that photo you once hated

2017

My husband took this photo of me when we were out at a cafe last summer which is a rare feat. Not the cafe, which is a regular feature of our weekends now that the kids are aging out of our lives, but the photo. He rarely thinks of photography and so we have albums filled with family photos relatively absent of my existence, except for the annual  shot of me lighting the birthday cake for one of my boys.

“You look so pretty today,” he said, “Can I have your phone?”

I always believe him, but then I look in the mirror or at a photo and it’s just me. Nothing special. Or more often worse than I imagined or hoped for, like this one.

I really didn’t like this photo, and I still don’t like it, but you know what, I don’t mind it now like I did before, and it’s only been a year.

I take this as a good sign because typically it’s like a decade before I appreciate a photo that I really didn’t like at first.

Soon I may like myself almost right away.

Which brings me to this letter that I wrote as part of a writing assignment with the women who journey through the chakras with me. We had to write directly to ourselves which turns out is kind of hard…

Dear Kelly, 

(Boy, it’s hard to begin that way.)

Dear Kelly,

(So much more at stake.)

Dear Kelly,

(No place to hide.)

Dear Kelly,
Dear Kelly,
Dear Kelly,

For all the times that name was used as a curse,   
I am so sorry.
Let it go.

For all the times you’ve found yourself occupying the ugliness of another’s version of you,
I am so sorry.
Let it go.

For all the times you assumed that ugliness as a safe haven from feeling the deeper pain of loss and separation,
I am so sorry.
Let it go.

Let it go, Kelly,
Not because it doesn’t matter,
But because you do.

Precious.
Always.
Now.

~Kelly

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Mothers Day Nightmares

On Mothers Day night, with both sons at home, I wake to the sound of my youngest vomiting in the toilet, and I realize that I have had a nightmare. “A dream about the Patriarchy,” my husband offers in the dark.

In the dream, it is daylight, and there is this charismatic man who I find attractive and then threatening as I watch Him weave his way through homes & classrooms & workplaces, alternatingly charming then murderous. Slitting throats, dividing families, orphaning children.

Each time I get wise to Him, I sense the great vulnerability of going against such cunning, and something else–I see how willing others are to oblige this power and destruction in blindness; and so I become absorbed with protecting myself whenever He appears, until I see Him follow a family into the loft over the Great Room, and doesn’t He kill the young father and then the mother, as their child toddles unprotected toward the open railing.

Terrified, I dash past a bureau and a hutch and sweep the child up into my arms, where she becomes an infant, and with little time to spare, I dangle her through the bars of the railing thinking I could drop her to safety if only someone would appear in the Great Room below.

And then I see him! My father! But although he hears my calls, he cannot see the child, even though I direct his attention toward her again and again.

I consider dropping the infant to the floor, but just then my youngest son enters the room, and seeing the dangling child, puts out his arms to catch Her.

And with that, the Patriarchy disappears.

I bow to the mothers

I’ve experienced Motherhood–from desire to conception, to pregnancy (and miscarriage), to labor, to nursing & sick bed tending & to the never-ending-letting go–as a fierce initiator into the feminine mysteries–surrender and sovereignty and something else, equally potent: raw, messy, earthy wildness–all of which radically reshaped/reshapes my life–from the inside out.

I wouldn’t wish it on everyone.
I wish all those who wanted it would have it.
I wish those who didn’t wouldn’t.
Body, mind, spirit transformed.
Unimaginable from the other side.
Never, ever complete.

I bow to the mothers.
To the earth.
To the life givers before and after me.

I was there when my mother took her last breaths…

Kelly Salasin, 2016

Last Summer, just ahead of the Assumption of Mary, I joined the Sun at the Water’s Edge atop the staircase to the sea.

Me and thethe lapping of  the waves. the diving loon. the rising peach orb

To this my soul responded, rather surprisingly:

“I was there when my mother took her last breaths.”

I was, I thought.
How infinitely large,
Like the sun rising over the sea
Revealing
Through the morning fog
An island–

Anita Shreve’s yellow house aglow.

“Come Here,” I heard whispered, and I looked to my left and to my right and behind me, but there was no one.

Only me, and the sea, and the island and Anita Shreve’s house greeting the morning.

I remembered an affair I had several years earlier.
How I rose in the dark of winter and ran toward the first tinges of light over the ocean into His embrace.

“Come Here.”

Yesterday, in the soft rain, my husband and I walked down the beach and out the narrow strip of land that connects the island at low tide.

As the rain began to fall harder, I opened the small umbrella, but only one of us could stay dry in its confines, so Casey continued on in the rain, but only halfheartedly, and so I admonished him:

“Receive HER!”

