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Before Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day less than a week away, it feels appropriate to name and honor our larger, longer mother-line: the women and lineage from which we descend. To do so, the words of a woman who does this better than most – Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

It is not intuition which is broken, but rather the matrilineal blessing on intuition, the handing down of intuitive reliance between a woman and all females of her lines who have gone before her – it is that long river of women that has been
dammed. ~ Women Who Run With the Wolves

For me, the river’s very source and starting point, is Eve. To be sure, there are historical narratives of women that predate hers and it must be acknowledged as “the beginning” in the Western world (whether we want such, or not).

And given how much time I’ve spent over the years working with her story in particular, Estes’ words take me right back to her yet again.

The ways in which her story has been told throughout time has, sadly, caused us to lose the blessing that is ours, to break the beautiful and bountiful line of woman to woman, and to cause distrust in our own birthright and brilliance.

Rather than name, yet again, how this has happened, let’s talk about how to change it; how to bind up your (personal and historical) wounds; how to step forward in the power and strength that is already yours. Here’s the 3-step plan:

1) Heal the line to heal yourself.
2) Find the women – past and present – who long to bless you.
3) Undamn the river and let your too-often-damned intuition flow.

1) Heal the line to heal yourself:
One of the most powerful ways forward is to go back, to do the work of unearthing tales told (or not) in harmful, silencing, shaming ways and invite them into the light; to track down our lineage, to know and love the stories (and the women) who have shaped us, to find a sense of “home” and solidarity in all those who have gone before. When we can heal their past, we are the ones who are healed; we are the ones transformed.

2) Find the women – past and present – who long to bless you.
When we re-imagine, re-tell, and redeem these women’s stories, we are able to be blessed by them. Eve, yes, and so many more. Sojourner Truth. Emily Dickinson. Virginia Woolf. George O’Keefe. Frida Kahlo. Audre Lorde. All these and then some who long to share their wisdom, their perspective, their voice, their comfort, their companionship. And what of your great-great-great grandmothers and the rich female line that runs right through you? Can you imagine their words on your behalf? Will you? Even in places of deep, unwarranted pain (sometimes at these very women’s hands), will you imagine the words they would have spoken if they could; if they had been blessed? And who are the women in your everyday world who would readily and willingly offer you the same if only you would ask? If only you would tell them that you need them. If only you would trust that they are trustworthy and at your beck-and-call for support, kindness, encouragement, and yes, the blessing you most deeply long to have.

3) Undamn the river and let your too-often-damned intuition flow.
When you stand in the river of all the women who have gone before you, in the ever- tugging current of those who swirl around you even now; when you let the rapids carry you; when you float in a place of buoyancy and ease – supported by the stories that make up your legacy and the faces that smile on you every day – it is far more likely that you will trust that you already know what to do, what to say, how you feel, what you want.

Really, who are you not to trust your intuition, your story, your very self when standing in such an illustrious and stunning stream of women; when soaked to the skin with the stories of women – past and present – who just wait to be seen, known, heard, and honored and who long to honor you?

It is my hope and prayer that as Mother’s Day approaches you will feel and believe in the matrilineal blessing that IS yours…and that is yours to give to others.

May it be so.

 

*****

 

One of the ways in which these women and their stories continue to speak is through SacredReadings – my imagining of their voice on your behalf. There is a woman – part of your matrilineal line – who longs to bless you even now. A perfect Mother’s Day gift for yourself…and other women you love.

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

I’ve been thinking a lot, even more than I normally do, about my daughters. About the trials and tribulations that, by necessity it would seem, visit every life. About how each and every one of these pains feel insurmountable to them right now. They are not. But neither of them know that yet.

So this: an open letter to my girls (and maybe to you, as well).

Sweet girl:

I know you hold a picture in your mind as to how your story “should” go, at the very least, how you want it to go. It might be one you began to create when you were so very young (which doesn’t seem all that long ago to me) – nurtured and nuanced over these past years: you’ll be safe, you’ll b  nurtured, you’ll be protected, you’ll be loved. It might be more specific: the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the perfect job-body-marriage-bank account. And it might be all of these and then some – including a strong-and-sustained sense of what, quite frankly, just seems right and fair: happiness, ease, satisfaction, fun, and a lack of struggle and pain. There’s nothing wrong with these pictures. They are beautiful manifestations of your desire, your longing for all that’s possible, your hope.

