last night i tucked you in bed and i indulged in spontaneous daydreams of you as a young woman. i could see you so clearly. and i loved what i saw. just like now, i love what i see. i felt odd projecting visions onto you, because so often parents visions for children can be filled with their own unfulfilled desires or expectations. but in my heart of hearts, this felt anything but that. i am full and i am satisfied. it is easy for me to see you clearly. for you and i there are no should's. i have no idea of who you “should be.” should feels impossible. you are you. simply, perfectly and utterly, YOU. and you always have been. i look at you now and feel the same way i did when i first met you.
i was in awe of being knowing itself so fully, so maturely, so confidently. this was day one. you can imagine how i must feel six years later. a mama at school the other day watched you play on the playground after school and said, "octave doesn't seem like a kid. she feels like a full grown, all knowing woman in a kids body." I smiled, nodded, and wanted to say, "you have no idea. imagine how i feel the moment i met her. i felt completely overwhelmed. i questioned if i was enough, if i was the person to carry her through this life, to teach her all she needed to know. because in so many ways it felt like she already knew and sensed it all." but instead i just said, “ i know, i feel the exact same way.”
lately i feel like maybe we aren't teaching or learning from each other. maybe we are just remembering, and it was you and i that needed to do this remembering together. our souls have most surely traveled through time and space together. this is not our first go around. there is so much we already know and feel together. which is probably why you read my mind, more often than i could ever share, because no one would ever believe me. you were two months old when i had this inkling, and then eighteen months old when you repeated my exact thoughts. multiple times a week we have this occurrence and it makes us both smile ear to ear. but this night when i tucked you into bed, and in indulged in all my daydreams of you as a young woman, i told you how clearly i could see you as the mystical animal lady of the neighborhood with an apartment bursting at the seems with exotic flora and fauna, rats, snakes, dogs, fish, birds, reptiles, and the like. your toothless smile made my guts ache with joy. your shoulders shrugged and you chuckled the most smitten, and validated laugh I have ever heard. in that moment you were reminded that i see you fully, and for a few moments longer we savored that knowing. this picture is a few days later, but this smile is a small glimpse into that face and that knowing. this smile speaks the same language, and invites the integrity of that night, in your bed, when we talked about who you might be as a young and old woman, because you are already her, and in so many ways, you always have been.
e m p t y,
it is not vacant or hollow.
it is finding the root,
coming home to yourself.
an unfurnished heart,
it’s a little like a gift,
because empty is not being left with nothing ,
it is the humble finding of
e v e r y t h i n g.
June came and went like a whirlwind. Bijou's 4th Birthday, end of the school year potlucks, the last day of Kindergarten, our EIGTH wedding anniversary, Warren's Birthday, two weekends of dance performances, and a quick trip to Bend with old girlfriends. It was so full of really special events and yet I often felt like I was watching my life from above, struggling to feel inside of my life.
My life is rich and beautiful and on paper it should conclude that I finally have everything I have ever wanted, and yet there is something a little off. I feel raw but removed, connected yet aloof. I suppose this is nothing new, a good paradox has always found a cozy home inside my bones. But even after all this time, it still feels foreign. I often feel like a ninety year old woman in her final days, realizing what is most important in life, and telling her younger self, only I've known it since day one, and have let it be the cornerstone of my worldview.
When Octave was born I was so excited to raise her differently, how in my bones I knew life could be, and yet now I feel so distracted and out of place that I can't seem to do it well, or maybe just how I want to. I don't want anything more, I just want something different. And what that different is exactly, I don't know, but it eats away at me, keeping me from writing, being productive, and feeling alive in this time and place. Surely it is not as dramatic as it sounds. I am well. I am content. But I am often only one word away from tears. "Time." Someone can casually mention it on the street, in yoga or at the grocery store and I immediately soften into a puddle of salt. It's embarrassing and inappropriate and makes me look like that person who hasn't dealt with their issues. Except I am, daily, hourly, moment to moment. I am forever and always peeling away another layer of myself, but for the first time I am intimidated, perhaps curious if I am brave enough to do something about what I find. Time, it's almost like a trigger word, screaming at me to do something different. I want to, I am just not so sure what exactly that means.
