Saturday, June 30, 2012

Firsthand Paths That Lead Where I Can't Go

When Tom was little, sitting on my lap in the rocker that Jim Johnson gave us, I would hold his hand and tell him how, for just a small part of his life, his hand would fit inside mine.  

Sitting together, sunk deep into the dark blue leather rocking chair, I could hear his mind mulling over this unfathomable idea, as I explained that he would one day be so big that my hand would eventually fit in his own.  More often than not at this point we would lace fingers and continue reading his bedtime story or watch another episode of "Little Bear".

As the days of elementary school passed, every so often Tom would lift his palm to place his hand against mine in an effort to put my words to the test.  I would remind him again how one day my hand would fit inside his.  In these moments, I could see in his face the look of an explorer who was anticipating with great delight the potential of his journey, freshly embarked upon.

I can remember clearly the day when his and my hand were finally the same size.   I could see the excitement in his eyes as we lined up our palms, and I exclaimed "wait a minute, this can't be right!"  

For the next little bit, each time we would try it, I would try to crawl the top of my fingers over his, in an attempt to win some sort of five fingered thumb war.  The point at which I could no longer fake it, was sooner than I had anticipated.  As a mom, I couldn’t help reflecting back on his small hand, with fingers that had to stretch so far apart to lace through mine.

For me, the intimacy of raising a son is so multilayered.  Had I a daughter, there would be some conversations that would thread slightly more intertwined throughout life; even the mitochondria in the cells is passed from mother to daughter.  So my many nieces will carry on my sister’s cellular finger-print down through their own daughters; but as for me and my cellular pathways, with Tom as my biology's final gift, I am the last of my kind.    

It has been such a pleasure to have Tom in toe for so many years; yet in raising him I have often reflected on the unique flavor of bittersweet that a mother feels as her son begins growing away from her.

With Tom and I, it’s a theme that has been at play since day one.  Laying on a c-section table, I had been aware for several months, that my body would not let this guy into the world willingly.  Since I was a young girl, my mantra had been:  “I’m not having kids here on this planet.  I want to have my babies during the 1000 years of peace", that I had been taught in church would follow "the morning of the first resurrection.”  

I’m not sure if this was my strategic mind at play, or a deeply honest maternal instinct that felt this world to be wholly inadequate for me to hazard my child through.  So as I lay on the table in the hospital with a screen between me and my first glimpse of my son, the first I knew of new born Tom was his boisterous cry. 

At my request, his dad went over and took him from the doctor, with his strong cry continuing as he laid Tom’s head next to my face so I could see him.  I took one look, and as my arms were strapped down to the delivery table, my first motherly instinct was to rub my cheek right up against his soft, fresh face.  As soon as our faces touched, with a stroke of my face up and down his cheek, his crying immediately stopped.  I would have to say that this will continue to be the most favorite moment of my life.

An hour or so later, the first time I held him in my arms, I was shocked at how much I could feel his “boy-ness”.  Several days later I realized that the booties I had brought to the hospital to take him home in were easily only half the size of his foot.  My sister and I had a good chuckle about how big his body and aware his spirit was.  Tom was one big, happy babe who never wore newborn clothing or tiny diapers; though his big size made sleeping easily through the night natural.  So I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when at 14 years old he was 6’1”, with broad shoulders, a big barrel chest and size 13 shoe.  

This past week as I picked up a car-full of football players from practice, Tom informed me that at 15 years, having just finished his freshman high school year, his coaches had bumped him up to the JV/Varsity team.  

As his mother watching him come into this world already evolved in so many ways, I’ve learned to exhale a lot.  I use it to “self-sooth” as my son is making his way into his life at an accelerated tempo.

So today as I was organizing some closet space and re-boxing some of his childhood art projects and photos, I found myself exhaling again as I ran across a plaster of his hand from our old times in the big blue rocker.  We took a picture of me holding it side by side with his 15 year old hand of today.  I felt such a playfully sacred appreciation for all that he is in every moment we have ever, and will ever have together.  Being the mom who sponsors this strong young man on the planet is, for me, a privilege beyond compare; not because he’s perfect, but mostly because I get to be here “firsthand” to see him grow up and away from me.  It is all really, too tender for words.

My moment with Tom today reminded me of a few lines in one of my favorite poems that speaks to a father looking at the tiny lines in his baby girl's hand.  He wrote them in contemplation of the lines in the old tradition of a palm reader, discerning the journey of a life-time held across the tiny lines in his daughter's palm, and the inner sense that she would eventually grow her own way into the world, the poem line reads:  
“ a tiny 
each line 
a path that leads 
where I can’t go...”

I feel such an appreciation to be granted more time in these few years remaining as Tom prepares, in ways so specific for him,  to embark on a life of his own.  

My hope for him tonight is as it always has been...That he will continue to be, as he has always been, a generous soul.  A good man.  

I've said to him, almost daily since he was “little”, that I love who he is right now; along with a deep knowing that Tom will continue to make his way in the world, growing up and away from those evenings sitting together in dear Jim’s rocker, simply holding hands, too tired to go to bed. 

Poem lines from "My Daughter Asleep" by David Whyte, River Flow New & Selected Poems 1984-2007
Copyright © 1990 by David Whyte. All Rights Reserved
Many Rivers Press (

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Longer Than...

Over the past year I have heard, and said the words:  “I love you” more times than the days of my entire life combined.  I have heard it from old friends from childhood, kindred yogis met on my spiritual pilgrimages, from people in my church family and dear brothers and sisters who have been there from “day one”.