But reality doesn’t always (if often) comply. Life doesn’t always (if often) go as planned,
dreamed, or even pictured.

And when that dissonance arrives? I know, sweet girl: it hurts.

“So?” you ask. “Now what?”

Maybe, for now, allowing the hurt is what matters most. It’s completely acceptable: feeling sad and forlorn, lost and confused, discombobulated by the curves thrown your way. Yes, for now.

“For how long?”

I wish I knew.

But here’s what I do know:

You let go, or at least loosen your grip on how it all “should” be. Even more, you hold on – with all the conviction and determination you can muster. Yes, this I
know for sure: you hold on to you.

That is enough. Because you are.

You are strong enough to weather any set-back – including this one. You are brave enough to manage every emotion – whether fleeting or seeming to take up roost. You are tenacious enough to grab onto the tail end of hope and wrangle it back into its rightful place in your psyche, your perspective, your present tense. You are tender enough to make room for grief while trusting its healing power. You are bold enough to get up again tomorrow, to stand tall, to face all that awaits (within and without), and to step forward – no matter how tentatively – into the life that is yours, the one that spreads out before you in all its unknown, in all its possibility, and yes, right now, in all its poignant ache.

I know you aren’t buying most of this, that you don’t quite believe me. Not yet. That’s
OK.

In the meantime, you can hold on to me. Because I do know a few things that I’ll hold in trust and reserve until you are ready to try them on and take them in:

  • Things don’t always go as planned and they do get better. I promise.
  • What feels like forever, isn’t. I promise.
  • What seems a mess, might very well be, but it will turn into beauty. I promise.
  • Every bit of this is part of your story, a chapter you’ll look back on fondly (eventually) – aware that it formed you in profound and powerful ways. I promise.
  • It won’t always hurt as much as it does right now. I promise.
  • Though you doubt me in this moment, I’m right about this: you are more than enough. I promise.

Little consolation, I get it. Still, my heart on your behalf. Still and again, hold on, sweet girl. When things don’t go as planned you can rest assured that you are yet to live into a picture, a story, and a life beyond imagining.

How can I say such a thing with any degree of con dence, let alone sanity? Well, almost exclusively because of you.

When I was your age, I could not have possibly imagined a picture, story, or life that was big enough, vast enough, amazing enough to include you. I could not have
dreamed this big or believed I could love this deeply. And I could not have known that I was enough to bear my own disappointments, shattered dreams, mislaid plans, and broken hearts. But I was. And I am.

As are you.

So hold on, sweet girl. I promise: it’s all going to be OK.

Champagne on a Tuesday

My oldest daughter, Emma Joy, turns 21 today. Yes, Halloween. I can still picture her, just placed in my arms, with her hospital-donned hat; it was tied with two bows: one strand of black yarn and one strand of orange.

So many things have changed since that all- night of labor and blessed morning delivery; so many experiences, emotions, stories, “life,” that have made her into the miraculous, amazing, and powerful-and- tender presence and person that is her. The baby. The girl. The teenager. The college student. The young woman.

But this has not changed: I am as taken and overwhelmed by her now as I was 21 years ago; as grateful and humbled and thrilled and yes, as teary and emotional.

I will pour myself a glass of champagne today.

And though the two of us are not together, I will toast her – knowing (and thrilled) that she is enjoying toasts of her own, on her own, with friends who see her for the miraculous and amazing and powerful-and-tender woman she is, friends who love her deeply.

In a few days, I will drive to her college town. We will raise a glass together – her now of legal drinking age, me picking up the tab.

I find this hard to believe, hard to imagine: how could this day possibly be here? But then, that’s exactly what I felt the day I found out I was pregnant…after years of infertility and disappointment.

It is appropriate and right to not wait until Champagne Friday or our across-the-table presence from one another, to offer this toast; personalized and perfect for my now-grown girl:

You have done enough, Emma Joy. You have listened enough. You have said enough. You have cared enough. You have created enough. You have given enough. You have stood for enough. You have loved enough.

You ARE ENOUGH! Always and in every way.

And every bit of this was true the moment my eyes met yours, 21 years ago.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Oh, how I love you.

*clink*

Happy 19th Birthday, Abby!

Your birthday. Nineteen. Somehow, it feels different this year.

As I was thinking about what to write today, I went back and looked at what I wrote 10 years ago – on your 9th birthday. Amazingly (or maybe not) it all remains true. Not that different after all.

