Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Home

Art by Rissa KayDee
Almost always, I slip beneath the covers first, pulling the blankets up high under my chin and letting my tired body sink into the pillowy mattress.

When he slips in beside me, I turn to him, and every night it is the same.

His arm lifts, an invitation.

I slide in close, that place that exists between shoulder and chest is my pillow.

His skin is warm under my arm.  He brushes my hair back, his hand gentle on my head, and his beard brushes and tickles my skin.

I close my eyes in the dark and sink into the rise and fall of his chest.

The world fades away as my breaths fall into a deep and even rhythm.

Words exist, but they are not enough.  His breath is soft comfort.  His heartbeat is my anchor.

His arm tightens around me, and I am safe, not just tonight, but into the stars and dreams and places where forever is real.

Sometimes I wake in the night and we are apart, but I don't remember moving.  Sometimes I turn over and he sleepily moves in behind me, his arm pulling my back against him.

He is warm.  I am home.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tendrils

Words teeter on the edges of my mind, thoughts plump and wavering, waiting to drop in tandem with the tears on the edges of my lashes.

The world goes quiet.  Smoke in the air has created a strange, unsettling day, and when I walk I'm sure I'm moving slower than I usually do. 

Some days I wonder, is this just what happens when you get older?  It isn't a surprise, the spreading cancers.  It's no longer a question of how or how surprising, but a question of who now and how long until.  These are the times when your soul screams at you, do something, but there is nothing to be done.  The unimaginible manifests, and we stop wondering how we can survive it because there is no longer any choice. 

I don't know her but I've known her for years.  Through these words she weaves, beauty and poetry and inspiration and camaraderie, raw and vulnerable, she has shared herself with the world.  In her sureness and unsureness, she has given so many people hope and made us feel less alone.  

Before I knew in my heart of hearts that my own story, narrative and memoir, was the spine that holds me up in this world, I knew her words touched me for reasons I couldn't fully understand.  She has captured the magic of connecting through experience, a magic I now see sparks of in my fingertips and am learning to nurture.

Ten years ago, I met her, the only time we've ever been in the same room, maybe the only time we've ever been in the same city.  She was the first blogger I knew who wrote a book, and it was beautiful.  She showed me that this weird but heartfelt virtual place IS for real writers.  Rockabye sits on my shelf still, her signature scrawled inside the cover.  So much has happened in those years.  

Her family is like a fairy tale, magical, and full of so much love I can feel it states away.  She is the kind of parent creating the children we will be thankful for when they are the ones in charge.  I think things will be better then.

My heart is made of vines.  Some of them grow and encompass those closest to me, but in this digital world some tendrils have shifted and blinked and become virtual, ends opening in faraway places to people I somehow love without physical connection.  I think giving away pieces of my heart is part of how I experience my humanity.  

Her words are poetry and beauty, they are raw and unwavering, her own vines are reaching and spreading into so many hearts and they come into me, touching me in that longing, black hole part of my soul where the desperate love and sorrow live side by side.

My star stuff is a glitter and dirt mix of empathy and longing and love and strength, black dust of the times when it was dark, specks of light from the future I'm building, and a spattering of loss that rises and falls within like oil in water.

I love them and my heart aches for them, these faces that seem so familiar of children I have never met, these hearts dear to the hearts that are dear to me, these mothers, these sisters, these lovers.  My words are my gift, my soul, they are all I have, so I write.  I pour myself like hot wax and they leave their impression, and I know I am not the only one forever changed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trying to Begin

It has been almost seven years since the summer that I lost myself.  I find it hard to keep track of the years now, when I think about the darkness, then the roller coaster of trying and separating and something in between.  One summer of despair, one of moving forward then stepping back, one lost to medication as I floated on a foggy sea of excess spinal fluid.

I have been trying to begin.

I know that I have a story to tell, I have so many stories to tell.  Even turning the word over in my mouth, memoir, it speaks to me, it feels heavy and weighty and like it will nourish me.  I try to find a starting point, but it feels like so much, then I am stuck, stagnating in the too-muchness of it all.  My ideas swarm, alighting on my mind then slipping into the ether, feelings and fragments of sentences left to ruminate then forget.