Octave's Kindergarten class has been growing chicks in an incubator over the last month. O is a without a doubt the most passionate animal lover any of us have ever experienced and her teacher asked if we wanted to take them home for the weekend. So just a few days of them freshly hatched we took five chicks home, and needless to say we have fallen madly in love. It's so special to see how my daughters passions inspire new things inside of me. Being around animals is not natural for me, and so I love learning the world brand new through her eyes. I don't see pets in our near future, (I'm still learning how to grow and nurture these amazing little humans.) But we are seeking out as many opportunities for her to interact with and care for animals as we can, because this is without a doubt her love language, and seeing her in her element can quickly bring me to tears. Her attention to detail, her intuition and logic are a unique combination that make these experiences pure magic.
I am so proud of the person she is becoming and my heart has felt so sad not being in the mental space to document these reflections the way I have so passionately done the years prior. I think I've been lost in transition. I am still mourning not having my days with her. I am still mourning my longing to homeschool. I feel an ache that I am realizing not everyone does. I know I am sentimental, and feel deeply, but it feels more than that, because all mamas feel the contradictions beneath our bones. But there is something else happening. While i am so grateful and happy, I am not content. I am not settled. I feel like there is another path, another way. I am not a grass is greener, type of person. I fully understand that nothing is necessarily better, it is just different. But maybe I want something different. But how do you balance your own desires with your children's? Are they one in the same? Is what is best for one, best for the other? If not, who sacrifices? I don't know. And there is no way to answer that question. Like most true things, they are case by case, and have room to evolve. But lately I feel the tension between being so in love with her school and the community we are apart of, and wanting more time and space to do the things I want to do with her. I am craving a slower, simpler life. The kind we had when it was just us, the one I knew I was meant to live. I don't want a life of to and from's, not today, but tomorrow's. I want a life that is open enough for spontaneity and connection. My art just might be, the art of doing nothing. What this means, I don't know. I'm just putting it out there and allowing myself to move when the current becomes strong enough. It feels stronger than ever but there is no where else to go, or so it seems. But we are here for now, and these chicks, they had me at first chirp. We might just be chick people.
i danced the morning long. it felt like home until it didn’t. until the marrow in my bones ached the way it always does when we are apart. there is only so much success and satisfaction this humble heart can savor before its very craving self destructs. there is minimal desire outside of them. and i struggle with feeling like this might be the least empowering thing to say to the women who came before me, the women got me here, and the ones who hold my hand as I attempt the exhausting facade of the progressive woman’s dream. the one of having it all. but, i have an inkling that dishonestly would be a far greater disservice for the case of empowerment. and so I share with transparency that becoming a mother wrecked me. in all the best ways, but in a way that makes almost everything else feel second best, while simultaneously igniting every existing passion beneath my skin. i wait for nothing. i listen and respond to every lead. i swan dive into the deepest comforts of a good paradox. but when i come up for air, they are not there, and suddenly i cannot breathe. my art only makes sense within and around them. it is not an either or, then and now. when their flesh is far my potential feels limited. like the greatest thing i could ever do is a never been done before hybrid of something i could never understand. i can’t explain in simple terms. if only i could. for now there is this. my tangled up feelings finding solace in letters and words that don’t suffice, but if nothing else begin (something). because i’m starting to think that conclusions and endings are not for me. my inspiration is born from all the what if’s, maybe’s and i don’t knows. and them. always and forever them. bones to skin. the magic marrow of our mystery. we came from the stars. and we all happened to showed up at the same time and place. if that is not home, i don’t know what is.
Another tooth. it is more symbolic than I would have thought. I feel like this stage hit me like a ton of bricks. school. loosing teeth. slumber parties on the forecast. It went from slow and steady, so much time, to fast and gone. or so it seems.
When i am in circles of creativity, i desire to be known as a mother. when i am circles of mothers, i beg to be known as an artist. i wonder why i dichotomize myself into these boxes when i've never believed in shapes to begin with.
This week has been a slow and steady road to internal chaos.
I began with nothing. No plans. Pajamas. Movies. Cuddles. Rain (it poured.) We read books. We read them all. every game was played, every toy was touched, every corner of the home was turned upside down. it was beautiful. and messy. so messy i almost lost my mind. but i was present. i was home. no time, no obligation. just us. this is my love language. i don't get bored. boredom is not for people like me.