…In the middle of the night on October 7, 1998, the doctor had to tell you to slow down; that we weren’t ready for you to make your appearance yet: so eager were you to burst into the world. That has not changed.

You continue to burst into my world (and that of many others) with eagerness and full of life. I love that about you.

What has changed? This past year has been one of much change for you and with it, your own testing of emotions, relationships, your very strength and resilience. You have grown as a friend – grieving over the hurt that others can cause, longing for fairness and justice, deeply wanting your intent and heart to be known and understood, standing loyally by those who might be overlooked or not chosen. I love that about you.

You have struggled with your own emotions – the things that hurt, that seem unfair, that don’t make sense. You have raged, wept, sat quietly, and thought things through, often without resolution, without available answers, without any fix. And still you have laughed, played, danced, sang, created, and loved. I love that about you.

Though not through teachers I would have desired, you have learned about disappointment, loss, and heartache. As much has changed in our family you have had the amazing ability to survive ambivalence – letting good and bad, confusion and resolution, celebration and mourning, joy and pain all be true simultaneously. It has been difficult. And it continues. And you wake up each morning (after a bit of prodding) ready to face a new day. I love that about you.

As I have walked through this past year’s days with you, Abby, I have been amazed at your tenacity, your demand for the good, your endless hope, your tender heart, your stamina, your strength, your loyalty, your sense of humor, …your laughter, your singing, your love. I love all these things about you…

In the middle of the night 9 years ago you burst into my life with a cry that left no one doubting your will to live, your unmistakable presence, your indelible, undeniable mark. That is even more true now than then. What is also more true now, is that I love you more deeply and more profoundly than I did then. You have that effect. I am entranced – just as I was the moment I held you for the very frst time. I love you.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Yes, Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

I’m stunned, humbled, and overjoyed (always and infinitely) by the plumb-line that is you – through and through. Oh, how much stronger and clearer that has become in the 10 years since I wrote those words – and in powerful, palpable ways in just the
past few weeks since you flew the nest; certainly, without a doubt, in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

YOU are the gift to me – always have been, always will be.

I love you, Abby.

My Empty Nest

I can hardly believe the title of this post, the truth and heft of just three small words, the fact that they actually apply to me in just a few more hours.

My youngest, Abby Evangeline, leaves for college today.

In just a few more hours we will pack up my car and her dad’s truck. She’ll ride with me as we caravan north to Seattle
and arrive at her dorm at least 15 minutes before her assigned move-in time. “I want to be early, mom.”

I will help her carry pillows and rugs and a duvet cover and matching sheets and an adorable ottoman that doubles for storage and a mini-fridge and an over-the-door mirror and boxes and boxes of toiletries/supplies and boxes and boxes of clothes and even more.

I will carry my heart – tenderly, gingery, gently – because I know the smallest stumble, the tiniest tumble, will cause it to break. And I will shelter hers – because I still can – for just a few more hours.

She’s ready. It’s time. She knows it – despite her understandable and allowed fears, uncertainty, and edge-of-sadness.

I’m ready, too. It’s time.

But still…

How can one ever really be ready for this?

What guidebook or manual exists to walk me through even these next few hours – not to mention days, weeks, months, and years?

There is no such thing. Instead, I will listen to my barely-beating heart as it catches at her smallest sigh. I will trust my shaking hands to wipe away both of our tears. I will watch my now slightly-more frail body get back in the car and drive “home” to the nest that awaits.

Leaves. Sticks. Twigs. Feathers. Bits of string. And empty; both birds now flown.

I will circle, circle, circle…not ready to land.

Abby has no guidebook or manual either, but her heart beats strong and fierce even as she tentatively steps, tentatively leans forward, tentatively lets go…and flies. As she must. As she can.

Of this I am certain: she will land.

But me? How? And where, exactly? Must I? Can I? Will I? I’m less certain.

 

*****

 

The lines from one of my favorite children’s books, read more times than I can count, circles, circles, circles in my mind:

She was almost too sleepy to think any more. Then she looked beyond the thorn bushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be further than the sky.

“I love you right up to the MOON,” she said, and closed her eyes.

“Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare. “That is very, very far.”

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into her bed of leaves. She leaned over and kissed her good night. Then she lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK.” (All pronouns admittedly changed…)

She feels almost that far away already…the moon…and we haven’t yet left this bed of leaves. Just a few more hours…

 

*****

 

I expect to dream of flying tonight.

Of this I am certain: it’s a long way to the moon and back.

