01-01-23 9:57 am PST Location: Central Valley, CA Home. Bed.
My bed has the detritus of the frenzied clean up leading up to our NYE nacho bar, game playing, football- watching extravaganza aka guests are coming.
Clothes, books, clean socks and underwear straight from the dryer. Flowing over to the chest at the end of the bed to the floor, a carpet of not taken//chosen clothes strewn about from the furious packing for the week long #vittiavilachristmasvacation in the Eastern Sierras.
Adding to this are the clothes I did take but did not wear. In this mix are water bottles, mismatched shoes (their counterparts in another pile, perhaps on the other side of the bed?). Brushes, Knick knacks that no one could find a home for–why not Mom’s room? No one waited for an answer. They threw-placed-piled this and that. Everywhere. Then there are my Xmas gifts, unwrapped, hastily bundled into leftover prime boxes as we prepared to leave for the trip. Of course, more books. The extra dog bed, an extendable fan/cobweb cleaner, and papers. Mail. Writing.
A tangle of charging cords meet my toes as I slide off the bed to survey the things that have collected in my bedroom after the power clean turned project clean that resulted in a filing cabinet being dumped in the very center of my office (down the hall) along with stacks of taxes going back 20 years piled next to the remains of the many old filing systems that have been attempted and forgotten over the years. All on my writing desk. Oh, good. More excuses for not writing.
People, I don’t have glitter and confetti and used champagne classes on this bright , blustery New Year morning. I’ve got piles of wondering–questions on happiness and where it originates and how can I contain it. There are few answers to be found in the shit flooding my office, my bedroom, my psyche.
On my bed: Ben-Kenobi, our 7 month old, 65 pound puppy. Patchy Topaz ( #3 in hierarchy of our 3 cats) who I’ve battled all night long to avoid her faster-than-lightening tongue in its quest to lick any exposed body part. My 18 year old daughter turned college know-it-all.
We’re here. Piled on top of one another as the clothes et. al. rise up like the silty waters flooding our Central Valley streets– threatening to overwhelm.
Well, me. Just me. I’m the threatened one. No one else cares.
It’s time to get up, again. The first early, early get up was to let Ben out and feed everyone. I started a pot of coffee and a pan of lentils.
I opened the front door to survey the aftermath and the New York Times lay on my mat. Some hardworking person delivered this to my door and I feel guilty. Did they wade in? I trembled as the cold assaulted my legs, bared by the oversized Steelers t-shirt that I am wearing.
Coffee is done, lentils simmering, I read the arts and book sections, sipping my coffee in the rarefied air of a clean living room. SmokeyMagic (#1 in hierarchy of 3) , our ex-feral cat, jumps up and perches next to me. Reminding me that her wet food with fish oil has not been dished up. I advise of the dry food that is available to be had in the garage.
I tell myself: I will write. Instead I am here, in the chaos of my room, fighting the over population of my bed and a head full of the many things to do on this second to last day of my vacation.
I do that every day and fail.
I resolve, each morning, not to flip off shitty drivers on the road. I fail.
I resolve to write morning pages at 5am. I fail.
No, I do not intend to make grandiose decisions about my intentions.
Rather, I will try to clean my room. Hang my work clothes hoping to avoid the hair that Ben sheds. (Why isn’t he bald?)
“Can I schedule a time to wonder?” I wondered this morning as I finally sat down to write.
I had a hard time falling asleep last night.
I was excited about getting 5 WHOLE DAYS OFF.
In my head I can see time stretching before me. No deadlines or emails. The garage was cleaned last weekend. The laundry is almost caught up. Just the thought of me doing me got my heart racing.
I lay in bed trying to sleep but it was NOT HAPPENING. I wanted so badly to wake bright eyed and ready to have an amazing and unfettered and creatively wondrous day. Instead of sleeping I watched datelines until my eyelids drooped heavy and the last thing, I remember hearing was about some ex-hockey player getting life for killing his wife.
