Saturday, April 27, 2013

Room 9: Immaculate Heart

Room 9: Immaculate Heart

I stayed in this room last time 
I was here on retreat.
#9, my lucky number.
Immaculate Heart.

My heart was certainly
not immaculate then.
I tossed and turned
full of illicit desire and unrest.

I prayed for the courage to deliver myself
from such pain
such torment.
Give me strength, give me strength, give me strength.

Is my heart now immaculate?
Now that my prayers for strength and courage
were answered?

Whatever pain and unanchored resentment
that remained
was surely blown far away
on the blustery wind I drove in on.

Any last crevices hiding
the dust of regret were cleared
by that frigid howling.

Is what's left immaculate?
I ask again.

No, no, never immaculate.
I am human, after all.

The glaze that covers my heart
is full of imperfections.
Piercings from arrows that missed their mark,
cracks that healed improperly.

No, I wouldn't say

Hopeful, I'd say.
Full of the scent of narcissus
and lavender.
Ambitious like the jet aiming high
over the mountain.

Undeterred, like the waves meeting the
sharp rocks of the shore
Slowly, gently, persistently
softening them
with their salty water.

A Prayer Poem for the Fulfillment of a Desire

A prayer, dear one,
to love myself
as I love my children
fully, wholly, without condition.

A prayer, Lord,
for healing.
May old wounds heal
leaving only soft scars
to remind me how the soul survives.

A prayer, Buddha,
for continued mindfulness,
and practice in the arts of
compassion, metta, and

A prayer, love,
that I may remain open
to the depth of longing,
open to the release of passion,
open to the freedom of honesty.

Friday, April 26, 2013

the sweetest tea

A year ago I promised myself
I would move slowly
only with purpose
out of a desire for self-preservation,
a need for economy of emotion
and to focus on the babies
in my nest.

In that year, time has slowed
wounds have healed,
or begun to,
memories have faded
hurts have slowly fallen away
as I open my hands
and let go.

What do I desire now?
Now that the long, cold
winter is ending?

I desire to sip from
the sweet cup of tea
that has been steeping
for so long,

to be still long enough 
to witness the precise moment
the green stem of the planted bulb
breaks through.

To be quiet enough
to hear all the ways
the world whispers
I love you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Table

This Table

The kitchen table.
It all centers
the kitchen table.

Heavy, solid, room
for ten to easily
gather around it.

by pen, pencil, crayon
fork, knife,wineglass

leaving knicks
and scratches
belonging to all who
surround it.

loved ones.

Tears shed over

Late nights
working things out.

Bread broken in unity
as a gift,
as celebration.

You at one end,
I at the other,
bonded by this table
and all that surrounds it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lord, Hear My Prayer

When I was in high school
the Stanford track coach
told my father I was
10 pounds away from being
the best sprinter in the state.

Lord, hear my prayer.

In college we had our body fat
percentage measured and even though
my coach was surprised at how low mine was
it was still over my goal of 15%.

Lord, hear my prayer.

My college boyfriend told me
that for someone so smart
I did a lot of stupid things.

Lord, hear my prayer.

When I was preparing to leave my job
as a personal trainer to go to
graduate school and was sharing
my dream of eventually getting my PhD
at Harvard another trainer's client
looked at me and asked,
"Are you smart enough?"

Lord, hear my prayer.

A man I greatly admired laughed and said,
"Don't we all!"
when I said I wanted to live in the country
and be a writer.

Lord, hear my prayer.

Even when I got second at Nationals
and was a three time All American
my father still called me a
"fair to middlin' hurdler."

Lord, hear my prayer.

When I was talking
to my then husband
about my plan to lose 10 pounds he said,
"Why not make it 20?"

Lord, hear my prayer.

Who were these men to shroud me
in self-doubt and make me question
what I knew then, but don't know now?

Lord, hear my prayer.

Why didn't I ever hear
You are perfect, just the way you are.
You can do whatever you set your mind to.

Lord, hear my prayer.

These are the messages
I pass on to my students
the boys and the girls.

Lord, hear my prayer.

These are the messages
I give my children
my son and my daughter.

Lord, hear my prayer.

