Dormant Child

I hear you now

From within, so deeply hidden you had no chance of being heard until now

I thought maybe you’d flown away with the night and my innocence

Or maybe you’d been crushed by the weight of his body on mine

I held a funeral for you inside and accepted the loss

And then, one day, there you were; and at first

I could not recognize you through the warp and woof that my soul became

 

Here you are now

And I found you, and though you were unrecognizable to me

I knew and loved you at first sight with every fiber of my being

I’d never seen anything more heart-breakingly beautiful in my life

I drew your little burned body into my arms, your flesh black and peeling

Raw, red skin angering through the seared pain of the past

I loved you until the dead flesh fell away, until you pinked up and began to flourish

In the fore of my heart I let you pick your own room and decorate it pink and kitty cats

Let the other girls invite you to play and read you stories

I gave you hot baths and fed you warm milk and cookies, told you I was putting you first now

And I realized that you were more me than any me I had ever been before or would ever be

 

Now you are here

And you are my everything, you are the key, finally – the center of us all

You carry my truth, my play, my freedom, my deepest self-song

 

Now I am here

The parent who will protect you from that kind of hurt ever happening again

The mother who will love you like you are my everything

The woman who sings a self-song so beautiful it makes me cry to hear it

 

I hear you now

 

For Suzanne, with Thanks & Love

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: dormant

 

 

 

 

True Grit

My Dad and I had a very complicated relationship.

There were years we barely spoke, by my choice.

Our relationship was damaged in my early childhood, and afterwards, it was always in one phase or another of dysfunction.

I reached a point in my adulthood where I decided that it was best for my health to remove myself from the dynamic. And I thought that would pretty much be it for the remainder of my life, and I was OK with that decision.

Until, that is, my mother’s cancer.

Life is funny that way. You can think that a part of your life is beyond repair, and then lo and behold, Life brings you the only exact set of circumstances under which you would ever come together again.

In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She underwent radiation therapy (two rounds) and then chemotherapies (2.) I traveled down to Texas to visit often to be with her, me tersely tolerating my father, and he giving me a wide berth out of hurt respect of my former choice. (I also always took my then-boyfriend with me as buffer.)

Then in 2006, after the family gathering at Christmas, which was more uncomfortable than usual, my parents called to tell me that they had been informed by my mother’s oncologist that no more could be done for her. (I will never forget the agony of that call.)

Just like that, all bets were off.

It had been decided that she would be having home hospice care to make her as comfortable as possible. As happens in such situations, we were still hopeful that she could live for some time. No one can predict how things will really go, you tell yourself.

I started going to Houston weekly to be with her. My father and I, out of necessity and shared concern, began to interact more and more, all having to do with her and her health needs.

We found our way to something new, something beyond the pain of the past, for her sake. And later, after the inevitable happened, for ours.

In the weeks following my mother’s death, my father was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Now, my father had been a strapping, big and tall and healthy man his entire life. Never much more than allergies. But I think the stress of losing his beloved sweetheart of 54 years created the perfect storm in his system, and the cancer that might have lain dormant for years just took over the weakened man.

In the midst of undergoing tremendous grief (he’d also lost his father the year before,) my father had to make decisions regarding his own illness, which was acute and generally swift-moving. The standard treatment available was quite harsh. He decided to go an alternative route in order to potentially benefit others by entering into an clinical trial at MD Anderson Hospital to receive experimental drugs instead of the standard approach, which was tough to survive in and of itself.

So I continued my visits. My remaining brother lived in Houston, so he became the primary caregiver, which I was grateful for. But I went down as often as possible and our new relationship began to grow into a new chapter, slowly, carefully.

And in the year following, when one of my two brothers also died, unexpectedly, again, all bets were off.

I watched this man who was so complicated for me, who had hurt me in such far-reaching ways, suffer the loss of his lifelong love and his son. These losses broke him apart. He went through pain that I would not have wished on my worst enemy.

(And he was my worst enemy.)

Somewhere there in the midst of it all, after a lifetime of seeing no way to ever being able to forgive this man, I suddenly was able to see that he was worthy of my forgiveness. That I had been given forgiveness in my life, and that he, too, should be given that as well. That he was not beyond forgiveness, in some separate category unlike anyone else on the planet.

