Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Bridge

I have been spending more time in my childhood city recently, visiting my mom as she transitions into assisted living.  Mother’s Day was spent with her and my two adult children, the three of us traveling on a road trip to see the woman who my children affectionately call grammsie.   When I am there, I usually move between mom and siblings and mom and childhood friends, visiting and spreading my time with those all those I love.  Right now I want to spend all of my time with mom.

Mom links me to my beginnings.  She gave me my first bridge into the world.   And we are at a transition time in her life, when viewing the end becomes inevitable and unbearable.  Three months ago, after her fall, I sat alone, crying, not knowing how she was doing, if she was alive, 500 miles away and helpless.  I had never thought of life without mom and for the first time that thought formed and I was terrified.  I am not ready to lose her.  I don’t want her to travel that final bridge into the unknown.  I don’t want her to travel that final bridge that cuts off hugs and conversation.  I am not ready to lose her.

The three of us set out on our pilgrimage to see mom.  In our travels from north to south we take a detour to the home of my growing up.  Upon seeing the house, memories rush in. I remember the life of seven, living in a house too small to hold both my family and our varied pets.  I remember an old oak tree that sheltered our house and offered me a haven of space when the inside became too crowded and chaotic for me.   I rested with my back on the trunk of that tree.  We played ring-around- the rosy around that tree.  She was base for evening games of capture the flag.  I kissed my first boyfriend under that tree.  I read many a book under that tree.  That tree providing shelter and stability.  She was a place where I could laugh and I could cry freely.  Her roots ran deep and rooted me with her.  And she reached to the sky and showed me a path upward.

The house still stands but the tree is a stump now, cut down when my oldest was a newborn.  On another pilgrimage to visit my mom, my daughter, then three, and I went to say goodbye to that old house as my mom moved to her post family home.   As we said our last goodbyes to a house filled with memories, my toddler daughter ran to the oak tree stump and stood on her.  Mom, she called excitedly, a bridge.  A bridge for us to walk over.  A bridge to link us from here to there. 

My children are at the brink of adulthood.  They are traveling across the bridge between childhood and adulthood.  Endings and beginnings…filled with excitement, fear and anticipation.  I imagine my son finishing college and traveling to new places, possibly settling in one with an oak tree of his own.  I imagine my daughter soon linking a child to her beginnings.  As mom was for me and as I am the link for both my son and my daughter, remembering them when their skin was fresh and their future only offered hope.   One day they may be saying the same words I am now saying about my mom…I am not ready to lose you. 

Yet, like I now am learning and live with my mom, they too will also know, we only have this moment of hugs and conversation.  This moment--each moment--is a bridge from a beginning to an end.  When I live this moment with fullness, my bridge becomes one of gratitude.   Gratitude links me from here to there.  It links us and brings us to together as beginnings come and endings go.  Gratitude continues.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Teeter on the Edge of Longing

 In the winter of my sadness
the silence of snow and
white covered me.
Anticipation forgotten.
The long nights and
short days blended
with ice and grey
numbing desire
within to slumber.

Today, God, I teeter on the edge
of longing.
I look back on the
bleak landscape of a year gone by,
of endless days of grey and ice.
                        of death
                                                of mourning
                                                                                    of sickness and sadness—
when longing was silenced
and waiting replaced
by a deadly stillness.

Through all, You were there with me
witnessing my grief
silently comforting
waiting for me to notice
life beyond and within
the mystery of my suffering.

Today I heard a robin chirp.
A warmer breeze touched by cheeks
turning my lips upward.
A window opened
and a whisper of longing
entered in with the
warmth of the breeze
awakening my silent soul.

Oh God of endings and beginnings
You who wait for me and long for my fulfillment
Help me to yearn again.
I am awake now.
And I want to see the possibilities.
I want to dream.
                                    to know the fulfillment
                                                                        that you have known for me
                                                            all along.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coming Out of Hibernation

I want to be honest here.  I haven’t moved in almost a year.  Last June I had an operation and prior to my surgery I swam or walked almost daily.  Then the surgery and a myriad of other circumstances.  My response was to eat mindlessly and to not move.  I did not literally sit for a year, but I didn’t include movement in my lifestyle.  I didn’t walk.  I didn’t swim.  I didn’t do the movement that gets my temperature up and my endorphins going.  I get why I chose to do what I did.  And I am not guilting myself because of the choice.  It is what I chose.  Today I am at a point where I am beginning to choose differently.  I am waking up from a long year’s sleep. 

