I went to sleep to the sensual delight of an open window after so many weeks shut to the cold (after so many months soaking up the pleasures of scent & sound.)
I woke to a dream about the election and looked over at the clock to see a series of 1’s, but not four or three, but a stream…
I lifted my head to inquire further and realized that the red glow of the digital was reflecting off the headboard behind my husband’s head. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
There I was in the center of a stage, seeing my feeling state reflected back by an amphitheater of fans.
There was FEAR, huddled together, down low, dressed in black cloaked garments.
I was surprised to find myself waving at FEAR, and soothed by my own connection and compassion.
Above the dark mass, there was HOPE, fanning out and filling the stands, waving banners and cheering enthusiastically.
My spirits lifted higher. I smiled and waved at HOPE too, realizing they clearly outnumbered their brethren below.
As I drifted back to sleep,other feeling states on a series of more alarming topics–national, global, personal–were reflected by the crowd.
There were the darkly dressed, huddled ones, who never grew much in size and simply desired connection and safety; and above them, in the stands, the crowd that dwindled with each ensuing topic, until there were only one or two remaining, who weakly waved flags.
It occurred to me then, it’s not that we must rid ourselves (or this nation) of FEAR, nor dismiss or ridicule it, but instead pack the stands with HOPE.
Other marginalized groups.
International leadership, learning & listening.
Protected natural spaces.
Diversity of species.
Will the time come when we don’t have to work so hard on a relationship?
No, the time will come when there will be no lapse in our efforts…
to be kind.
Gail & Hugh Prather
In my mind, one of the essentially revealing comments of the current occupant of the White House is what he said about marriage, just after his third:
I don’t want to have to go home and have to work at a relationship. A relationship you have to work at, in my opinion doesn’t work.
And about bringing more children into the world with her:
Sure. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids.
About about his wedding vows if she were horribly disfigured in a car accident.
Totally, no question in my mind… How do the breasts look?
Earlier this week, I couldn’t tell say if she was a pop star or a film star, only that she was well after my time and probably never my taste, but when I heard about her instagram post, I went looking for it and it was so good (human rights front & center) that I later read it aloud to my husband.
Lots of people registered to vote because of it.
And even though I’ve had a string of challenging health days, I dragged myself to the coast of Maine, having been waiting for that unusually warm autumn day to instigate such a journey, and while it didn’t change anything, deep within something shifted, so that waking this morning in a sea of orange-leafed trees in the Green Mountains of Vermont, I find myself hopeful again.
I am so angry. And grief-stricken. And weary! (As a woman.) And yet, so very, very delighted (as a mother) to have our youngest home for an entire week so that I get to remind him again and again to get off his phone, and do his chores, and move his laundry, and go to bed.
After the past 6-week half-life without him, I’m savoring the day-to-day ordinariness of simply having him around without wanting anything more. (Except. Mid-terms.)
A personal allegory on Saturday afternoon.
Another’s blessing this morning.
These are the ways I’ve attempted to express what it is I feel about the SCOTUS confirmation–that which is beyond politics & procreative rights–as if when it comes to women, anything is separate.
I hate to claim it, but I think that names it.
I could barely speak when it was final.
My niece just home from college with friends echoed the same. “The car fell silent,” she said, about hearing the news over the radio.
The world is much too quiet.
In this absence of sound, Juan Ramon Jimenez’s verse comes to mind:
My boat struck something deep. Nothing happened. Sound, silence, waves.
What if all the women went mute from this trauma? What if we remained silent until others hollered on our behalf?
The men who are protesting MOVE me. Those who don’t get it, won’t get it, mock it, deride it, dismiss it, skirt it, KILL me.
Don’t give me your Republican/Democrat bullshit. This is UNIVERSAL.
But it is too quiet.
Nothing happened? writes Jimenez. Or perhaps Everything happened…
And here I take liberty with his verse, understanding that my silence, our silence, the silence, is a tidal wave forming:
…And we are sitting in the middle of a revolution.
May it be so.
TO THE MEN: WADE in the WATER!
Women hold the water while men stay safe on solid ground.
I don’t know what Senator Collin’s deal is; what the story is about her husband and Russia; I don’t know what anyone woman’s deal is if she doesn’t get the stakes with this administration and this appointment.
What I do know is that the Patriarchy has their foot on our necks. Relies on us for beauty, support, warm fuzzies, flowers, holidays & gatherings, greeting cards & gifts, compassion & tenderness–the “You play it soft, so that I can play it tough” charade–in order to perpetuate the privilege of ”real men” (those not born of women) who don’t have to feel into all the yucky hard stuff that comes with vulnerability–his own and those around him.