These are the messages
I pray to hear
but the wall is so thick
the mirror so distorted
the disbelief so engrained
it is all I can do to plead

Lord, hear my prayer.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

More From the Pile of Dusty Papers in the Drawer

Only good news comes loudly. Bad news, it seems, comes quietly, stealthily. Something to do with the nature of bad news allows it to slow time down dramatically. There can be no loud noises, clamoring, or thuds while everything is appears in soft focus, and in very slow motion.  
     You answer the phone and instantly the world slows down, color is drained, you can no longer hear the TV, or your company talking, or the person standing next to you asking,  “What is it? What’s wrong? What’s happened?” as you slowly slide down the wall onto the floor and hold the phone out for them to take so their world can slow down too. Then you will both be slow and silent – at least for a while.
The same thing happens if you open the door to bad news. You are not expecting anyone, so even though you are in your pajamas eating a bowl of cold cereal and watching TV, you stand with trepidation – either you will have to turn away a teenager selling magazines or chocolate for some desperate fundraiser or listen politely to a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who wants you to understand their God’s point of view. But you are about to believe there is no God, at least not one you want to know for a while. 
You learn that definitively when you answer the door and there is a police officer or a sheriff with a somber look on his face. “Mrs. Williams?” he asks. It is then that time slows. The deceleration began the moment you cracked the door open to see the shiny black, steel toed shoes, the Kelly green pants held up by the thick embossed black leather belt with a holster on one side carrying a large gun. Inexplicably, you pause to think that the guns always look so much bigger to you when you see them in person, rather than on TV. 
For a moment, you wonder what it would be like to walk around carrying a holstered gun all day.  What it must do to the alignment of your spine? But you wouldn’t know because you do not feel like you have a spine right now. If you do it is melting.  You feel it begin to melt at the top of your back, where your head meets your shoulders and as you raise your eyes from the gun-and-Billy-club-holding-holster you note the nametag on his chest reads “Phillips.” This moment will stay with you for a long time. Any time you hear the name "Phillips" you will flash on this day, this moment. The moment your life as you knew it ended, the moment your spine melted like hot wax, burning your skin and your soul and leaving you forever scarred, because this is the moment Officer Phillips says, “Mrs. Williams, I regret to inform you that your son has been killed in a motorcycle accident.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Desire Revisited.

(from a line by Jane Hirschfield)

I've been here
    on this sanctified mountain
a time or two before.

In this very room, in fact,
    perhaps this very chair.

I have wept here,
    before many of the same people gathered together
in this holy space.

Prayed for courage
    and forgiveness
for simplicity
    and strength.

Asked myself, "What will I do
    with this one precious life?"

It has been two years and I realize
    how blessed I am
to be here again.

In the spring this time
    rather than the
middle of winter.

I can be quiet enough
    to listen
    to hear.

They all call to me
    the candy apple ladybug
climbing new stalks of grass
    the beetle that lands

on my chest
    the pair of doves
playing tag in mid-air
    then resting together
in the tree branches.

An unseen hawk calls to me
    as I rise from my chair in the sun
"Begin again the story of your life."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

An old tidbit...from a novel I wish to finish.

