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We could have said — no

Autumn brings thoughts of children grown old. November brings thoughts of loved ones gone…

The Motherless Muse

“There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said — no.
But somehow we missed it.”
Tom Stoppard

maia-flore-1 Maia Flore

That quote, or one very much like it, was tacked above my desk in the apartment where I lived during my senior year at the University.

I wrote it down on one of my study cards because of Carol’s brother Dave.

He fell asleep at the wheel.

Dave was just a year ahead of us in school, and we had been at a party together the week before.

The enormity of the fragility of life, at an age when we were supposed to be immortal, shook me, and put me into an early depression at a time when I was meant to be living high.

This quote returns to me now, 30 years later, when I visit another college friend. After another accident.

I sit…

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The cost of staying home

The cost of staying home in a country that doesn’t care for families…

Kelly & Lila

She is birthing something new. Bernie is her voice. (artist: George Redhawk)

I’m trying my best to stay focused, but this election cycle is so compelling.

I allow myself a 20 minute Bernie break, and then I shut my laptop and walk away.

But the world is conspiring.
SHE is conspiring.
To give birth.
To something new.

My Pandora shuffle of classical music is interrupted by a commercial. About daycare. How it hurts Vermont businesses when parents can’t work.

I woke with thoughts like this. About how the system is rigged.

I hate that expression of Bernie’s. The implication of victimhood.
Empowerment is my preference. (I’m a woman.)

The commercial thrusts me back to the blue arm chair in the small farm house where I nursed my first baby. Daycare so costly. Work barely profitable. His chubby hand twisting my hair. The thought of leaving him, unbearable.

I loved work.

It was then that I discovered how other…

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Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Takes a Village, Twenty-something, Uncategorized, Wisdom of Youth

a meditation on toxicity, part II

lion-face
Embroidery and graphite on fabric by Ana Teresa Barboza

Over the weekend, I wrote–Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity–and was surprised to see so many readers drawn in, particularly on a Saturday night.

I wrote about the sluggishness that came in the aftermath of my son’s initiation… into the family… tragedy. But I didn’t explain that I was equally weighed down by the residue of a respiratory infection. Loitering congestion. In my ears and throat and lymph nodes.

I realize now that this led me to the provocative image that I chose for the piece–or that chose me. After the piece was published, the image continued to play with my consciousness and I found myself responding to a request on Facebook:

Ok, Saturday-night-stay-in’s – if you post a picture i will write a poem about it. Just say, “Hi dug- pic poem, please.”

Kelly Salasin’s Kill Strategy
a pic poem by dug Nap
(For Kelly)

Anytime she’s
not so sure
kelly always goes
for the jugular

I was stunned by the violence of this tiny piece. Had the artist read my article? Was he judging me? Why hadn’t he taken a scientific angle on this anatomic study–which could have been on the kitchen table, on any given morning, of my childhood, before my father left for the operating room.

When I went in to see the doctor last week, she put me on the table, and massaged down my throat, coaxing toxins from my lymph nodes.

I hadn’t realized that I was so filled.
With rage.
Until my son read a single line from the email he received  from the relative.
(He refused to let me hear more.)
He was writing back.

I grabbed his laptop. I pleaded:

“Please don’t respond again. She’ll only be more venomous. She can’t handle boundaries.”

My son was amused by my passion. He insisted that I didn’t need to worry. That he would be okay.

So I shared the spontaneous visions that were occurring in my mind’s eye on his behalf:

Tearing flesh with fanged teeth.

Ripping jugular veins as a three-headed beast.

Becoming a thousand insects, devouring her brain.

Faced with the mythical proportions of his mother’s protective instinct, he turned toward his father, and calmly challenged his aloofness:

“Where are your feelings,” he asked.

“I am so used to this,” my husband said.

“But she cc-ed you on the Goddamn email,” my son said. “She fucking invited you to watch as she kicked your son in the face.”

My husband remained silent.

I was quieted too by my inability to help.

We went to bed numb.

As I settled under the covers, it occurred to me that my vision could potentially injure the Other, so I mustered metta to send to the One who had attacked my child.