As a result of my bad decisions in the face of my insomnia I woke sluggish. My eyes opened reluctantly at the time they do every morning which is somewhere between 4:30 and 5. Smokey Magic started walking all over me, her purring getting louder and louder the longer I stayed under the covers.
The smell of coffee walked me downstairs and the anticipation of drinking a hot cup of coffee without the drums of work in the distance, woke me.
I turned on the Christmas tree lights their seductive wink masking the chaos. As I heated Smokey’s breakfast. Yes. You read that correctly. I pop her wet food into the micro for 7 seconds so it is like eating a fresh kill, or so I imagine. She rubbed all over my legs in anticipation. Smokey contentedly ate her “fresh killed” chicken and I stalked down my favorite mug and created the perfect concoction of raw sugar and cream mixed until the coffee was a dark caramel.
Steam swirled around as I bent over to unlatch Smokey’s door and I sipped perfection as I took the stairs back to my snow-white comforter.
One of my favorite things to do is to watch a movie very early in the morning, before anyone else is up, sipping coffee, snuggled into my blankets.
I started to unwind despite the guilt and unease and I let myself get enfolded into Midnight Sky on Netflix. I just finished the book and have been eagerly awaiting its premier. It did not disappoint. I found myself crying with so many questions running through my head…
What kind of American am I? Was one of the questions that popped into my head as I watched the credits roll. What kind of woman? Are Humans essentially good? What will happen to us? Can we save the planet? Just as I was getting up to write what I was thinking the sound of the kids calling out to one another from their beds wafted down the hallway.
Outside my window it was still densely gray but here and there the outline of a branch peeked around the fraying edges of a fog still reluctant to make way for sunrise.
With a sigh, I reversed course and headed back downstairs to prep the Prime Rib for tomorrow. Just a little bit longer, I promised myself.
Prime Rib scored and salted and dry aging in the fridge I headed back upstairs. You’d think with all this stair climbing I would be as lithe as a gazelle. I wish.
The kids were still in bed ,half asleep. I knew I had to hurry if I wanted to have some private time for prayer and writing. But just as soon as I was done praying, the kids were up, and it was time for breakfast. Resentment kept time with my heartbeat.
I wanted to fight the resentment off and keep the calm that had filled me after praying so I grabbed Mary Oliver’s Devotions. I let the kids choose and they chose While I Am Standing Here and I read it out loud as the they ate. The words rose and fell in a steady motion matching the gentle sway of her thoughts. Mary takes ordinary actions and turns them into a melody.
That poem asks what prayer is and invites you to answer—privately. She conjures images of stillness and I could see it resonate with the kids.
After reading I realized that my pleasure at sharing poetry over breakfast was partially derived from my idea of what it looked like to others. The picture I had created was for some invisible audience that would approve. GOOD MOM. I could hear them say.
I sat there with this other audience observing the dining table disarray. It was missing its special Christmas cloth as one of the kids had spilled milk all over it the night before. Two chairs do not match the other two chairs. Pencils, tape, scissors, wrapping paper share space with the butter dish and jar of jam. The tally of what was wrong with me and this moment rolled through my thoughts like a ticker tape at the bottom of a newscast.
Maybe there won’t be presents next year….
You won’t get all your projects done for your job and your boss will be disappointed…
The kids are fucked up and it’s your fault…
The house is crumbling around your ears…
I wish I could make a magic potion that I could drink and then presto…I would be free.
I pulled myself together thinking of the peace of my meditation before my prayers. Of the sounds of birds chirping as they fluttered through the tree. The sparkle of dew on the plant I had watered. The dried orchid blossom inside the hand carved wooden box on my writing desk. The soft feel of the polished stones of my rosary. The silence as I plugged into the universe and felt its vibrancy and light.
I mopped up the yolk of my eggs and savored the last bite of my bacon and with my mouth half full suggested that the kids open one of their presents.
They smiled and joked as they unwrapped their gift from Smokey. Smokey is bad at gift wrapping, I explained to the audience.