She does the feeling for Him while He gets to have everything:
Senator Steven Daines, Montana, told The Associated Press: “This weekend there’s going to be a new Supreme Court justice and that he is going to walk his daughter down the aisle.”
He sweeps in at the right moment, while She holds the water, and then from time to time, behind closed doors, He collapses in Her arms before numbing himself again with certainty, telling Her how it is, as if She didn’t change His diapers or nurse Him at Her breast or hold Him while he sobbed.
So afraid of his dependency, He will convince her that She relies on Him, and if He is not convincing, He will hurt Her, because He has detached from what makes Him whole and if She won’t let Him suck Her dry, He has no purpose for Her.
Women can no longer be the hosts for men’s wholeness.
Men, WADE in the water!
AND clean your mess up.
I believe in you.
Women, men are not our solid ground.
Each time I see a photo of men with other men protesting (like right in our town last night), or I see a call for men to do the same, or a video of young male students standing together holding signs that say: WE BELIEVE, I am brought to tears.
Not because women need rescuing, but because we need more and more men to take the baton that is theirs.
As my friend Jess put it: Patriarchy is a men’s issue.
We are so tired. We have been holding this alone for too long. Silently. Shamefully. Sinfully. All the ways we were told we were wrong. Because of what men did. (Or didn’t do.)
I am so touched. I am so grateful. I am so relieved. To the men gathering with men. You have restored my faith. My hope. My sense of what we can do together.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am so grateful. Despite differing faiths (or lack thereof) as well as homes in vastly different parts of the country, along with different income levels and lifestyles—most all, if not all, of my many, many siblings and their grown children! (including my own) are engaged when it comes to the politics of gender, race, hate, discrimination, healthcare, poverty, the planet and LOVE; while significant swaths of extended family are similarly informed/inspired, speaking out and showing up for others and this nation with intelligence, commitment, devotion & love.
It took me a day not to turn away from this.
I woke like I rarely do—belly down; and like I never have—with my palms crisscrossed under my throat.
It’s as if the men are saying: We were once entitled to you. You were our spoils. And you can’t take that away. Maybe we can no longer grab you. But we could once. And it’s unfair to change the rules we made about your bodies.
I’m sooooo grateful to all those speaking up, listening, learning and echoing the human rights of women. THANK YOU!!! You encourage me.
My son calls about once a week, typically on his walk home from work or on his way home from class (sometimes sustainable design, sometimes women’s studies); and his brain at 9 pm is on fire, and the possibilities in front of him unlimited, and his capacity to ponder and purpose and pursue lines of thinking is exponentially expansive while my world steadily shrinks in the dark.
“I bought a new spice rack and a Q-tip holder today,” I tell him. “And I found a chai frosted pumpkin loaf at Trader Joes!”
Which is to say, I’m tired, and not just at 9 pm, but in 2018 and 2017 and 2016.
Has it been this long?
It won’t always be this way.
Once my guys (and the country) are set, I’ll rise up again, right? Just as soon as I dismantle all the photo albums and the bins and the boxes in the basement and the attic, 25 years of home-nourishing that in this empty nest weigh me down.
It’s just around the corner.
57 is apparently the peak of women’s happiness, not 18 or 21 as suspected. My mother died at that peak and my grandmother just before it, like the leaves who let go at the height of their beauty.
What is that poem? I have it somewhere. What’s her name? It’s something unusual.
Monza Naff, that’s it!
Wait, aren’t I FB friends with someone named Monza Naff? Did she write the verse that I’ve turned toward every September when the anniversary of my mother’s passing comes along? (Is that how we became friends. Memory!)
~Urge me to drop every leaf I don’t need Every task or habit I repeat past its season Every sorrow I rehearse Each unfulfilled hope I recall Every person or possession to which I cling- Until my branches are bare, until I hold fast to Nothing
Blow me about in your wild iron sky, crush all that’s puffed up, fluff all that in me needs to go to seed, send my shadows to sleep.
Tutor me through straining night winds In the passion of moan and pant The gift of letting go At the moment of most abundance In the way of falling apples, figs, maple leaves, pecans.
Open my eyes to your languid light, let me stare in your face until I see no difference between soar and fall
until I recognize eternity in single breaths, faint whispers of cool air through lungs.
Show me the way of dying in glorious boldness Yellow,gold, orange, rust, red, burgundy.
“At the moment of most abundance.”
Yesterday, I woke with the runs, today I woke angry. “Anger is sad’s bodyguard.” This is sometimes true about anger, especially if it is stuck. But I needn’t fear. She is coming. We saw her yesterday.
Dr. Ford–vulnerable, poised, transparent in terror and anxiety, clear, considerate, accomplished, tender, fierce.
