Thursday, February 18, 2016

self assurance

There is something about seeing discarded toys laying around that makes me feel sad. It's a lump-in-throat kind of sad, something missing, something gone that once was here. I hear echos. I think of ghosts. I see an empty swing rocking in the wind...

   ...as if
        .... as if
               .... as if

No.

I don't want to write about that.

I don't want to write about empty playgrounds. I don't want to write about the passage of time or kids growing up and needing different things. I don't want to write about my changing role as a parent.

I don't want to write about parenting.

I don't want to write about how no matter how well I take care of myself, my mind regularly feels like a puddle spread out on the floor that everyone splashes through. My head is splayed open and every eddy of the air touches the raw tendrils of my mind.

I don't want to write about this morning. I don't want to write about when my daughter was going on an on about how long it takes her to change out of her gym clothes and how little time she has to get to class, and I had to stop myself from asking her to please be quiet, just for one minute. From saying that I just don't care.

I don't want to write about the ways in which I feel like a shitty parent.

I don't want to write about that.

Because I've been feeling very alive lately. Bright. Bubbling over. Much less of the dull metal, dull gray, shallow feeling that sometimes settles in.

I can hear my own mean voice telling myself I'm doing everything wrong. No, not my mean voice -- my insecure voice. The voice of fear. But I can nod my head and politely say, "Thank you for your opinion. I appreciate your perspective. Now hush."

And then I can explain to that voice that the following truths are real:

I love my kids.

I care very much about what happens to them, what's best for them, their successes, their hurts, their dreams.

I love them. I take good care of them.

But they don't set me on fire.

What sets me on fire has nothing at all to do with them.

What sets me on fire has everything to do with me.

With what I see. With the temperature of the air when it hits my lungs. With the way the earth presses back against my foot when I step. With the strength in my muscles, the sunlight burned into the backs of my eyes, and the words dripping out of my pen.

It is only when I am lit up with this fire that I can see the full picture, the front and the back:

I am whole and fractured. I am solid and liquid. I am here and not here. I care and sometimes I don't care.

I am fine. And I am fine.

This is the delicious truth.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

my mind at midnight

It's midnight. The dog needs to go out. I stumble through the house, fumble with his crate. The kitchen floor is ice under my sleep-warm feet. I open the door. Winter exhales right in my face and my goosebumps push back against the cold. The dog goes out.

The dog comes in.

I tuck him back into his crate and tumble back into my own covers. I close my eyes.

But sleep must have slipped out the open door and gotten stuck in the snow somewhere. My mind decides to stay sitting up in bed, wringing its hands in the dark.

Worry.

Say the word aloud: it sounds like spinning wheels. Questions that poke into the past and prod into the future. Places where a midnight mind never belongs.

It's nothing. It's everything. I toss. I turn. It takes me a long time to remember what to do.

Breathe.

Deep and downreaching. Slow and the single most important thing in the room.

I am surprised how different a deep breath feels. Shallow breaths are constricted, pressured, urgent, demanding. Deep breaths are full of space in all directions. In all dimensions -- even time feels more open.

My mind fights against my breath. It wants to keep spinning tightly, winding more and more questions, predictions, and admonishments around my chest until I am crushed.

But my breath is patient, stretching at the bindings until my thoughts float above the surface of my skin and sleep settles back in, a cushion between my body and mind.

Everything goes quiet.

I sleep.

In the morning, everything is fine. Of course it is. But I am reminded again how easily I forget about my breath. I'd like to remember it more often.

This is something I have to practice.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Seeing is Knowing

This is not news: I lack self confidence.

I always have. Despite support. Despite success. I don't know why. It's part of my fiber, I guess.

This has been getting better lately, though. I'm really working on it. It feels good. I feel like I'm on the rise.

Yesterday I had what felt like a break-through-the-glass realization. My skull pressed against some invisible, solid barrier and it broke through. I'm out of my own atmosphere all of the sudden and I'm catching my breath. There's more oxygen out here and my eyes are open wide.

It starts here:

I've always felt somehow less-than. Lower. Inadequate because my view is so narrow. I don't travel. I have never been good at staying abreast of current events. I don't consider myself well read. I don't form strong opinions. I don't interact with the world very much. My life is not cutting edge or adventurous. I'm in my house a lot. In my head a lot. I've always felt embarassed by my lack of worldliness. Unqualified. Uninteresting. Dull.

Which always leads me here:

There's no way I can write meaningful fiction. Where is my credibility? How could I even have a voice? What do I even know?

Write what you know -- this is what they say. But all I know is kids and cleaning, chauffeuring and online tutoring. Dogs and bus stops and farmer's markets; walks, parks, dance classes. All of this is great, but I don't really want to write a story about any of it.

But then: rise, press, crack --

-- and suddenly I find myself here:

Working on a fiction piece, feeling good, feeling strong, energized by the realization that I can write anything I want. Not because I'm worldly but because I see.

I see shadows in a full moon midnight, long black slats of darker darkness cutting across the yard. I see the new day peeling the lid off the night. I see the moon and I put it on my tongue. It cools my throat. I see absence and presence and exhalations. I know love. I know loss. I know fear. I know trust.

I am an elderly man. A queer woman. A bereaved parent. I am any of these; I am all of these. Because I can see.

And it's about time I acknowledge the value in that.