Midnight. Imbolc.


I was 18 when I began keeping vigil with all that was lost; which is to say, I began writing.

My youngest is 18 now.

His older brother was home this afternoon for a quick half-hour, just in time to hop in the car with his father and head south to my husband’s family home 300 miles away.

I waved from the mudroom as they pulled down the driveway and then Aidan and I turned to empty the dishwasher. As I was bent over the silverware it hit me. “All three of you share something I don’t,” I said.

Home.

Turns out, it’s hard to give your kids something you never had, and not for the obvious reasons.

While it’s been healing to offer the kind of upbringing I needed, it’s also surprisingly painful, especially now that they’re the age I was when there was hardly a home or parents to turn toward.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about moving. Far away. By myself. Like the time I lived in London or the time I backpacked through Europe or the time I went out to the Rockies. At 18 and 23, my boys are like bookends of the age I was then. It must be time.

Integrity is one of several paths. It distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path, and the only one upon which you will never get lost.

I came across this passage in a framed print at the second-hand store years ago, and slowly it wove itself into our family fabric, especially as my boys entered adolecence and I asked them to recite it again and again.

I leaned into that instruction myself, intuitively, 30 years earlier, after a miscarriage, as I prepared to leave my first teaching position. A colleague remarked on my diligence with the end of the year paperwork. “Why bother,” she said. “You’re leaving for Vermont.”

It was something I would hear echoed, again and again, each time I left a job, a rental, a relationship.

Integrity.

Ending well.

Tonight I looked for jobs across the ocean.

What must it be like to have a home to which you can return? I wondered this as my older son sat beside me on the stairs before he left with his father. “I’ll be leaving right away when we get back on Sunday,” he said.

I marveled at how he could “drop-in” to the familiar sights and sounds and smells of a lifetime, and then be on his way again, securely rooted and released, without any need to grasp or hold on or catalogue the memories before they vanished.

The restlessness I feel inside is almost unbearable.
UPROOT, it says, UPROOT!

I don’t want a house or a husband or a community.

But I’ve cultivated a lifetime of tools that enable me to stay with what hurts and what is uncomfortable and what makes me want to run.

Writing. Breath. Music. Dance. Meditation. Spiritual texts. Self-compassion.

“Observing desire without acting on it enlarges our freedom to choose,” writes Tara Brach, in Radical Acceptance.

Freedom is on the horizon.
Especially with January behind us.

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a timeline of heartbreak

Bouguereau, visipix.com

Last night I wrote about the loss of innocence–something that can surprisingly still happen at my age. This morning I woke thinking back to my first loss, and the ensuing ones after–wondering if a timeline might reveal something–about who I am and how I want to be.

In selecting my history, I discovered that it was hard to distinguish between the loss of innocence and simple heartbreak. As I traveled through time, the searing heartache of the past week returned–climaxing at the defining loss of my life (large-texted below), and smoldering where it ended–in the excruciating initiation in which I find myself now.

It’s embarrassing to admit my innocence here–the shock that my writing is incendiary; the hurt of being thought selfish when I come from a place of healing, devotion and love; the unfairness of being labeled arrogant because I’m willing to teach and to lead, despite self doubt.

In my ever need to be “savior,” it kills me to be assigned “villain.” And so it is, that another layer of innocence is seared away, and what is left is the cold reminder that I am not the apple in everyone’s eye, no matter how “good” I try to be. Duh.

This sobering truth offers a precious freedom–not defined by what others perceive–whether with praise or condemnation; but at a  painful cost–the death of illusion.

In my heartbreak timeline below, you’ll find the loss of pets, the hurt of betrayal, and the shock of mortality–just as you might in your own. My loss of innocence is also shaped by being misunderstood, and that is a layer that I’m quite ready to burn.

My Timeline of Heartbreak

Pet turtle died

New classmates pinched me

Watching my mother labor

Next-door neighbor’s father died of a heart attack in his sleep

My aunt didn’t show up for our special date

Schoolmate’s family died in a house fire

My inability to bring my sister’s decapitated rabbit back to life

Licorice’s kitten killed by a truck

Licorice disappeared

Best friend’s sister tried to commit suicide

Soldier Blue at the drive-in

My mother drinking in the middle of the day

Falling asleep to the sound of my parents screaming

I ran away from home (a few blocks) and no one came to find me

Breaking my arm and no one caring

The Viet Nam War on TV

My mother’s tears when we left Colorado

My mother’s banishment

Adjusting to a new school and a new home without a mother

My father getting drunk

My best friend’s stepfather molesting her

~The accident that took my grandmother’s life~

Stealing/drinking a beer at summer camp/facing being expelled

Roots, the mini-series

Love=lovemaking=unwanted pregnancy

Extended family affairs/divorces/remarriages

The dissolution of my own family

Graduation Day

Loss of intimacy with my father

Loss of family home

Siblings separated by my mother’s drinking

Loss of access to siblings

First love betrayal

Strength labeled as bitchiness

Recurring rejection by life partner

A misunderstanding with a dear friend

First real job

Work focus mistaken as snobbery

Sibling relationship strife due to faith differences

Learning that love doesn’t always make the difference

My best friend getting drunk on our wedding night

Visiting my mother at Rehab

Loosing sense of identity when slide show summed up life: “Hero Child”

Operation Desert Shield, televised

Love=Marriage=Miscarriage

Burning out as a teacher

Carefully planned homebirth=emergency C-Section

First playgroup

My brother-in-law’s 1st affair

Relationship breaks with new family

Loss of Mother

Recurring relationship breaks with sibling

9/11

Our Nation’s response to 9/11

Getting a Mini-van

Removal of the rose colored glasses on my childhood

The murder at the Co-op

The disappearance of roads after the flood

Realizing that my family was fractured

~Doubting my life’s work…

(Your turn.)

Kelly Salasin, Imbolc, 2012

a gift for you in the loss of your own innocence

for Brigid’s Day