Sometimes, I still dream about us. In my dreams we seem to be living together or moving in together, but even as we arrange furniture and cook dinner I have these nagging thoughts that I thought I had already left this behind. Remnants of that in-between time stuck somewhere in the recesses of my memory work their way into my sleep, and I wake unsettled and unrested.

Parts of the story I have to piece together from emails and journal entries, like painting the negative space instead of the object.  No one remembers every moment in their life. No one remembers everything that’s ever happened to them. But not remembering good times feels different than not remembering bad ones.

What happened?  In those last few years between the pregnancy and birth of my second baby and the ending of all I knew, there is a well brimming with lost time.  I have gathered testimony in a file nearly 120 pages long, emails I wrote him, emails I wrote my family, Facebook posts, journal entries.  My eyes scan, and I volley between memories that evoke a sick panicked feeling and the blankness of a total lack of recognition.

My brain doesn't remember, but my body and soul do.  I read the words and I can feel them, my stomach turns, I feel like prey being hunted by a predator made up of fear and self doubt and hopelessness.  I know these moment happened.  They fit with the narrative, with the other moments I remember.

I am not sure if this is true disassociation, or something else.  It's hard for me to read about the things that happened.  There is a part of me that finds it entirely unbelievable that things were so bad, that I allowed them to get so bad.  How could I have lost myself?  Despite knowing that it can happen to anybody, I still find it unbelievable that it happened to ME.

I have words, but they surge inside me like animals in migration, moving and shifting and driven.  They come out in fits and bursts, blog posts, three pages of handwritten musing at a women's retreat, thoughts in the shower that come and disappear before I'm dressed.  How do I tame them?

I am trying to begin.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Revolution, Revelation: Living in Dietland

This weekend, I met Plum Kettle.  With some time to myself, I decided to try out Dietland.  I devoured the first 8 episodes like I would devour Plum's chocolate layer cake were it in front of me right now.

Plum's experiences and feelings hit incredibly close to home.  The heart and soul connection to Plum was almost immediate.  How could I take my eyes off a character I can identify so strongly with?  Finally, she is here.

Finally, a show about being fat that isn't about either using size as comedic relief or a plot device centered around weight loss.

Finally, a woman I can root for, really root for, because there is so much about her that is me.

Finally, a woman who decides to break the mold instead of shrinking to conform to it, a woman who is real and who is learning to be unapologetic about existing.

Plum on the bed in the throes of her withdrawal from antidepressants rolls over and her shirt rides up, exposing the soft skin of her stomach.  It is a revelation.  Such a small thing, but so overwhelming, to see skin like mine, there as part of the full scene, a moment, just a piece, not exploited, not for humor, not to shock, just a matter of friction and movement but so unheard of on TV.  Or anywhere.

I am fat.  I won't apologize for using that word, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.  Fat is not a bad word.  It's a description.  It is not the antithesis of beautiful or of healthy or of worthy.
Plum: I don't want to be a glamazon. I just want to get on an airplane and not have to apologize to the person I sit next to. I want to go to a bar and get hit on by some bald guy, and I want us to argue whether said bald guy is actually into me or whether he just wants to get laid.
Steven: I know.
Plum: You don't, Steven! You can't! Going off Y, I got my feelings back, and it made me remember why I wanted 'em gone.
This is my life too.  Talking to people who try to understand is like walking into a glass pane and expecting to go through it, the way seems clear but you are unable to proceed.  You may sympathize, or even empathize, but the feeling of sitting at my desk listening to coworkers half my size talk about how they want to lose weight just to be more fit, not for looks and about which diets work and the "science" behind them is one I cannot explain to you.  The feeling of friends 100 or 150 pounds lighter complaining about being fat or their pants not fitting is dehumanization.  It is confirmation that I am outside the circle of normal.  I am not a part of this conversation.  The world tells me that I should not exist this way, that I am what acceptable people are afraid of, the worst fate they can imagine.
Everyday I walk around in this skin people look at me like I have the plague. They act like I'm a stain. They stare and laugh and yell, and worst of all, they tell me I have such pretty face and then they lecture me on how I can fix my body because how I am is wrong. - Plum
When someone doesn't like something I've done, they don't just call me a bitch.  I am a FAT bitch.  When I deny a man's advances, he decides I am an ugly cow, no one would want to fuck me anyway and I will die fat and alone.  The words curl, smoke, and stink of disgust and vitriol, they hate what I am, they hate the body I walk in every day.  How do you survive in a world that bombards you with that, and not start to hate yourself even just a little bit?