I see now that early motherhood, despite it's challenges, is actually my thing. i do well with adequate time and space and as a majority of the time stay at home mama, this worked well for me. Somehow I jump to the end of this parenting season and know that I will feel an equal enthusiasm for the end, and yet i am in neither of those. I am in the beginning of the middle. middle's are hard for me, and yet middle is everywhere i look and feel. Middle of marriage. Middle of motherhood. Middle of life. Middle of, a million and one more things not necessary to go on about. This is not to say that I am in a hard time and place, because truly I am not. I am in such a rich time and space, the space I always dreamed about. A feeling of ease. And yet, it feels foreign. Maybe because I am good at making something from nothing, and I no longer have nothing. Or maybe because I like metaphors and right now it all feels rather simple. Usually these feelings are on the cusp of change, and so I will sit with it all a little while longer, until I read back on these words and it's only a distant memory.
my gait felt foreign. it felt like people watching blindfolded. creating before feeling. begging without wanting.
i unsettled myself inside sturdy, stable foot prints. what i really wanted was silky, shaky stones. not the ones for stepping. why i couldn’t find a familiar stride, i cannot say for sure. maybe the newfound freedom in my arms. a simple swing i have not felt in ages. something i would have not thought twice about before becoming a mother. unaccompanied limbs. phantom children. you would be surprised of its competence. you would be captivated by its capacity.
i embraced my foreign gait. indulged a little. wondered if it was nothing more than new underwear. and then i walked myself right into that coffee shop. to sit. to drink. to think. .
three hours later. everyone else was elsewhere. three cups deep i stood with intention. i let my feet percolate with purpose. from my boots to my brains, i tried it all again.
my gait was neither lost or found. it just was, and i suppose now, it always is. some days are for ending where you began. for circles feeling full. and familiar feeling foreign.
I've been on this internal rampage to make some beautiful point that art is not the antithesis of motherhood. I want to show the world, or more honestly myself, that you can have both, and while I will admit that in some capacity I do, it is not even close to what I have imagined for myself. Because when I try to indulge in one or the other, it feels like the other falls short and both feel like they lack something. When I am buzzing with creative projects, I am not the patient, present mama I want to be, and when I am the mama I want to be, there is little room to make tangible creative things. As I type this I suddenly feel contradictory, and aware of the fact that anything good is not one or the other. Most true things are not binary. It sounds good, and I believe it, but someone tell me how this is actually played out? I've never understood those people who say that having 2 children is no different than 5. You can't ignore the logistics of feeding, clothing, and cleaning more humans, not to mention the emotional aspect, which is probably the most challenging part. There is only so much time in a day, and only so much a person is capable of accomplishing.
I have friends and family who have talked about the advantages of being a working parent. One being that when they are with there kids they are completely present. They know time with them is more limited and so they are able to give themselves more fully because this time feels more sacred and they aren't worn down from the day in and day out challenges of full time parenting. This makes sense, but I am not good at splitting my time up into boxes, or in this case, hours. I dive into life and let it consume me. Whatever I am doing, I like to be all in. So when I take a yoga class or go on a date, a photo shoot, or spend the day writing in a coffee shop I don't always come home feeling refreshed or ready to be more present with my daughters. I often feel like I want more of what I just had. I feel like I start to get creative momentum and then I abruptly shift modes. When I spend the entire day with my daughters, and know that the next week doesn't hold much space for me to do photography, dance, or whatever, it feels like I am present with them in a brand new way. I want more time with them. Six years in and I still can't shift back and forth very easily. Which is rather ironic because my art is so deeply inspired by them and motherhood. It is my time with them that stirs within me the need to create and preserve. It's just this creating and preserving that is tricky to do amongst the reality of family life.
I am learning that I am someone who needs adequate time with people, things, and ideas. When I create I need wide open time and space. When I parent, I feel the exact same way. An entire day or week or month with my girls feels like paradise. But so does creating. Time is my love language and I prefer it slow and steady. Being a creative mama who wants to do, be and feel so much in this world, I find it tricky to navigate, albeit totally possible.