In my “About Me” bio on this blog, the first line reads: “I was born under an angry sky”, and so I was.  

The home I was born into was full of turmoil, and by the time I came along, my mother was only a shell of her true self.  In many ways, I never had the privilege of really knowing her.
My parents had just reunited from their first real attempt to split in 1966.  In the separation of my mom and dad, it had looked to my brothers and sisters like they would finally be freed from the mayhem.  Yet, a short time after these two incompatibles sublimated back together, I was conceived; and this was the energy I came into this world on. 

At the news of my mother’s pregnancy, there was no escape for my siblings, or my mother; that door was now permanently closed...No community to support her in reclaiming the moxie from her youth.  

She had been in former days, a good mix between tomboy and beauty queen; but by the time I came along she resembled neither. The only thing left in her, was the tenacity to stay in a bad situation, which didn’t really serve her at all. I can estimate with a fair amount of accuracy, that she used each moment as an opportunity to escape from herself, and do what she could to make things look normal from the outside.  It gave her the vapor of satisfaction in her struggles.

So on the day I came into this world I was keenly aware of the mixed feelings at my arrival.  It would take many years for me to clear this "angry sky" identity. 

To hear the words: “I love you” in my family felt a little bit pretend.  My father only used the words sarcastically, and my mother said it so often, without physical touching, and a with a painful ring of desperation in her voice, it was a little like white noise.  
She desperately needed to hear it for herself, from her “Self” (with a capital S), most of all; but ultimately, she had to protect and maintain.  There was not a cultural container for her to heal herself, protect her children, and scale the mountainous journey that would bring her to the place where she could authentically be able to know or give that kind of love.  So instead she did the best she could muster.
I my own life, there have been a spectrum of resources available for healing and awakening.  A spectrum of support and modalities that surpass anything that former generations of women could ever hope for.  I’ve taken advantage of most of them, and felt I had come to a really good place.  
Particularly through Bodhi Yoga,  I have been fortunate enough to build my life around “the business” of learning to love--to feel it for ourselves, to give and receive it for others, and to learn to love our physical lives, as a huge opportunity to evolve our soul.  
After so much awakening, it had not occurred to me that I still had a void that needed to be healed, in the way I was born into this world.

Though I intellectually knew I loved and felt love from my siblings, I never actually felt a deep kind of familial love, until the birth of my beloved son Tom.  It blew my heart open and empowered me to heal so many of the distortions of my own young life.  
Tom’s birth put me on the path where I met my beloved friend and work partner Rex.  From our first meeting, he knew me inside and out; it would take me several years of skepticism, before I would own that I felt the same for him.  Of all the people I will ever know on this planet, Rex knew me best, and still truly loved me.  To his credit there are many that can say the same thing.

One of the great tragedies of love, is that we try to classify it, to say what it means and where it should or shouldn’t be.  Rex taught me that giving and receiving real love is not classifiable, it is eternal; a Godly quality, that we humans are doing our best to put to use, under a very unusual circumstance called mortality. 

In talking to a friend recently about him, she stopped me and said:  “You are describing Agape, the highest order of non-possessive, unconditional love.”  This was right on.  Rex had tried to explain it to me before himself, so many times, and I now got it.  When we run across souls we have known for eternities, Agape is the ancient love we have always felt for each other.  It is the love we can glimpse between ourselves and God, if we are lucky.

So nearly a year ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I yet again faced another very angry sky.  In so many ways it was similar to the time I was born.  My older sister Jeanie was again there caudaling me, and over the 9 months of treatments, I was bathed in love and care from so many of you.  

The experience of being so vulnerable that all you can do is receive a tidal wave of love (while incubated in intensity), has given me a felt sense; and I can honestly say that I know now, what it is like for a baby to come in through so much love, just because she breathes.  

Particularly, from my two  older brothers and three older sisters, and younger sister Twila, who I have felt supporting me on a moment to moment basis, from far away and close by.   

I know better now on such a deep and enduring layer, how much they love me, and are truly happy I am here; a depth of healing in those words that have freed all seven of us from tough days, now long gone.

In such a unique way, one of the things I have learned (through what most people think of as the worst possible scenario of cancer), is that the love that carried me through it, simultaneously healed something greater in me.  It gave me the birth story I never had before, and what a multidimensional gift it has been, as I scale the arduous journey of recovering from the nine months of treatment. 
A month or so ago I was driving away from Rex’s grave, where I had left flowers, and the song by Dan Fogelberg called: “Longer” came on.  The lyrics of this song talk about Agape, the ancient love.  

As I listened to the words, I was surprised that the lyrics didn’t necessarily remind me of Rex, and how he loved to play and sing Fogelberg’s songs on his guitar; or even our enigmatic Agape
The lyrics felt more like a ballad from my Heavenly Father; a relationship I have had to climb up to; weathering many an angry sky, in order to feel for myself.  Listening to the song, I heard the words in a new way and felt them as God’s words to me:

“Longer than there’ve been stars up in the Heavens, I’ve been in love with you”...

Those words touched my heart in a whole knew way, as I thought to myself, (for the first time in my life, at 44 years old), with fuzzy new baby hair sprouting in on my head:
When it comes to Agape, and the only true father I’ve known, 

my Godly Father, 

the Father of my soul, 

I can gratefully say today, 

that I am, at long last,  a daddy’s girl.

Thanks to each of you for the kind gestures that have reminded me of His awareness of me, as an individual, as his daughter.  It is my prayer on this Father's Day, that those who haven't known Agape yet will glimpse it for themselves through these words.