And then the ticker tape started back up. So much to clean…I haven’t written yet…I am wasting my free time…my room is dirty
I marched myself to my office and pushed myself into my writing chair. Sit down. Shut up. Just write.
There is never going to be a day that everything is done at the office. There will always be cobwebs on the Haunted Nativity that was set up 11 years ago and hasn’t been dusted since. Someone will most likely spill milk on the special Christmas Table Cloth again. There is always going to be chaos and a long list of chores.
The wonders in my life can be found in the choices I make with the time I am given.
Showing up is not an easy thing to do. I proved that by flaking out on myself for years.
And, NO, that isn’t HIS fault.
It is MINE.
I’ve been taking a long hard look at what showing up means. After listening and reading and scrolling I saw that showing up means a lot of different things, to a lot of different people. I knew I needed to figure this out for myself. How could I know that I had failed, if I didn’t know what I was failing at?
For me, showing up means showing up for yourself, your kids, your community…there’s a lot more to it than facials and bubble baths.
I forgive myself for not showing up for me for years. I did the best I could, at the time. Was it my personal best? Nope. But it was the best I had. All those times that I RSVP-ed: NO to my life suck, but I can’t get a do-over.
Shanyn, I am sorry you let yourself down and fucked off some really important things.
I forgive you.
The alternative is a lifetime of recrimination. Oh, wait. I’ve already done that for half my life.
I forgive myself for that, too.
Here’s the thing, Showing Up is also about asking the hard questions and answering honestly.
It means taking responsibility for my actions, my choices, and my lack of action despite how bad my life has been.
When I woke this morning, I felt too tired to get out of bed, so I lay there, and ignored the vibration that calls me to meet the sun as it rises. My eyes were heavy and somewhere in me I knew the day was going to be too hard to hold. I considered letting it hold itself. But, my orange planner had WRITING: BOOK 2, written just above my accountability homework.
Showing Up means not letting yourself off the hook when you have important things to do.
I got up and fed Smokey Magic, who had stayed out all night, and was doing the rub of shame on the screen door. I let her in and asked her if she had a good time, because really– #yolo .
I took it slow and I left myself alone. I didn’t chide me for not wanting to go have coffee outside in my chair, facing the sun.
I boiled the water and ground the beans. Because, showing up for myself means making the best damn cup of coffee that I can. Every day, but most especially on the weekends.
I felt a heaviness in my chest and my heart beat a warning. Part of my unease, I confided to the orchids, is that Monday is my 18th anniversary.
Showing up means facing the hard shit. The kids are with their Dad and I am ripe for a cry fest. A 48-hour layover in MY BED and that would be OKAY, if that was one of the honest answers to the hard question. Unfortunately, if I did that it would be a cop out. Showing up sucks.
I had already let myself off the hook yesterday by laying on my bed, crying, and eating two too many pieces of chocolate cake. Instead of yoga and writing. Though, the bills written in bright orange in my planner, demanded that I wipe the ganache from the corners of my mouth and face my fears.
I had reluctantly gotten my files and my budget and turned on my laptop. No matter how many times I run the numbers, I just don’t have enough. It has been truly daunting taking over all the bills and the overhead, all by myself. It means that I am budgeted down to the last 26 cents in my wallet.
July tried its personal best to kick my ass. A broken washing machine, glass in the garbage disposal, new rotors and brakes…FUCK ME. There were several days I wanted to crawl into bed like I used to and just stay there. Curtains drawn against the mail box and the overwhelming demands of the world.
I didn’t. I got up every day and went to work.
The stress feels like a weighted blanket that I can’t take off. I stopped myself and took a breath every time I wanted to yell at the kids and asked, where is this coming from? Okay. That’s a lie. There were several times I just yelled. Then, I took a breath and asked myself the hard question: Am I taking my stress out on them? The answer was obvious as most truth is and so, I apologized for my assholeness. Then I asked them not to be assholes. Because both things can be true at the same time.
