married.” 

“That’s not true,” my mouth said. You know the feeling you get in your face when you lie? Like the words are right there, between your teeth, and you have to tighten your cheeks to keep them in. I smiled at him, and my gums ached. 

And I remember trying so hard to find that happiness. I hadn’t even realized that it was gone. I closed my eyes. Searched the fleshy walls that kept me. Picked through my memories.

Happiness has always come to me in staggered flashes. Quick coughs of light: palms pressed to my heart at the ashram, singing to Siva, to Krishna, to Hanuman. Lips melting into soft skin, tongue tasting, fingertips swimming. It is a feeling of lightness, and connection. 

But if I could see my entire life from above, all 9125 days, there would be a handful of golden hours (some pressed all together in weeks and months, and others standing alone, a stitch of light here, another there). And on each side, the golden days would be packed tightly by darkness. Grey and black and blue and sadness as thick and heavy as spun wool. 

Looking down from above, I cry. 

Oh my god. Oh, my god, what a waste.

I’ve been trying to blame it on someone, anyone - my mother’s mental illness, my father’s abandonment, my children. That would be easier. But it’s me. It’s always been me. In wondering about myself - trying to remember who I’m meant to become and what I ought to give to the world - I’ve forgotten what I came here for. What I came to be a part of. 

I wake at two-thirty in the morning. The baby moves beside me. He smiles and snorts in his sleep. Someone is shifting in the hallway. In the darkness, my eyes adjust. I can hear the sound of something tearing. Fire through forest. Train through skin and bone. I smell smoke.

“Wake up,” I tell him, but he rolls to his side and curls into himself. I kick him in the knee. But still he sleeps. 

Carefully, carefully, I peel the covers from my legs. I climb out of bed. Bare feet stick to the hardwood. I press my ear to the front door and listen. Someone is there, breathing. With hands like fire, I switch the lock, I turn the knob. The door opens. 

And there, standing in the hallway, is me.

Can I come in? 

I have heard this voice before, only occasionally, only for a moment at a time: as a child, in the bean rows, sun turning my back golden, bringing fresh melon to my lips. At the ashram, song ripe in my throat. Hand pressed to my heart. With her, sleeping beside me. With him, sleeping beside me.

I reach for her and our fingers touch. She is warm and sweet and familiar. I smile, and step to the side. I let her in.

Dear self:

I’m happy you’re here, sweet you. I hope that the rest of your days are dipped in gold. And never forget: my God, how beautiful we are.

all the ways I meditate

Four years ago (my God, four years!) I completed a month long immersion program at the Sivananda Ashram. I inhaled and exhaled yoga and meditation and mantra. I learned of illusion. I learned to see through it. After coming back home, 200HR Certificated in hand, I felt entirely changed. I was living in the present. Healed. Whole. I meditated & practiced asana for two hours daily. I had all the time in the world to mend my Self and cultivate light.

Since then, I've been born again (and again) as a mother.

Understandably, I fell out of practice. I stopped meditating - at least in the way I used to, legs crossed, eyes closed, heart fixed on mantra and silence. And during my pregnancy with Finn, I even stopped practicing asana. And yet, I've somehow held fast to the simple practice of mindfulness. Now, instead of practicing for two solid hours, I allow my meditation to gently touch everything I do throughout the day. And with time, with grace, I believe this is making me a softer mother.

These are the ways I meditate, when I truly have no time to meditate at all.

 

1. I imagine that the space between my eyes is opening like French doors.

2. Breathing through my nose, I slightly activate my throat, allowing each inhale and exhale to make a gentle whoosh sound as they pass through me.

3. I find the present moment and silently note all of the smells around me. Cut grass, salty skin, laundry soap, frying tortillas, honeysuckle.

4. I try to feel the hair on my son's cheek as he rubs it against my own.

5. I imagine my mind is the lens of a camera. With eyes closed, I imagine it turning to focus on the present moment. 

6. I sing in Sanscrit. Ya devi sarvabhuteshu vishnu-mayeti sadbita.

7I sing in English. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

8. I bring awareness to the beautiful things I see and make sure to mention them to both Aspen and Finn. Look there, my love! I wonder what sort of flower that is! Do you see the way it reflects the gold of the sun? And she says to me, Mama, how beautiful!

9. With absolute presence, I quickly check in with each part of myself, spreading a warm awareness, from toes, to the crown of my head.

10. I hold the cat, Primrose.

11. I listen to the sound of Aspen breathing as she sleeps.

12. I flex my fingers, bringing awareness to the creak of the bones, the stretch of skin, the quiet rubbing sound each finger makes as it touches the next.

13. I notice the clouds, or the stars, or the blue of the sky.

14. With my heart against my husband's back, I try to match my breath to his.

15. I breathe. And I start over. And I breathe again.

medicine

On Friday, I heard you. I opened my lips and there you were: the old you, the whole you, speaking softly, sweetly. Harboring healing words within your mouth. I saw you dancing, and you were beautiful, and I knew that you had been within me all along.

I am getting better.

Hands on the wheel, breathing in the hints of springtime as they moved from one window to the other - honeysuckle, almond blossom, cut grass, wet pavement - I remembered something I learned at the Ashram:

When you realize that everything IS you, you cannot possibly hate, or harm, or feel less love for one thing, or the other, because to do so would mean also hating yourself, harming yourself, loving yourself less. 

Piece by piece, I am waking up.