I guess I was finally able to see him just as a flawed man, finally, and not as the monster I had experienced and protected my heart from for all those years. (Perhaps justifiably, one might argue. But things had changed. And those changes had allowed for a shift of my perception. And that shift allowed yet a new phase of our new relationship.)

In the remaining time of his life, we found our way to a loving father-daughter relationship.

How did this miracle happen?

I think for me, part of it was seeing the sacrifice and the bravery with which he committed himself to surviving his cancer for those of us who remained and loved him.

I know that in his heart he was grief-stricken and lost without my mother and would have loved nothing better than to close his eyes and just let go, to die and be with her. But he fought on, for us.

And after my brother died, that grief was multiplied by 30, and yet still he fought on, for my remaining brother and I. My then-boyfriend-turned-fiance after my mother died, and in the midst of it all we were planning a wedding: a wedding my mother and my father had always wanted for me. He was fighting to walk me down the aisle. And to carry her memory on for his two young grandchildren.

He withstood grueling chemo treatments and daily hospital trips where he sat for hours going through the process required of his treatment. Hours spent sitting and waiting and getting tests and giving blood and getting chemo. Medications at home. The affect the treatment had on his body and spirit. His diminishing physical strength.

This big and tall, towering Texas man became a thin wisp of his former self, eventually walking with a cane.

And through it all, he never once complained.

Three months before my wedding date, he got a virus caught during one of the daily hospital visits. I went home on my usual trip but this time visited him in the hospital, where he had to be in a protected environment.

There, I could see that he was truly exhausted. Spiritually. Emotionally.

That the true grit that had been getting him through, that amazing reserve within that he had been tapping into for so long for our sake, was nearing empty. He had been fighting to give me these last acts of fatherhood, this time of repair, this time of untainted love. I knew this and I was so very grateful for it all. I knew that this time had been a supreme gift that would change the quality of my remaining time on the planet for the better. That my whole relationship to life had shifted for the better.

And so I gave him the last gift I could give him as a daughter. I gave him my permission to let go of the fight.

There are times when life provides you with an open door, and if you are paying attention, you see it and you walk through, somehow knowing that it is what you should do.

When a moment arose in the conversation that invited such a thing to say, I took it.

I told him we loved him and were thankful for everything he had been doing. For how hard he had been fighting for us, to be there for the wedding and for the kids. But that I would never want him to stay on if he truly no longer wanted to. That he had done it all, he had fathered through like a warrior, but that if, at any point, he was ready, that we would want him to let go. That we would be OK. That I would be OK. That he and I were OK.

It was just a few sentences. He knew and I knew what we were saying to each other. He said he wasn’t at that point quite yet but he could understand a time of coming to that point.

When it was time to leave, I told him I loved him, and meant it. I thanked him for being my father, and I meant that too. And I thanked him for fighting so hard to be there for me.

He passed away the next week, after returning home, having come through the virus. My brother found him laying alongside the bed, as if he’d gotten up in the night and collapsed.

I hope he felt at peace when the moment came. Perhaps he was walking towards the sound of my mother’s voice. I like to think so.

My love for him is complicted, yes. But it is true. As true as the grit that he was made of.

2009-07-24-15-22-58-e1499812592237.jpg Dad and I at the civil ceremony of my marriage, 8 mo before he died.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: grit

 

 

Cutting the Cord

I am on a quest.

A quest to trust myself more. Especially in the arena of decision-making.

It sounds easy enough, right? I mean, I am me. So it makes sense that I should be able to make decisions and act on them. Easy-peasy.

I have thoughts and feelings. I reference the information stored in my brain and body that I have gained through experiences in my lifetime until now.

I know my values. I have my goals, my aspirations. My action plan. I have one, five and ten year plans in place just like experts tell you to. These are supposed to be the touchstone from which you make decisions. Check in with what they are, and if the thing is in alignment with them, voila, you have your decision. What’s not to trust?

But the process above is not the way it goes for me. I agonize over decisions, major and minor. Whether it be deciding what restaurant to go to for dinner or if I should buy a new apartment.