Two days of letting myself off the hook would mean that I am also not working toward my dream of finishing my second book and doing the work on selling the first one. I thought about the question I have written above my desk, copied from a friend—Where will you be in 10 years?
I drank my coffee and acknowledged my sadness. Then I went on my bike ride and didn’t go the extra mile that I had planned. I promised myself that I would do that tomorrow. And I will. Because I am gaining trust by following through.
When I got home my phone rang and when I answered it was my father. I have spoken to him twice in 18 years, counting this morning.
My father, who I have been estranged from for most of my life, is dying of cancer. About a year ago my estranged half siblings called to tell me the horrible news, along with the rules and regulations regarding how they wanted to control my talking and seeing my Dad. They are a great example of letting your kids be assholes and then they grow up and become adult assholes. They tried to co-opt my Dad’s diagnosis into their drama and drag me right along with them.
I explained to them calmly and clearly. NO. I won’t go pay homage to my father knowing he regrets nothing and no I won’t come over there so you all can take your unhappy lives and fear and anger out on me.
I took a week and let myself grieve for the fact that my father would not be calling someday to say he was sorry, that he loved me, and the he would love to see me. No, my father wanted my attention and my body so he could reassure himself that he wasn’t the asshole who fucked up his kids lives on a grand scale.
Showing up for myself meant that I gave myself permission not to go see my Dad and to opt out of dealing with his kids. It also meant ignoring their bullshit regulations and calling my Dad, anyway. I listened to him that day, as he went through all that he was going through, without saying one mean thing. After he was done telling me the horror of his experience, I wished him well and got off the phone.
I cried for two days and then went on with my already fucked up life.
Today, he called to tell me that he is much worse. His voice was older than I remembered and when he called himself my Dad, another piece of my heart tore off. He was matter of fact, running through his cancer experience. Each day that he lives is a miracle and he is thankful to Jesus for that. He has help and people are caring for him. It is, what it is, he repeated so many times that I realized he was trying to convince himself, not me.
I waited for him to finish and then I told him what I have never said. Speaking of Jesus, I began. At the end of what I told him, which I will not share here, I told him that I forgave him and that I loved him and that I am so sorry that he is going through this. My voice shook as I have not told my father that I love him in at least 30 years.
That is when the heaviness on my chest lifted. Tears slid down my face as he responded to my words and we got off the phone promising to talk soon.
I showed up for my Dad. That was hard.
As I sat there, the silence of my house surrounding me, I realized that I needed to face another hard thing. Something that I have not wanted to really bring out and look at in the light. That is, how the relationship with my Dad has affected my relationship with my husband. This is especially difficult because Monday is coming, a looming reminder of the destruction of my hopes and dreams.
Showing up for myself means examining my marriage for the ways that I let it down. The ways I let Him down. It also means that I am working toward forgiving myself for letting him and our marriage down. For letting myself down.
It means that I must sit in this pain, accept it, and then move through it until I get to the other side– no matter what that looks like.
And I am fucking scared to take my marriage out and examine it honestly. I am sure to see things that I know I could have done better. I am sure to be shamed by things that I have said. It is so much easier to make him the villain. After all, he is such a fabulous villain.
But, many years ago, when I was in a yearlong women’s shelter for abused women, they asked me some question when I first got there. They told me not to answer them but to think about it, and answer myself.
Why did you love him? Why did you choose him? Why did you choose to stay? This was by no means an excuse for what that past man did to me. Nor is this an excuse for the things that my husband has said and done to me.
What it is, is asking the hard questions and answering honestly. This is about healing and forgiving. This is about taking account of my own heart and becoming connected with my soul.
I choose to believe that this portion of my path needs to be lived. It is the lesson I am learning. I spent so much time living for someday. I want to live today.
Even if it means that today is about crying.
For my Dad.
For my marriage.
It also means that I will let myself have two pieces of my most excellent Chocolate Ganache Cake, while I lay indolently on my lonely bed, and watch Swedish noir.