The advice that exists doesn't seems to hit home or apply. I don't identify as a "working," mama, although I have always worked in some non traditional way since having my girls. I also don't identify with the worn down stay at home mama who gets so little time to herself. In fact, I feel like I do get time to myself. I don't know where I belong amongst a spectrum that is so deep and wide. I realize that the most beautiful thing is that I don't have to fit. I know that "fitting," doesn't really exist and we each make our own unique recipe that feels just right to us. The thing is, I am confused about what I want. I don't loose sleep over it, I just acknowledge it and feel it. And maybe there is no answer, this is just the tension every mother feels, expressed in my own unique way. Maybe there are only trials and errors, experiments and "aha's." Maybe I will look back and realize that I was a lot closer to where I think I want to be, than I thought. Maybe I will have written all these ramblings to realize that all this tension is the catalyst for which everything I think and feel suddenly becomes relevant and beautiful. It becomes my art, because it is my life. And because maybe is often is my humble way of say, yeS yES YES! YES! that is it! I can move on now.
I am often asking people what they are reading, what their favorite books are, what they recommend or what they are learning. One of the best parts of going into someone's home is seeing what is on their book shelf. I was looking at ours the other day and it made me smile seeing such an eclectic collection of books. Titles like, Pussy, The Bible, The Ethical Slut, East of Eden, The Four Agreements, Italian Verbs, and almost every Ina May Gaskin book. I want to read books that stretch me and make me uncomfortable, as well as books that affirm who I am and how I see the world. I think both are necessary. Right now I have a list so long that it can almost make my body ache. I want to dive into every book I see. There is so much to learn and feel and only so many hours after the girls are in bed that I am able to read. However, despite the limited time, when I am intentional about how I use those few hours before bed, and I decide to not let an organized home be a priority, I am able to read enough to make me feel alive. Here is a list of favorite's that I've read over the last 6 months.
Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay // The Mothers by Britt Bennett // Commonwealth by Ann Patchett // What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons // The Vegetarian by Han Kang // Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel // Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert // An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay // Sex at Dawn by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan //
time hovers over my love. i would think them one in the same if not for the fact that my time is finite. my love is not. i ache for a conclusion i hope to never find. my contradictions are both a burden and muse. my love (for them) could never be simple.
salty waters swell inside my aperture. a vail of inevitability. the steadfast surveillance of my viscera. i am more than just my function. and these leaky lashes smear my face with a confusion I’ve never known, but a contentment you could never buy. they refuse to sell it. it’s not yet a thing. it’s mine.
when they are away, something will always be missing.
i just want us outside the somber howl of time. i want us in colors and tastes, sensations and dreamy heirlooms. i want indulgent connections, ample space. sweet, sappy truth. here and now. so little more.
i often pride myself on loving and accepting mess and chaos. but if the truth be known, i can only handle so much. and when life feels messy, i it turns out i crave a good, clean, white wall. i managed to stick to my philosophy and not asking them to do anything specific. I just encouraged them to be near that white wall, desperately trying to not sound desperate. for god's sake, get near that clean white wall and give me mental clarity. A week of not so natural photographs, it felt foreign but was probably really good for me.
I read this poem a few years ago and it still lingers inside of my bones. i think it will always speak to me in some profound way...
Friday Kahlo to Marty McConnell
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.
- Marty McConnell
I just put the girls in bed, poured a glass of red, turned on the weepies and let my heart ruminate...
Tonight we watched Moana and Octave noticed how they make everything from nature, and she asked me if people still live this way. I told her yes, in some parts of the world they do, and she told me that is how she wishes she could live. Even if it meant she couldn't bring her things with her, she still would want to. The timing was rather ironic because I've done little more than quarrel over the way we live. I often feel like I am fighting an internal battle that most people around me have not ever thought twice about. Our culture often feels foreign to me, in every way. From school, to parenting, to how we live in boxes and transport ourselves in boxes to get to more boxes. This is only the beginning. It doesn't feel real. This is why I was so excited to try living without a car, and why almost six years later, I still think showing up places soggy is worth it. Comfort and convenience can't buy satisfaction and meaning, and I want both. For months my head and heart have been on to something, I just haven't felt the pressing desire to put it to paper. But it's almost the new year and this is without a doubt my favorite holiday or time or year and despite still not feeling like I've sorted my thoughts out well enough to share, it feels like maybe if I don't, I never will.