In my decision-making process, I am riddled with doubt at every turn. There is a constant loop of second-guessing that plays in my head. What “should” I do? What are other people doing? What if I pick the wrong thing and ruin my life forever? What if I regret my choice? What if I could have made a better choice? I torture myself.

I used to explain this away as a Libran “ism.” As a Libra, I am prone to weigh the different sides of things. I can see the value in opposing sides. Fairness is of high importance to me. I can see the good in the bad and the bad in the good. It makes decision-making a tedious mess. I end up feeling torn.

I have also pointed to my being an actress, a storyteller, as part of the issue. When posed with a scenario, my mind naturally starts to put together paths of logic that stem from every possibility. I have a vibrant and active imagination and can envision potential outcomes in great detail. This does not necessarily make for easy decisions.

I have even thought that my difficulty making decisions had to do with being the youngest. Often, as the youngest, you grow up doing what others want you to do and going where you are told to go. You learn to follow your older siblings’ lead. You want to do what they do. You want to be where the action is. You don’t know there is any other way than how the family treats you: as the littlest: you are usually just told what to feel, think and do.

I also come from a Protestant people who I think are quite fear-based, so it is in my genes to be cautious and to fear bad things happening as a result of one’s own actions. Don’t rock the boat. Go with the flow. Don’t make waves. This desire to fit in and to protect myself by blending in is often at war with my other desires and impulses, making decision-making all the more tricky.

I also know that due to traumatic events at a pivotal time in my early childhood, I learned to discount my own experience and sense of truth. To doubt my inner truth in favor of what others’ think. That certainly has messed with my ability to reach within, make a decision and trust it.

Though all of these may indeed and probably do contribute to the problem, they aren’t the root cause of my decision-making difficulties. The root, I have come to learn, is satellite thinking.

Satellite thinking/living occurs when a person makes other people’s ideas and opinions and actions have more meaning than one’s own. To be constantly seeking outside evidence, clues and advice as to what to do.

I didn’t even know that is what I was doing for many years. That I was always looking outside of myself to decide what to do.  It is incredibly painful to live that way. It’s exhausting!

I know it now, and I am so grateful.

There’s no fulfillment in that way of living. Ever.

It has been quite an awakening to realize this and to shift into my own core. It has been perhaps the most amazing healing work I have ever done in my life. It has taken patience and tremendous love. I have had to learn to really listen to my own voice within and to discern it apart from those other voices inside my head that have worn their groove into my neuropaths.

And I now feel that I am at the last phase of becoming core-centered. I am at the phase where I actually jump off the psychic edge of the familiarity of looking to the outside to guide me. Where I willingly fall into the unknown abyss that core-centered living feels like.

It is flat-out terrifying. And exciting.

When I think about truly entering into this relationship with myself: asking myself alone what is the next right action; when I think about asking questions of myself such as how do I really want to lively life, and what does a meaningful, well-lived look like to me; what will I feel was a “worthy” life when I am on my deathbed…when I begin to live with these questions, really listening for the answers within underneath the cacophony of those loops, I feel dizzy and disoriented, literally.

It feels like I will become like the astronaut in 2001 A Space Odyssey who is disconnected from the mothership, floating away into black nothingness…

A terrifying image. That is truly how scary it feels. My entire relationship to life is changing. Scary, to be sure. And yet.

It also feels like finally coming home to roost. Like the Eagle has finally landed.

Like I have finally found what I have been looking for and missing my whole life.

Can I ever truly erase that ever-playing loop of doubt in my head? That constant tendency to look to see what is happening “over there,” to ask what are “they” doing in order to decide what I want to do? To question my own sense of reality and defer to what others say is the truth or what I think others would do or what I imagine they want me to do. Can I halt that loop?

Maybe not. But I know it for what it is now. It is just old static. I can brush it away, like a stray hair that is tickling my face.

I can tune the knob and find my own frequency inside. Sometimes it takes awhile to find, but it is always there.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz discovering the power to go home again, I find I’ve had it in me all along.