In the museum of my life, there is an entire wing made up of paintings and moving pictures of my wrongness, the snippets are burned in my memory for always.

This frame holds the moment I first asked for a seatbelt extender on an airplane.

This screen replays the exasperated defeat and disappointment in finding that the "plus" department only reaches size 24.

This photo captures me sitting alone, knowing that my blind date showed up and left because they did not like what they saw.

On this wall, a photomosaic of the faces of the men who've liked me because I was fat, not in spite of it, the BBW fetishists who mask objectification in a paper thin layer of desire.  The man who rubbed himself on my belly fat before I knew what was happening, and to whom I was too shocked and ashamed to object.  The one who disappointedly says "you've lost weight" when I get naked, even though I haven't.

On this screen, I walk in to the eye doctor I visit annually for a checkup, as I have been doing for 30 years.  I got my first pair of glasses in 6th grade, then later contacts.  I had Lasik when I was 25 or 26 and still have 20/20 vision.  Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition that affected my vision and optic nerves.  I have been asymptomatic for several years now, the condition has resolved.

And yet.

He tells me to lose weight.

The heat creeps over my skin, the neon sign in my brain flashing "evidence based care???" so brightly I'm surprised he can't see it and explain himself.

He has me come back a month later for a visual field test and an OCT.  When he walks into the room, he makes a pleased-sounding comment about how I'm losing weight.

(I'm not.)

Everything looks good.  Normal, even. But at the end of the appointment, he tells me to lose weight.

Despite the fact that he is an optometrist, and not my general practitioner.

Despite the fact that I do not show any symptoms of the one condition I've ever had that it would be appropriate for him to comment on.

Despite the fact that when I was at the height of my illness, I DID lose weight, on an awful, miserable meal replacement plan, and it didn't affect or improve my condition in any way.

Despite the fact that for all intents and purposes, I appear to be completely in remission.

Despite the fact that I am a 37 year old adult woman, and surely he cannot think he is the FIRST PERSON IN THE WORLD to remind me that I am fat and that's not okay with people.

Because it's "really important."

To whom?

To him?  Is this not my own body?  Does it matter what I want, how I feel, whether there is any evidence that losing weight would make me less likely to have too much spinal fluid once again?

To the world at large?  Because I am offensive?  Because if you are fat and sick, you must be sick because you are fat, and if you are fat and not sick, it's just a matter of time?

Instead of saying any of this, I nod my head in compliance, my nerves burning hot under my skin as I walk out the door.

This is one day.  This is one image in the museum.  This is bullshit, and these are the moments I choose to leave this wing whenever I can.  Like Plum, my self-doubt has largely turned to anger.

Plum:  I hate being like this.
Verena:  What if it’s not you that’s the problem?  What if it’s everybody else that needs to change? What if it’s not you that’s wrong, it’s them?

The path I walk is not the path of least resistance, there are switchbacks and there are snares.  I surround myself with people who are like me, and we grow and learn together, they inspire me little by little to believe that I am worth more.  I try to believe in myself, and some days I can do it.

Other days, I look around me, and all I see is Dietland.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Forsaken

Mike Blake, Reuters
I have been avoiding the news.

When he was elected, my disbelief rapidly glommed on to my depression, reinforcing the nihilistic feelings I was having about things being so far from okay.  2016 was not the best year for me, and it was coming to a spectacular, flaming ending before my eyes.

It wasn't just him, but the people who gained strength from his ridiculous, improbable winning gambit.  Who gained courage to be cruel and inhumane and violent.

My words escaped like prayers.

Please, don't let this be who we are.

I thought I was seeing the worst parts of humanity.  It turns out, I'd set the bar far too high, and there was still an abyss beneath waiting to swallow us up.

I mean, I knew there could be worse.  I just didn't think that worse could happen here.  Now.

I have been avoiding the news because it's not funny anymore.