What is leaving is just as certain.
We saw that yesterday afternoon too.
Petulant. Entitled. Blaming.
Kavanaugh and Trump are emblematic of the Patriarchy unhinged; and day after day this creaking of the archaic contraction that has long oppressed so many wakes more and more of us, especially the women–from our illusion that strength and purpose and understanding is outside of us–finally realizing that we can lead–through tenderness, strength and purpose matched with commitment to voicing what is true, while loving husbands and brothers and uncles and sons.
“I can’t think of anything but Kavanaugh and chai-frosted pumpkin cake,” I might have said to my son when he called home last night, but instead I marveled at his capacities, and how I helped bring them to bear, and how if I’m fortunate, they will help make life better for others, and for himself, long after I’m gone.
Turns out I was heartbroken when Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court; though I’m just feeling it in 2018.
I don’t even remember–Was he conservative or liberal?
What was most relevant was that he was a he, and she a she.
I always thought it was her that I disdained or the whole sordid ordeal. A decade later during labor, I cringed when my midwife pulled out a cold coke can to place on my lower back.
I never allowed myself the time or space to sort out the complexity of my feelings during the Thomas hearings, if in fact I was equipped to do so.
Newly married, teaching sixth-grade social studies, I was immersed in a beach town where girls were raised to be desirable and boys to be desiring and our bodies up for grabs, leers, comments–the hoots & hollers from passing cars serving as our A+ report card for coming of age in just the right way.
“I can’t believe how big your tits are,” a colleague said, outside the principal’s office after we’d seen each other on the beach the day before. (He was one of the nice guys.)
One of the not so nice guys was talking to our sixth-grade students–the 11-year-old boys–about my ass. (Some of the girls confided this to me.)
Before teaching, I managed a restaurant where from time to time, I reported to the Head Chef’s office. Above his desk hung a woman’s spread, updated monthly, facing us both as we talked about menus and staff. The same view welcomed or rather unwelcomed me at the car repair shop or when using the bathroom at say, my aunt and uncle’s house.
Which is to say, what was Anita Hill thinking?
She must have lived in a different world to speak about such things in public.
I can barely listen to that hearing. Every few moments I have to hit pause. My skin crawls now with the audacity.
…How another good guy, Joe Biden, put Clarence Thomas dirty words in her mouth for all to see and hear so that it was she who we found distasteful instead of him.
But “distasteful” misses the mark, doesn’t it? As does sordid or gross or crude; which a man’s personal habits or interests may be; but when shared with others, unwelcomed, or exposed in the workplace like my colleagues, or like Keillor, Franken and Lauer, is something more than discomfort.
It is the perpetuation of a man’s world where women, if not invisible, should remember their place. And other women should help keep them there. Like I did when those 11-year old girls complained about the teacher who was talking about my ass, by shaking my head and doing… Nothing.
“You have a husband and sons, don’t you?” writes a Facebook follower on my wall. “Aren’t you worried that some woman could bring them down with a lie?”
Somehow it’s still about the men.
When I listen to Anita Hill now, I no longer hear a dirty woman. I hear a warrior.
8 days. Until the full crossing. The threshold. Mother to Crone.
In my morning practice of oiling the body, my hands find their way to the incision that brought my first born into my arms, 22 years ago.
I move my fingers first up and then down, then left to right and right to left, and finally clockwise and counter clockwise in the way I was shown, hands over mine, over the incision, releasing the adhesions formed inside the body.
A year earlier it was Deb who again helped release a different kind of holding in the womb–the pain of two miscarriages in my late twenties, two abortions at 16, sexual trauma, heartbreak, childhood terror, pervasive fear.
As I lay on her table, under a soft blanket, with the November sun lighting the room, Deb asked:
Are you ready to let it go?
And tears, held so long inside, streamed down my face.
Both my boys were conceived in this month–my first son just two weeks after Deb placed her hands on my womb.
November also holds the anniversary of the birth and death of my beloved grandfather–11/17/19-11/17/91.
It was decades ago that I began writing down into the deep, dark cavernous loss, but it is only in the last handful of years that I zeroed in on the tragedy that irrevocably rocked my world at 14.
Lila, my paternal grandmother, died two decades before my grandfather, in an accident on a bridge that crushed everything that stood at the center of my life.
My father’s tears are what I recall from that July afternoon when we met on the tarmac where I had been sipping a McDonald’s shake while waiting for his plane to taxi without knowing why he had come or that I’d be leaving. Vanilla.
We flew back in that small plane and arrived at her house–filled with family–but forever vacant to me.
Two summers ago, on the anniversary of the accident, I returned to that airport, and found my hands trembling so badly, as I approached, and my mind so frantic, that I could have easily crashed the car.