Turns out, I am my own mothership.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: loop

 

Lasting Impressions

Relieved to find you gone

I relish the space you’ve left

I wander around, plumping out indents your body left behind

Quiet echoes through the house

Bouncing off the boulders of residual angerhurt, weighting the air

And defensive arguments play at high volume on a loop in my head

Maybe someday I will breathe deeply again

And I will hear what my own heart has to say

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: relieved

Old Baggage

When I was in junior high school, I begged my parents to go in on a purse that I was desperate to buy.

Not just any purse. It was a Gucci Speedy/Doctor bag. (We didn’t call it that then. I only know that’s its name from researching this…it is now considered vintage! Ouch!) It probably cost a couple of hundred dollars, which was a lot in those days (at least to my family) to pay for a purse, or anything, really.

Everybody had one, or so it seemed to me.

I went to a large public high school, so there was a mix of economic and racial backgrounds, kids from many different backgrounds.

On any given day you would see the many different lifestyles reflected in the fashion of the different groups. Sometimes what a kid was wearing reflected their socio-economic status, but not always.

There were “Stoners” (or “Partiers.”) The “Kickers” (this was Texas after all — so these kids were cowboy/farmer types.) It being the 80’s, there were the “Punkrocker” or “New Wavers.” ( I know, this is beginning to sound like the movie “Pretty in Pink.” That movie resonated for a reason, right?)

It was the height of the Preppy or Preppie craze, and though Houston, Texas was not NYC, we did get the fashion trends, albeit maybe a season or two behind. So the other main group was the “Preppies.”

The majority of kids in the Preppies definitely came from upper middle class to wealthy families. Looking back, for a public school, there were quite a few kids that came from great wealth.

I didn’t really fall into any one group. While my family was white-collar, sort of upper middle class, my father, having come from next to nothing, wanted to be sure that we were not spoiled. We never wanted for anything, but we lived fairly simply in comparison to some of the other kids in my school.

I was never one of the popular kids. I was an outcast until I lost a bunch of weight at 14, when suddenly I became of more interest to the “in” crowd. Though my outsides changed, my insides were the same. So though I was allowed around the in crowd now, I never felt a part of it.

There were others like me. We found each other and created our own group. We didn’t have a name, at least that I know of.

We were sort of mysterious: people knew we had fun going out to clubs and bars and hanging with older college kids. Though we had friends across all the groups, we would hang with just each other outside of school. We dressed in a mix of all of the fashions of the day.

But back to that bag. The bag that “everyone” was getting. I just had to have one. I had some money from babysitting, but not enough for THAT bag. So through the implementation of Chinese water torture on my dad, I promised over and over dramatically that “I would never need to buy another purse again for as long as I lived if I had that bag!”

Eventually, I wore my parents down. I got THE bag.

I have no recollection as to whether or not obtaining the bag actually brought me any pleasure whatsoever. I ‘m pretty sure that the amount of time I actually used it was very brief, much to my father’s chagrin.

Years later, after my Mom died, when we were sorting through some of her things, my Dad reminded me of that bag and that promise. We laughed about it, but I felt a cringe of guilt at how easily I had let go of that bag after having fought so hard to get it.

I think it’s because I really had no connection to the bag itself. Only to the way I wanted to be seen carrying it. The lifestyle to which I wanted to be associated. Which was not reflective of my own style at all, or even who I really was or even wanted to be.

But I wanted to feel like, or to be wanted by at least, (or to be seen by others as being wanted by or as one of “them,”) those popular girls, and so I got the bag. It didn’t make me feel any more a part of the “it” group than I ever had. I was an outsider and I always would be, bag or no bag.

It makes me sad that the girl I was then didn’t feel good enough in my own esteem to have seen that bag for what is was: a status symbol. It wasn’t the bag I really wanted. I wanted status. How I wish I could go back in time and tell that myself that being an outsider was actually pretty cool. Now I know the kind of status I needed would never be able to come from anything outside of my own heart. I wish I hadn’t sold myself so easily and so cheaply.

After my Dad died, I found that old Gucci purse in a box in the garage, where my Dad had kept it for me all these years. It was in mint condition, barely used.

Maybe you are hoping I’ll say I started to use it again. Or that I sold it at a profit on Ebay.