Not that it ever was, but I have felt largely like it was just a bad period we had to power through.  At first I assured myself he'd never make it through the full four years, how could he?  Law after law trampled, but 18 months in it hasn't happened and he just grows more and more dangerous.

My mom told me, she has been through bad times in her life.  That things happening now reminded her of the politics, struggles, activism of her earlier years.  Politics always swing back and forth.

It seemed like maybe if we breathed, we could get through this and that the nightmare that is our 45th president would pass.  Someday, we would wake.

I pinch myself, but I'm not waking up.

When I was in middle school, I read Number the Stars.  I think maybe I read it more than once.  The periods in history that have most engaged me center on times when humans forsook one another, because to my heart it is incomprehensible.

I did not learn about the Japanese Internment Camps in school.  I was in my late teens before I heard of their existence.  That I knew people whose parents had been there was incomprehensible.

They say that history repeats itself, and... here we are.

The same and different both, the underlying abandonment of the love in our hearts and the kinship of humanity abundant.

I have been avoiding the news because I don't know if my heart can take even a single word, a single photo.

Children.  Babies.  Younger than my babies.

Alone.  Frightened.  Untouched, uncomforted, undone.

Even without firsthand accounts, without the images of tents and single file lines, without the maddening tweets our supposed leader shares, I feel a scream rising in my throat.  I try to swallow it before I gag, and find myself legitimately fearing I might vomit.

My heart, my soul, writhe with the unfeelable, the primal terror of families separated, of children alone, of mothers mad with the absence of their babies.

I have been avoiding the news because I will cry, and if I cry I may be washed away by tears that won't stop.

And still I know those tears will not be enough to wash away the horror of hatred, fear, racism, privilege, and inhumanity.

I have been avoiding the news because I don't know what to do.

I am unsettled, I am unfocused, even with all the avoidance I could muster, I cannot stop thinking about it.

I don't think I want to talk about it.  I don't think I can be civil or polite or in any way rational.  I don't think I can be very coherent.

There is no angle from which you are right by persecuting people, by punishing children, by imprisoning babies.

Fuck policy.  These are people.  If we are not here to help each other, what are we here for?

Please, don't let this be who we are.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Eight

Dear Danny,

As I sit down to write this, it is hard to know where to begin.  I feel like the words I could use to describe you are almost limitless.  You are fierce, smart, loving, talented, sensitive, and feisty.  And now, you are 8 years old.

You are my goofy little guy, and 'little guy' is one of the most common terms of endearment we use for you.  I'm also fond of little dude.  Your body is still small, but your personality and your spirit have always been bigger than that body can contain.  Your smile is contagious, and once you warm up to people (it usually takes about 20-30 minutes), you are friendly and talkative.  When you were little, I used to take you to the mall and we would walk around, and it was such a joy because everyone who saw you caught your smile.

You are curious about the world, and you want to try everything.  Except pizza bubbles.  The other day you screamed because your slice had a crust bubble and insisted on removing it from youor plate before eating the rest.  Sometimes at night when you're not wound down enough to fall asleep yet, you just ask questions, most of which I don't know the answers to and some of which I do.  What is a nebula?  How old is the universe?  Why don't we dump our trash into volcanoes?  When was the sun made?  What killed the dinosaurs?  What if screens had never been invented?  Why hasn't there ever been a woman President?  When is Trump going to get arrested?  Why are there so many questions in life?

8 years later, you are still connected to me at the hip.  I don't remember it well, but when you were a baby, you used to refuse to sleep unless I was holding you.  Now, 4 feet tall,  you still scramble up into my lap on a daily basis for cuddles.

It's been just over a year since you started taking piano lessons, and gosh, you amaze us all.  You have picked it up so well.  You go to lessons twice a week for 30 minutes now, and this spring you have done the Washington State Music Teacher Adjudications where you played some memorized pieces for a visiting professor level musician, and Guild Auditions, and got glowing feedback from both.  Your spring awards recital is coming up in about a month, and I can't wait to see how far you've come since last year.  You look so serious, but also seriously cute, in your little black suit.  We're at the point now where you need a real piano so we're looking into getting some movers to come and bring the piano down from Grandma's house to our house for you to practice on.