This is an old project, one I re-visit from time to time. It still has a heartbeat within my heart, so maybe I ought to circle back to it again, soon. In the meantime, with all the baby news abounding, I thought I would share this tiny tidbit it in its raw, unedited, form. (In other words, please forgive the typos and other errors that ARE there.) 
Birth and death, opposite, the circle of life, inevitable, this you know. When you were pregnant everyone said how drastically things were going to change. How you had no idea how profound the change would be, there is no way to explain it to you they said. You just have to experience it for yourself. The mothers in the group at the office baby shower would huddle together, cluck clucking about how you just had no idea how much your life was about to change, you poor innocent, naive girl. You did not think it was possible, for things to change that much. You had been through change in your life. Moving, breaking up, meeting new lovers, travelling the world. You were well read, watched foreign movies, maybe even had friends who had children before you. You understood that things would change. That your life, as you knew it, would no longer be the same. You understood that idea, you got the picture, you knew your life was going to change in a big way; you were ready, thank you very much. You’d see them all when your maternity leave was up in 6 weeks.
But they were right and you were wrong. You had no idea how your life would change. Not in just the physical, logistical ways, but the cellular, organic ways – those were the things that took you completely by surprise. Who knew? Who knew the world could be any brighter than it was on the day you met your husband? Who knew it would be any more spectacular than the sunrise on the beach in Hawaii that moist morning he decided to surprise you with a walk on the beach and a glistening diamond as the two of you sat on the sand and watched the sun rise over Diamond Head? The world seemed amazingly bright that morning, the bluest sky, the whitest clouds, the most amazing shades of pink in the clouds behind the greenest palm trees and banana plants and the reddest hibiscus flowers you had ever laid eyes on. Who knew life could be more vibrant than it was that day, when your entire future together was before you, stretching on as it did like the Hawaiian horizon. No end in sight, just smooth sailing, or so you thought.
Get brighter it did. After so much pain. Childbirth was the most painful thing you had ever been through. They did not lie about that. They could not have told you enough about the pain. Recommendation after recommendation to get the epidural as soon as you can. Forget natural childbirth they said. It is just not worth it, it hurts so much! Make sure they have the needle ready for you the second you arrive, do not waste time and wait, they told you. They had friends who waited and then it was too late They were too far dilated or the anesthesiologist couldn’t get there in time or had an emergency or wasn’t quick in answering his page because you were interrupting his anniversary dinner or kids swim meet or little league game or dance recital or yoga class or mistresses birthday ort something. And then it was too late, you were too far dilated and then you had to just do it the old-fashioned way, without drugs.
You took their recommendation on that, took the drugs right away. The nurses were happy because you weren’t yelling and screaming the whole night like the “granola” moms down the hall who wanted to show how natural childbirth was and how strong they were with all their pre-natal yoga and Zen breathing techniques only getting them so far until they too, started yelling “Give me an epidural god damn it!!!”
And then there he was, head poking out of you, body still all the way inside you, stretching you open from your very core so that he could come out and you could open up to becoming a mother. There was nothing like it, whether you were drugged, completely knocked out, or un-medicated, the end result, if you were lucky was the same. A baby, warm and wet and wriggling and screaming and purple faced and searching for your nipple. He turned to your voice, before any other, searching for the familiarity you had cultivated over the 9 months he was inside you growing. From the smallest of seedlings he grew into a living, thriving, writhing baby - all 8 pounds of him.
It was at that very moment you began to understand the gravity of the situation, the seriousness with which everyone spoke of childbirth and motherhood. The transformative nature of the entire bizarre experience. Because even though you are sweaty and exhausted and literally torn apart, turned inside out, bleeding and shitting and barfing in front of complete strangers with your ass and breasts hanging out and just not giving a damn, even then the world looks a little bit different. Sure the tears streaming out of your eyes and down your cheeks cloud your vision, and the exhaustion and bad hospital lighting make the room seem slightly out of focus and illuminated in an artificial way but the world seems more saturated with color. It stays that way through the next few exhausted and exhausting weeks when you get no sleep because he gets no sleep and when he does you are so in love you can not help but stare at him, make sure he is breathing, watch his eyes as the move rapidly from side to side, smile as his little red lips pucker and he makes sucking noises.  They told you to sleep when he sleeps, to not worry about the dishes or the laundry or the filthy bathroom sinks, and that is easy for you to do. You can let the housekeeping go, but sleeping while he sleeps is difficult because he is just the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. You begin to realize what they were talking about. It’s like someone has taken your heart out of your body, given it little kissable chubby legs and let it go wobbling off into the big bad world. Your heart breaks just thinking about it. Eventually you learn not to think about it for just that reason, it is impossible to imagine your life without him in it now that he is there in the bassinet beside your bed or the crib down the hall or the baby swing next to your sofa or wrapped up in a soft warm blanket next to you in your bed where he was conceived, that will never feel as comfortable, as much like home, as where you are supposed to be, as it does when he is there, sheltered in the crook of your arm, your watchful eyes never leaving him. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Belly

This is my belly.

I do not like my belly.

In fact, it may even have taken the first place spot on the "Things I Do Not Like About Myself" list. Even above my slothful nature, and how I withdraw when I am stressed out.

This is how my belly used to look:

Perhaps this partially explains why I have issues with my belly. However, if that were the case I would likely have issues with all of my body...oh, wait....

In any event, once upon a time my belly (and the rest of my body) looked like that. Needless to say it doesn't any more, which is perfectly natural and to be expected, I know. I am twice the age now that I was when that photo was taken (by my longtime and extremely gifted friend Alannah Avelin) and I have also given birth to two lovely humans.

These are the humans I grew in that once upon a time flat, carved, belly. Totally worth it, really. I mean, if you asked me to give them up and have my flat belly back would I take you up on your offer? Hell No! I know that. I also know women who have had more children than I have who have their flat bellies back, so I guess I can't "blame" it on the miracle of life. Maybe the miracle of making water into wine is a more likely villain. Hmmm....shall I pour a glass of wine so we can discuss?

There is another reason I should love my belly -- other than it was home to the munchkins and it gives me joy to fill it with good food consumed in the company of good friends and loved ones.

And this is it:

This is my gorgeous, lovely, funny, smart, independent, adventuresome little sister.

She needs a kidney.

Guess what I have in my belly? Yup, a matching one!

So, before we know it, one of my kidneys will be taken out of this belly, and put into hers. It will greatly improve her quality of life and should not adversely affect mine. Except for the fact that I can't play contact sports, so my dreams of being a star rugby player are dashed, but hey, it's a small price to pay. And I'll be really, really sore for a couple of weeks, but they promise me some good pain meds, so there is that to look forward to.

And guess what, that belly up there? The one with no scars? Well, it's going to be less than the less than perfect it already is now, because it will have scars. Life-giving scars.

That belly is like a giving, stretched, contracted, full of pain and stress and joy and hope and LIFE, so much freakin' essential.

I'm working on loving my belly. My round, soft, life-giving belly.

Oh Belly, I love you just the way you are and for all you do.

I'm going to keep saying that. Everyday. Over and over and over.

With a Belly Full of Love,

PS: It's good to be back.