On Saturday, we bundled our family in maroon and gold and set up a booth at the local Celtic Faire. We registered, and parked, and while KC unfolded the stroller and counted wooden swords on two hands, I unclipped the glovebox, flicked a lighter, inhaled. Just once. Rosemary sweet; slow moving smoke.

It was the first time we had danced since Aspen was born. And right away, I experienced a remarkable clarity - worry and anxiety and phobia were turned off, as if by a light switch fixed the to the side of my heart. On, off. Darkness, and light. So much light!

I could see her clearly, and she was beautiful. My daughter, all pink cheeks and scraped-knees. There was no fear fogging my eyes. I embraced all of her, and of him, my son. I was happy for the first time. Maybe the very first time - the first clarity since motherhood began. 

With fickle fear flayed like a layer on an onion, I found a new layer, just below: the fear of losing my Ego. I was equal parts relieved by the lack of worry, and frightened by it. Who was I, if not the woman with the lump in her chest? What a wild emotion! I realized in that moment how attached to my own anxiety I am. Living without it is so uncomfortable - like losing a dear and terrible friend. I have been stumbling around, not realizing just how drunk and addicted to subconscious toxicity I truly am.

I am getting better.

We walked down a hill and through a gate and placed the swords in rows along a table. I held Finn tightly against my chest and Aspen said, "Mama, find me!" She hid behind a fold of the canopy and I pretended to be a mighty hunter.

Eyes soft, heart free. 

I am medicating carefully, delicately, dancing with the very first version of myself. I can hear her leaning in, closer, gently, holding me.

dear husband

Some days I wake and I'm all there, as if my pieces were collected and dusted and stitched together as we slept. Life is funny in that way. There is a profound and constant undercurrent of joy that is flowing beneath a thousand and one layers of worry, and what-ifs, and judgement, and pain. The middle of the ocean. Sometimes I feel it. Most times I don't. Today, I woke to the sound of Aspen moving beside me, and I was all there, and the joy had poured over me, and around me, and through me. And I wondered how I hadn't noticed it on all the other days.

When I was living at the ashram, each day was spent lifting the layers like woolen blankets, shedding old skin, refining my faith in that constant, still space, that joy. We moved back home and I became a mother, and then became a mother again, and the layers have stacked atop one another and become heavy.

But this morning. Slowly lifting. Slowly remembering. Gently creating cracks where the joy might pour through.

I want to be here for you, too, always. And I am sorry that it's so difficult for me to explain. An anxious mind is something you're unfamiliar with. For this I am grateful. I hope you never struggle to see beneath a fog as thick as mine. But because you're so clearly alive, I often feel that you don't believe me when I say that I'm hurting. I wish I could pull you under, only for a moment. You could hear the voices I hear and see the spiderwebs that surround me. Maybe then, we could dust them off together. 

I have created this ocean for myself. You remind me of that often. Some days, it's easy to dive into the stillness. Some days, I am stuck on the surface, turbulent tides tearing through me, unable to breathe, unable to swim. It is a fiercely unforgiving habit. It is too easy to lose the present moment in tumbling waves of worry, and what-if's, and judgement, and pain. It is a practice to dive down. I am re-learning, slowly, in this new mother skin.

And it's hard. But I will do it. Daily, I wake and remind myself that I am alive. For you. For her. For him.

small hands to hold

I am in my sister-in-law's bathroom, crying over photos that aren't mine. The woman is leaning against him, looking down, cradling wine in delicate fingers. And he is holding her below the breast, eyes bright, as if he has the sun beneath his palm. She warms him to the bone.

And I do not know whether I'm crying with happiness for them, filled to the brim with light spilled over, or with sadness for the ease in which they walk through life. No small hands to hold, no milk to be spilled, no messes to mop. The only bodies they must mind are their own, slowly in the morning, fingers finding forgotten places, and with fire at night, restless, wanting, aching, holding tightly. 

And then, I cry with sadness for them, for the lack of small hands to hold, the emptiness of her breasts, the waking in her womb, wondering, aching, wanting, bleeding, fit for holding but cannot hold tightly enough. Not now. Not yet. 

What a marvelously feeling time this is, postpartum. The entire world is moving beneath my skin. 

we could hear them singing

Last night we opened the back door of the toy shop and the entire world had been soaked in pastel pink and gold. After what seemed like a year of solid fog and snow and rain, the sun woke from its slumber and kissed the underbelly of each cloud with color. We could hear the angels singing.

And this morning, the sun woke again and thought it ought to stay for a while. It's warm out. I can feel how much my skin needed this - every inch of me is sighing in relief. We have walked a mile already at least, up and down Washington Street, Aspen tucked against my hip, or in the stroller, or waddling along beside me, and Finn pressed soundly against my chest. I imagine what my heart might sound like to him, something loud and familiar, and I smile.

Aspen fell asleep in the stroller and napped under the pine trees in the park. Finn was napping, too - a miracle of a day - so I parked for a while and listened to the sounds of the river moving, of cars starting and stopping on the street above, of my own heart rattling in my ribs. The sun cradled my cheeks like two hands. I exhaled. Something about that part of town - the park, planted in the middle of main street - reminds me of sun-licked days in San Francisco, walking everywhere but to class, knocking elbows with strangers, inhaling cigarettes, sour piss pavement, magnolias, lingering heavy bacon and eggs and maple syrup. 

There was a steady undercurrent of magic humming today. The angels singing, I think. I've forgotten to listen for them, until now.