I lost more than my grandmother and my aunties to the Mac Truck. I lost the Matriarchy under whose wings I had been protected and nourished and promised a future.
I lost something else too. I gave it up actually. Spit it out.
My belief in God.
I refused to ever cry again, and met that resolve, until a handful of years later, when I received the news that the house would be sold, and then I balled like a baby on my boyfriend’s lap on my last day in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Lila was the age I am now in our last year together, and I am finally writing down the light that meets me here in the last days before becoming Crone–a year in which the wise blood remains inside, offered not to the earth as it has been for 40 years, but to the heavens ever more until I, like her, like each of us, leave this world.
This morning I woke in a spontaneous meditation at the crown. It unfolded, like a warm woolen shawl, once tight with abandonment, now open and unfurling toward the sky.
Lately, I find myself able to weep, easily–at desires once held, and desires still aching to unfold–and at the way the snow releases from an iron sky.
Between me & Menopause.
There’s something to that 21, but I can’t place it.
And then it comes…
In a textbook 28 day menstrual cycle, there are theoretically 21 non-bleeding days. So that by the 21st day, if you’re young & fertile, but not desiring pregnancy–say because you’re much too young, or in school, or you’ve just started a new job, or you’re not financially or emotionally prepared to become a parent, or to have another child, or to have any more or any at all, then it’s about 21 days when you start cupping your breasts to be sure they’re showing signs of your next menses–tender, swollen, sore.
Or conversely, if you’re desperate for a baby, having tried again and again, or having miscarried once or twice or more, or longing to give your child a sibling, it’s about 21 days when you begin looking for signs that your menses isn’t coming–cupping your breasts to be sure they remain soft & supple, just before they double in size with conception.
And then further back in memory–way back–is “the pill.”
Don’t you take it for 21 days, and then skip 7?
Wow, that’s a dusty memory.
And I can’t help thinking that even though I had to travel offshore for birth control, about 20 minutes or so, and then triple that for access to abortion, both were available to me in a climate that said: We’re trying to support you, even while we hide the very things you need so as not to draw too much attention to your pregnancy, your sexual activity, your bleed; even while your bodies are plastered on every movie screen and billboard and magazine, not to mention the Playboys tucked under the bed of your uncles and their friends who will later vote to turn back the tide of your possibilities to your mother’s and grandmother’s time–when your own bodies, and even love, were the enemy, plotting against your dreams and rendering you property of home and husband, and relegating your much needed voices to dinner and diapers, while around the world, those who impregnate continue to rule (and ruin) lives, while claiming to protect them, with the lie that we, the life givers, are the ones who forsake life by desiring full agency over our flesh.
Today’s number is 17. That is–17 days left between me & the Motherhood Archetype on the 365 Day Heroine’s Journey to Menopause. In a textbook menstrual cycle, day #17 is the day when one might wonder if she has conceived during her preceding fertile period, particularly if she is desperate to conceive, as I once was in my late twenties to mid-thirties. Conversely, if avoiding fertile days, day 17 might be the last in the agony of abstention. Alas, this is not a successful form of birth control; something that I learned, the hard way, twice, in the months before I turned 17.
(Also, 17 is the # of new messages in my inbox at this moment.)
The arrival at 13 days before the end my journey holds the sweet symmetry of being the number when I began, 40 years ago.
There are 12 days remaining in this 365 day journey to Menopause, ie. a complete year without a menstrual cycle. The migraines came at the end of my journey as Maiden (first menses); a year or two after I began bleeding, and they increased in my early twenties with birth control pills, and then again with the hormones of pregnancy, and then spiked with the shifts leading out of the fertile years in my late thirties and forties. Lately, I’d almost thought they’d left me entirely, along with the hot flashes (which to be fair were only here for a short stay this past summer) and the night sweats (which took up a much longer residence, say like a bachelor’s degree, with a summer capstone intensive.) Oddly enough the three of them had been companions of sorts, like a relative whose annoyance you’ve come to rely upon. So that when I woke this morning to a migraine, it was a bit of a reunion, as I noted how every sound in the room was heightened–the door latch, the foot steps, the crinkling of paper at the woodstove, and how the morning light was felt more keenly; and it occurred to me then that a migraine and this long journey to menopause (from 37 to 54)–this surrendering of the body’s fertility–is every bit a meditation.
A November day, like today, with its deep frost–prisms of light illuminating the cold–is a lot like me as I age, or who I aspire to be, say by 60 or 80–all the fruit, the desire, the harmony fallen away–so that what remains–the stone, the empty branch, the fading blade of grass–is immersed in this stark and exquisite offering–of clarity.