A week has since passed, but the meditation on toxicity continues to force itself into another day. This morning, a Mary Oliver line comes to mind:

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

My gift is knowing that a boundary was crossed. Long ago. In my own family of origin. And I failed to defend it.

benzank-400x391My husband’s gift is the understanding that he never learned that boundaries were possible–among loved ones–from whom he must claim where he begins… and they end.

Our son wasn’t angry with either of us.
He was simply sad.
He wanted to understand:

How had we lived our entire lives without ever saying:

No.

~

(The previous post: Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity.
(The post after this one: toxicity, part III: legacy.)

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Whining for Christmas

I wonder what Mary had to say to God.

I think about her son. Reluctant to help out at a large family gathering, even with the smallest of miracles, distracted by his own purpose, like my boys.

Kelly & Lila

Kelly Salasin, 2013, all rights reserved Kelly Salasin, 2013, all rights reserved

“I can’t wait for Christmas!” my 15 year old says.  “How about you, Mom?”

I pause to consider.

“I can wait,” I say. “Christmas is as much the preparations for me.”

Then I laugh at myself. If this is true, why do I agonize over the preparations, and take joy on Christmas Day?

Labor and birth come to mind, and pregnancy. Perhaps suffering the preparation, even if its treasured, isn’t so absurd.

How then might I be gentler with myself in this knowing? (And how about others, do they deserve less of my griping too?)

My mind flashes to a classic birth scene–a screaming woman, a tightly gripped hand, the accusation: “You did this to me!”

I wonder what Mary had to say to God.

I think about her son. Reluctant to help out at a large family gathering, even with the smallest of…

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in the garden

The fear of leaving my children motherless…
Did you have it too?

Kelly & Lila

I found these words scribbled on the front of a magazine from 1999.
I was a new mother. Full of fear. In the garden. With the rain.

Poetry Notes, 1999 Poetry Notes, 1999

Sunday evening
When the sky was still filled with light,
And the rain had softened to a mist,
I went out to the garden to weed.

At first tentative,
With spade and trowel,
Bending and squatting:
There was the garden–And
there was Me.

But through the hours
Of sweat and fatigue, and the fear
Of leaving children motherless,
I entered the Garden.

I knelt in the soil,
Cupped dirt with my hands,
Shaped mounds
Around each
New plant.

The puddles, christened
Me, with mud, until
I surrendered
My separation.

Dirty
I became the Dirt
And the dirt became Me
And in this Homecoming,
the fear of death drained from my bones.

I was the joy of the Universe
Expanding, Alive

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Posted in College, Fragile Life, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Teens, Uncategorized, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Turnstile

revolving-door-1
We sent our very independent and surly 18 year old off to college last August, and he returned this past May, thrilled to be home.

We were taken aback by this deep appreciation for our small world given his desperation to escape it a year earlier, and we mistook this as a leap in maturity rather than a deep disappointment in his experience at college and in himself there.

His new plan is to take a semester’s leave and to volunteer in his field (International and Community Development) to help bring the excrutiating static classroom experience to life; and to shed light on how to move through with passion and meaning and integrity.

With this aim, he has been working with a non-profit organization in Central America to find a good fit. They have decided on a women’s artisan cooperative in Costa Rica in the same town that he visited with his Junior High class in what seems like another lifetime ago.

He leaves in two weeks.
He leaves.
He.

As parents, we’re not sure about our role; which has been increasingly true for a least a couple of years now.

I’m beginning to understanding that parenting, all of it, is not so much a nest as it is a reverse toll booth or a turnstile or one of those revolving doors through which others move from the outside to the inside to the outside again.

In this analogy, I find it important to distinguish the role from myself. This distinction seems to have growing relevance as our children become adults.

I want to communicate support and encouragement without robbing initiative and autonomy, and that is a tall order.

Breath has become one of my greatest tools. And silence. And listening.

(But just in case, click here for his upcoming trip. Pass it a long if you’re so inclined.
Just don’t tell him that I asked.)