I looked up at my feet. They looked tired, my toe nail
polish older than my first-born child, dead skin scaling my arches, and a scratching
scab revealed the fungi problem my doctor can’t solve without some weird pill
that causes way too many side effects.
My eyes welled up as I shifted into the next pose. Head to
knee, breath out, head back, breath in, and my shame all over me—inside. Tears
flowed down into my ears and hairline and I cried out once—a sharp keening.
I’m sorry I wept, my mind’s tide rolling the images, one after the other—all of my mistakes.
I’m sorry for not coming here, to my sacred place, because
it is what heals me and what scares me most.
For the Blackberry Chocolate Chip Talenti Gelato that I was sure “I will have only 5 spoonful’s…each day. “ Savoring it judiciously, the prize for being such a circumspect and whole-fully in control person. I am so sorry that, instead, despite having put it back in the freezer, that the thought of it crept into each and every moment and that finally, I consumed it and even licked the spoon like the unrepentant whore that I am. While I am at it, I am sorry for the extra mashed potatoes with the mushroom sauxe on Sunday. And the two lollipops at last week’s evening class. And for not going to the gym and oh wait…there is some other stuff too. I’m sorry for the many days I didn’t ride my bike and when I did on Sunday, for getting M to pick me up rather than ride home in the rain. I am sorry for not recycling the garbanzo beans can and for throwing the snail across the yard rather than placing it lovingly in its special snail preserve WELL AWAY FROM MY SQUASH PLANT.
My tears coursed out my shame and guilt. Through bleary eyes
I saw my bare legs rough with stubble and thought about how I had considered
taking pictures of my yoga routine so IG could see what a virtuous yogi I was and
felt my cheeks flame at the need for such affirmation. Then, I felt shame for the shame I felt, when I thought about why I didn’t want to take pictures of
my body. Because I didn’t want anyone to think the horrible thoughts that I
did, about me.
All the while I continued the flow, my breath slowing with
my tears, eyes closed focusing within. Listening to my muscles. My lower back
tight with sedentary sediment, my neck and shoulders stiff with money burdens,
my waist tired and bloated from holding sadness. I receive each dispatch, open
to the truth of each confidence. The empathy came welling up from somewhere raw
and new, replying with love and care.
I slowed, moving without judgement, with patience,
discarding the lofty goals and high expectations that had been set by ego. In this
empty space there was light from my soul, so much wiser than my big-mouth mind.
Finishing, I rocked to seated crisscrossed position and
crossed my thumbs over one another, pointing my index fingers down—assuming Ksepani
Mudra also know as Uttara Bodhi. The Mudra for Letting Go. I expelled the
torrent of shame, slow and steady, the current mild but not meandering.
I was left empty of all but my gratitude. Hands to heart, I
thanked God and myself for being there-here-everywhere.
It turns out that it is much harder than I thought to build a site and write my very first Finally Friday blog post…all in one day. I had wanted it to be just in time for Mother’s Day, a particularly difficult holiday for me…But.
But, there was a mix up at GoDaddy which meant that domain mapping couldn’t be completed. A fancy name for writing some numbers into 3 fields, which then points my domain name to WordPress. But pointing name servers couldn’t be done because no one could find my domain name. *Insert pretend scream.* To keep my mind off things as I waited I took deep breaths, drank water, watched stupid t.v., and scrolled through twitter reading stupid and horrifying political posts.
But, while in the middle of one of my numerous customer service phone calls, I received a very bad, no good, horrible kind of text with terrible news. Which, I will keep to myself for the moment because I am still thrashing it around my head and my heart is trying to figure out what to do with news.
But, I came down with the flu that I picked up from chaperoning a Band Trip to Disneyland. Note to self: Do not do that again.
But, the cursor is blinking on my Mother’s Day story and I have to go slice some ginger and lemon, twirl some honey onto a spoon, and drop it all into a mug to await the whistle of the kettle, because my throat hurts–from arguing with the kids about cleaning the entry way.