I gave it to the Salvation Army, where I hope it became a found treasure for someone who really wanted it for its beauty. I hope it is being put to good use in the world, as should all things.

Today I carry a very practical Lug Moped Day Pack bag as a purse. It costs about $35.


It’s light, leaves me hands free and has just the right ratio of open pockets, zippered pockets, divisions and space. (As it turns out, I am quite finicky about a handbag’s function, would love to design my own ideal bag, but this is as close to my ideal as I have found to buy.)

I have no interest in designer handbags. I may admire their beauty sometimes, and be amazed at and appreciative of the women who pay for them, love and carry them. But they were never my style and probably never will be.

I can live with that.

#purses #handbags #self-love #Iamnotmybag #theeighties

Inspired by The Daily Post word prompt: lifestyle

Home

Growing up, I always felt like a fish out of water.

I couldn’t wait to flee the country of my birth…Texas.

Yes, I know Texas isn’t a country.

But in feels like its own country. Maybe because of its size. Or its history. (It was its own country for awhile: the Republic of Texas, from 1836–1845. That independent spirit remains, albeit subtle, after all these years.)

But feeling like it was its own country wasn’t the real reason I wanted to get out.

I just always felt like I was not in my natural habitat. Nothing against it, but Houston, the city of my birth, is very large and flat. Everyone drives everywhere. When I was growing up there, there was no real center to the city, no downtown destination (then) that you could drive to and feel the life of the city the way you can in many major cities.

I felt so…alone. Millions of people lived in the city, but I could never get a sense of where they all were. I’d only see some of them passing by in their cars. Everyone seemed to be going off to places, but where were all the places? There were tons of restaurants and stores and cars and buildings and neighborhoods, but I couldn’t feel where all those people were. I can recall that feeling in my body to this day. It’s an empty-dread-panic that rises from my belly and settles into my chest, squeezing my heart. It makes me want to cry, and my breathing starts to feel pinched off. It literally made me want to run screaming into the streets, looking for, I don’t know what. Some kind of connection. Some kind of belonging?

Yes, I could go to a mall and find a lot of those people. Maybe that is part of the reason that as a child I loved to go to the Galleria, which was a big deal when I was growing up. It had a huge skating rink in it’s center (It was just the Galleria then — has since expanded.) There I could feel some of the people. Unfortunately, being a mall, it was a rather empty-feeling kind of community. I mean, the whole premise revolves around commerce. But it was something.

Sure, I had family and friends. I had some communities. I went to my best friend’s church youth group for awhile. Throughout school, I was in choir and that was a major source of connection. I participated in clubs and such. I eventually was part of a wonderful group of friends in high school and we made our own community, our own clique.

But even with those connections and communities, I still always  just did not feel at home. I literally felt anxious and uncomfortable. Now, there are many reasons for that having to do with other givens of my life. But I am talking at a pure animal level.

Whatever animal I am, my natural habitat is not Texas.

When I was 16, I accompanied my parents to NYC for a big business trip. It was December, and we stayed in a swanky hotel right on Central Park South. And it snowed while we were there. My room overlooked the snow-laden beauty of Central Park, and I will never forget looking out of my window and seeing that winter wonderland. We rode the elevator down one morning with Dudley Moore! I saw five Broadway shows, which forever changed my life.

I was smitten and giddy with the flush of first love. NYC stole my heart the way it does for so many of us. I could feel the people. There was life everywhere. I could stand in the center of the life and know I was there.

Its glittery grime, its sights and sounds, the faces — the diversity! — and the raw urban-ness of it just got under my skin. I just could not stare enough at all the people, their varying energies and manners and expressions. You could argue that because I am an actor, an artist, I was destined to love a place like NYC. But it was more than that.

I was home. I could breathe easy for the first time in my life. I felt like a fish put back into its tank. I was with my people. I was where I was supposed to be. And as quickly as I could manage to, I moved to NYC. And NYC is where I have since stayed.

Today, I enjoy Texas. I appreciate Texas. I like to visit there. Many people I love are there. I see its beauty and its gifts.

But I always come home to NYC.

#NewYorkCityisMyHome

A response to the Daily Prompt: Flee