“I am,” he replied, “Because of what you said to me the other day. I want to feel into the messy, wet, fullness of her embrace.”

To which I felt a tinge, no, a fire, of jealousy, rise up and chastise me:

Why had I introduced them? Why had I pushed him toward such a Lover as one to which I can never compare?

And then I remembered: “Come Here,”
As He rose higher and higher,
And the seagulls took flight, responding to the Call.

And we are all, Here.
In the marriage of Sky and Earth.
Conceived in the first kiss of the day.
Light awakening into the One.

 

My mother’s lipstick

Several months ago, Casey repainted our bedroom–the last of the rooms to receive a fresh coat since he built this house more than a dozen year ago.

We agreed/he surrendered to a faded, earthy shade of rose.

And it’s been my pleasure–a daily dawn & dusk meditation–to notice to subtleties that arise in the changing light–from morning to night–autumn to winter–and now into spring.

Sometimes it’s too peachy or too pink, other times it’s more a creamy-rosy-mocha, like the lipstick my dark-eyed, dark-haired mother used to wear (before she went blonde), or the shade of a top that lent itself beautifully to her equally dark complexion.

Over the year, I’ve lightened the curtains from fawn to sea glass to alabaster in an attempt to better commune with the walls.

It may all be too soft come summer.
Or just right.

The light will tell.

My Mother’s Cameo

From time to time, I wear the cameo that Mrs. Upperman left my father.

She also left him a rocking chair and a large tin of pistachios–red, tan & unshelled.

Unshelled?
(Unheard of.)

At 16, I was surprised to find that my passion for pistachios was eclipsed rather than enhanced without the effort of finding just the right one to crack open.

(And who had ever seen tan pistachios?)

But maybe I’ve remembered it wrong.

Probably Mrs. Upperman didn’t “leave” the pistachios to my father along with the cameo and the rocking chair (and the furs!), but sent the large tin over at Christmas or Thanksgiving, or maybe the pistachios, like the many other arrivals, were from another patient altogether.

It was easy to adore a man who saved you, particularly if he was tall and handsome and young.

And if you were such a man, it was increasingly difficult to spend much time at home where despite your male birthright, your societal status, and your dashing good looks–you were not the star of the show–not with your teenage daughters, not with your wife who was turning the hormonal corner from sacrifice to self (even as she continued producing your babies), and not with the endless tasks to be done that came and went with any pistachios or applause.

My mother left the cameo in her jewelry box, and so I borrowed it from time to time, until one day I didn’t put it back.

I don’t think she would have worn it anyway. She never touched the furs either. Unlike my father whose family presided over one the largest homes on the avenue, my mother came from “the other side of town,” off a pot-holed side street, where 8 children crowded into a house that leaned up against a motel and shared its backyard fence with a bar.

“Your mother was the prettiest girl in the high school,” my father said.

“I had a single dress all through school,” my mother told me, but she wasn’t complaining; she rarely complained.

Bonnie, aka. Loretta Cecilia Kelly, was without expectations, which made her the perfect fit for a man who was accustomed to snapping his fingers for a pen, and expecting a hot dinner on the table no matter the hour of his return  home, and who regularly brought operating room nurses to tears as they tripped over his every command (which was just the right place to harvest his replacement wife after my mother, at age 40, had the audacity to want more than a cameo role in her own life, and so without voice, offered a scandalous resignation instead.)

“That’s not the Philips!” he would shout, and I never knew which one was, no matter how many times he showed me.

I still don’t want to know, and apparently neither did my five younger sisters, which was something I discovered when I returned home for a visit and came across a fierce and familiar scolding in the garage with one of my youngest siblings.

I still prefer my pistachios in the shell, but now without the color red.

my mother, just after the affair, in her new/smaller house, with her dark-brown hair dyed blonde

 

the legacy of shame

solar-sisters tumblr

Shame. Disappointment. Burden.

With SpRiNg comes renewed attention to my insides as I recommit to what I want on the outside.

I’m curious about your relationship with disappointment.

In a New Year chakra clearing, I gained some clarity around the way I linger with and lay  disappointment onto the men in my home.

It was a painful visual, but it also leads me into compassion for the disappointment I must carry inside. My sense of my father’s almost constant disappointment in me. The weight of disappointment that my mother and grandmothers carried.

I’m no longer willing to be the legacy bearer for that burden.

This sweetly complements my intention to cultivate satisfaction–inside–with a moment to moment practice of saying “Yes,” to what ever arises–on my path, or in my psyche–as an invitation instead of a problem, as something I greet without abandoning, rejecting or shaming myself as “wrong.”

I suspect the practice will be a daily one for the rest of my days.