Of all of the domains for living (emotional, physical, mental and spiritual), I am the least familiar and comfortable in the physical domain.  I connect to others and to my feelings.  I use my mind to create and to think through complicated scenarios.   I consider myself spiritual (although not particularly religious) and find comfort and inspiration in connecting with nature and a God who is greater than I.  Movement, exercise, feeling grounded in my body—well, all are areas that are less than comfortable.  That part of me is the part that always is the first to go to sleep and the last to wake up.

Yet, there is this gnawing.  Is it a stretch and yawning out of sleep?  A beginning movement from rem sleep to awake?   I have felt it occasionally in this last year’s sleep, a distant pressing, almost like a hunger pang, hungering for a deeper touch with my body.  I mostly ignore it and sometimes it catches me by surprise, asking me to pay attention.  This body connection happens for me with movement.  I know it.  And it is so easy to ignore.

This gnawing pressed stronger as I read a recent Facebook post of Anne Lamott’s.   She was turning 61 in two days when she posted her writing.  (I am currently 61, too.)  She wrote, in list form (14 things) that are the total of all she knows.   Number 13 hit me hard:

13. Exercise: If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. If you are in a wheelchair, you must do chair exercises. Every single doctor on earth will tell you this, so don't go by what I say.

The gnawing is calling me yawning, stretching out of hibernation.  I want to live a good life.  And I have but one life.  My body houses all of the domains of which I find most fulfillment.  It houses the center where I make emotional connections.  It houses my mind and my creativity.  It houses my spirit.  I let it go to sleep and want it to wake up.   I want to move my body and honor it with the care it deserves.  I want it to join the rest of me—fully alive and awake.

I live in Rochester, NY.  It is a cold country (another excuse for hibernation, I might add).  We are in late April and daffodils are just beginning to bloom.  Today’s high is 54.  And on April 1 my pool opened.  There are the hearty among us who relish swimming in the cold.  I have been yawning and thinking about #13—not one among the hearty.  

Until today.  To begin the waking up, I donned my suit today and began my swimming regime.  The water warm and the air cool enveloped me as I waded into the wet, my body woken by a light breeze and chlorinated water.   I began slowly.  Length after length of breaststroke, pulling the water to push me forward…again and again and again.   The blue of sky and water buoyed me, cheering me as I touched the pool perimeter to turn around and begin my next length.

Energy begets energy,  so they say.  I have to say, only 10 lengths later, I feel energized.  I also feel a bit sore.  The effect of no movement interacting with movement.  I am so happy that today I chose to move.  I want to build up and get better at this.  And I want to be more in my physical domain.  I am excited.  I am stretching my way out of hibernation.

Is the gnawing turning into a yearning?  I am not sure.  But today, I made a movement toward movement.   Followed, yet again, by choice for movement tomorrow.  One stroke at a time.   I don’t want to go back to sleep.  Today I came out of hibernation and I want to stay awake.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Today I look in the mirror.
“Idiot,” I whisper,
chagrined that I reacted
so quickly in anger and
let everything unravel.

I hear in an interview
that a poet I most admire
is a chain smoker.
She speaks about a place
of forgiveness as impossible
for the father of her childhood.

My daily meditation tells
of St. Paul on the way
to Damascus, hating and
plotting, his murderous
threats creating fear,
causing chaos.

Broken people.
Broken promises.
Broken bread.
Broken childhood.
Broken words.
Broken body.

Paul, broken, hears the voice
of god on that trail to Damascus.
Weakness revealed as strength.
Chosen he changes.
Broken he finds love.

She, with her foibles,
breaks open the most perfect of words,
an analogy, a nuance, a twist of phrase,
a space where perfection
breathes in the imperfection
and lives.

In the rawness of reaction,
I wonder, “Would I ever speak
to someone I hate with such venom?”
If not them—why me?
The mirror broken
reflects perfection .

Love is found.