And it is there that I will go, for now. Until I am ready to return. Until I can land-and-stay in this empty nest. Until my heart is yet-again steadied by the joy, elation, and in finite-and- endless gratitude I feel for all she’s been, all she is, all she’s yet to be.

Of this I am certain: in just a few more hours I won’t be able to lean over and kiss her goodnight.

Instead, I will hope that she looks up, sees the moon from her brand new (and far-from-empty) nest, catches a glimpse of me as I circle, circle, circle, and hears me whisper with a smile, “I love you, sweet girl. Always. Now soar!”

My Heart (Monitor)

I am hooked up to a heart monitor right now. It’s mobile – just four electrodes connected to various and particular locations on my chest with wires that connect to a small timer-like thing that’s currently in my pocket – even as I sit here and type.

Other than the fact that I definitely know it is there, I barely know it is there.

I’m hooked-up because my heartbeat is erratic. The doctor asks me what I’m feeling. He listens with his stethoscope. He has me take deep breaths, “in and out, please.” He explains what a normal heart does and what mine is doing – which may or may not be normal. He tells me that he’d also like to do an ultrasound – just so he can see the heart itself and make sure there is nothing damaged or structurally problematic. Then he talks to me about a couple of possibilities: 1) This is happening for no apparent reason and may just go away; “it happens more than you’d think,” he says. 2) My heart is getting older and sometimes, for some people, needs help – more help, like not just a 24-hour monitor help. I’m opting for and planning on #1.

It’s somewhat paradoxical: the way in which stress impacts the heart. And yet here I am, stressed because I’m worrying about my heart. I’m trying not to, of course; trying to trust that my heart is simply making itself known to me in a very particular way, wanting me to be mindful. And once assured that I have given it due attention, it will go back to beating steady and strong, steady and strong, steady and strong.

May it be so.

*******

Today is August 1.

Emma leaves in early September for her 3rd (and possibly final) year at Western Washington University and Abby leaves three weeks later for Seattle Pacific University for her 1st year away. My heart(s) – leaving; the two hearts to whom I have given my heart – leaving; the two hearts who have filled my heart and enabled its strength – leaving.

I’m hard-pressed to not believe these two realities are interconnected. Could my physical heart be feeling this tug, this pull? Could my physical heart be beating out-of-sync as it tries to incorporate this lifealtering transition, tries to find equilibrium and balance, tries to determine its rhythm in the absence of my two girls? Could my physical heart already ache? Could my physical heart feel grief that my mind does not yet know?

My mind says, “It’s all going to be OK. You’ve been preparing for this season, this time, these goodbyes. Your girls are ready. You are ready. All will be well.”

My mind is wise, to be sure; but it doesn’t know everything. (I have to keep this in mind…and in heart.)

There is nothing I need to do about any of this.

Indeed, even the medical establishment confirms this unwittingly when they inform me the first follow-up appointment available isn’t until early October. “If we see anything serious in the monitoring, we’ll bring you in sooner; otherwise, that’s the best we can do.” Little comfort. And bizarre. The significance of the timing is not lost on me: when I return to the doctor, the girls will officially be “gone.”

There is nothing I need to say about any of this.

No pronouncement. No vows. No promises. No “if I only had 1 year to live” plans. No. Just awareness. Just presence. Just this.

Beat-beat——————–beat——-beat——-beat. The two quick beats, followed by the long space-and-pause are what keep calling me back to my heart – the discomfort, the impossible-to-ignore “flip” within.

My two girls, quickly gone, followed by the long space of just me – it keeps calling me back to my heart’s ache and its strength, its impossible-to-deny will and stamina and love. It will keep beating. I will keep living. Just differently – with a bit of arrhythmia – at least for a time as I adjust to this out-of-sync, not quite correct, and not quite steady way of being that waits for me.

*******

When I was pregnant, two hearts beat within me. I cared more about my daughter’s than mine. Hers was all I wanted to hear, all I wanted to see on the ultrasound, all I wanted to watch when hooked up to countless monitors during labor. Keep beating, little heart. Keep living, little girl. Come into my arms. Come home.

And now you are leaving. Both of you.

Three hearts have beat within me. Not always in sync, by any means. Hardly steady all the time. But all here. All beating. All together. Now, in just weeks, one heart remains and now, strangely, beats alone. Mine. Erratic. Unsteady. Imbalanced.

It’s no wonder I’m hooked to this monitor.