You have also started taking art classes once a week after school, and you're always looking for blank paper to write or draw on.  Scott and I got you some Fimo clay for your birthday, and I'm sure you'll find something amazing to do with it.

You are reading A Wrinkle in Time, which is advanced for your age and slow going, but you saw the movie with Grandma Edie and really wanted it.  You spend a lot of computer time doing coding projects on Scratch.  You absorb things like a sponge, and it seems like you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to, and you put your mind to so many thing!  I recently took up cross-stitch, and you wanted to try it too so you've been working on your very own little fox in a 3" hoop.

You still get frustrated sometimes when you can't do something perfectly or exactly how you imagine it in your head, but it's gotten less so as you have gotten older.  I can't imagine where you will be in 5 years, 10 years.  I am eager and curious to see where you'll end up focusing your mind.

In October, we were able to move out of Grandma's house and into a little blue house down the street from her.  You have your own room for the first time in a long time, and now we have a little family, me, you, Scott, and Danny.  Scott has been the most amazing addition to our family, he takes you both to school and picks you up afterwards.  We have settled in pretty nicely, and on the weekends you go see Emily and Megan and have a great time there too.  We have a regular schedule and a rhythm and in the past year we have worked really hard to have more boundaries and structure for you and your brother.  It is so hard for me to say no to you guys or enforce things, even 12 years in, partly because things were so crazy and unstable for so long, and it was just the three of us.  Scott has been a huge help and support for me, and it has been sweet and wonderful and heart-filling to watch you both develop your own relationships with him.

The first 5 months of 2018 have gone by SO fast.  I feel like I blink and suddenly a month has gone by.  I'm a little worried that now that we aren't struggling as much that time will just fly by, and I'll look up and you'll suddenly be a grown up.  I have been feeling very nostalgic about both of your babyhoods recently, and it's just so hard to believe that you were once so small.

Parenting is hard.  There are struggles - I guess the biggest ones right now are trying to get you to sleep through the night and dealing with some physical things you've got going on.  But, we are slowly making progress on both fronts, and even though sometimes I feel like I'm failing, I think that you and Sam are mostly turning into good people.  Having Scott around has been really great, and having Megan around at Emily's just means more adults who care for you and teach you how to be a good human.

I love you so much.

Love,
Mom

PS You just told me when you grow up you want a Lamborghini Egoista! 

Firsts This Year!

First Live Event of Note:  Dan TDM Meet & Greet and Stage Show at the Paramount Theater

Favorites!

Favorite Book:  The Zack Files
Favorite Song:  Remember Me from Coco
Favorite Board Game:  The Game of Life
Favorite Video Game:  Roblox 
Favorite TV Show: Raising Hope
Favorite YouTubers:  Real Life Lore
Favorite Food:  Pizza
Favorite Dessert: Ice Cream
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House: Woods Coffee, Rocket Donuts, Spark Museum, Riding your bike
Favorite Subject at School: PE
Best Friends:  CJ, Parker, Parker, Caden, Tucker, AJ, Kobi

Seven
Six.
Five.
Four.
Three.
Two.
One.
Birth Story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Silent Dance

April 2018 - Rainbow Lodge Retreat Center - Silence Exercise

The sound of the creek, water flowing over stone.  The song of movement, water bringing life to the world.

The sunlight, bright.  After so many months of cumulus filter, now it is pure, warm, and energizing.

New growth is sprouting, leaves unfurling, green and slightly shiny like they have been carefully polished with wax.

The almost symmetrical chalices of tulip blossoms, tall and strong, glow red and yellow, edged in orange.  Inside, the surprise of a dark greenish blue star, soft pistol rises from it's midst.

Muted, thick green leaves spread wide and cradle dew as it imperceptibly heats and rejoins the sky.  Thick stalks sway lazily in a gentle breeze.

The sky is that perfect blue that you almost forget during winter.  Soft white clouds journey lazily across the gaps between the trees.

We are surrounded by pines, older than I can imagine.  Slow your gaze, and take in the fronds hanging from the branches.  They are dancing, slowly, lifted by a barely there current they swing away then back to where they began.

It is quiet, quiet by human terms.  In this peaceful reprieve, the world is still full of life and movement.

We are all part of a dance so much bigger than our voices.