While the world has felt like it is falling apart, for my family and I 2017 was probably the best year to date. I refuse to feel guilty about that because I've learned that my heart is capable of feeling more than one emotion deeply. In fact it's perfected the art of holding two opposing feelings or realities and sitting with them deeply. It's because of this, I don't feel the need to dwell or share all the ache that weaved in and around all of our lives. The news has done it's job. But for the four of us, it was monumental. We left survival mode and started to find who we are as a family of four. We started to thrive. Hubs and I fell in like and love with each other all over again. How two people can go through such deep and profound changes and still be compatitable is mind boggling, but it is us, and I am beyond grateful. I've started to see that our love for each other is inconsequential to the space we leave, or make for each other. Or maybe, this is love. The space to grow and evolve, even if we don't resonate or understand, although luckily for us, usually we do. This might just be our recipe for success, along with the realization that we are each our own person. We belong to ourselves first, and before anything we have to be someone that we can love and live with. Only then can we leave space for another and not make our own shit about the other. I know a lot of couples who love each other deeply, but I have yet to meet two humans who can share as openly about thoughts and ideas that would makes others run for the hills. I say this not to brag, but because I want it documented somewhere. Not for me, but my daughters. I want them to know that we have this. We can turn the world upside down, and still find truth. We can still find each other.
And these two incredible humans that we made, they have filled us with so much joy this year. After years of practically mothering alone and in the trenches I arrived at this time and space where motherhood finally felt and looked the way I used to dream about. I started to become the mother I wanted to be. I not only love my daughters but I like them, and I can admit without pride or guilt that yes, I am a good mama. I also started to become comfortable with the fact that Christopher and I are not always going to parent the same way, and this is ok. In fact it might even be a gift. We don't have to agree on everything and we don't need to convince our girls that we do either. They can learn nuance from an early age, and we ourselves can model respect for someone who has a different opinion, in our very own home. The belief system that both parents have to be a team, no matter what, has some unrealistic and unhealthy flaws. We can invite them into this. The problem is not two people disagreeing, the problem is lack of respect, and two people undermining each other. The problem is one person having to be right. But in our home there is no right, there is only, another way, a different perspective.
This year I started to dance and perform again. I started to pursue photography. I tried to write more consistently. I read books. A lot of books (for a mama.) I started to say no to things that don't bring me life. I learned to say no so I could say yes, or even better, just be. I attempted to grow out my arm pit hair because I have no idea if I like it or I shave it because I was taught that is what you do. I only made it 4 weeks in before the itchiness got the best of me. It turns out I like shaved arm pits. Check. Now I know. This year I found my voice in a brand new way. I still can't quite articulate this, but I know it and feel it, and suppose this is the most important.
This year brought me back home. But in the last month there has been a dull buzzing that hums beneath my chest. There is an acknowledgment that I've done good work, but there is this silent alarm asking more of me. No one can hear it but it keeps me up at night. It kind of pisses me off. I was hoping to ride this scenic view a little while longer. But it's ok because I have always been the one to see the silver lining, and I'm not afraid of hard work. I just keep getting this sense that after a year of sitting pretty, it's now the time and place to dive deep and create the life we always dreamed of. This sounds glamorous... the life we always dreamed of. But for me, and maybe we all feel this way, but it usually means paving a brand new way, one that others will detest and misunderstand. I don't want the American dream. I want what Octave wants. I want a world made with nature. I want real things. I want meaning. I want a world without my cell phone. And yet I am a city girl and I come alive here. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. While I often dream or joke or running away to the jungle with my babies, I don't actually want that. Well, maybe for a month or two, but I love our life. I love the city. I just don't love what my cell phone has become. In fact this is a source of anxiety for me. It's made it nearly impossible to take in the world around me, process and then create. I must make and create. But if there is no empty space to take in the world how can I ever create? Sure, there is self control and there are limits I could make for myself and I do. The struggle is that I want to be a present mama. I don't want my kids to see me mindlessly on my phone. So, I don't check my phone throughout the day(mostly.) Or when I am away from them doing something inspiring I feel the need to take care of the unanswered messages on my phone so when I am with them I can truly be with them. But when am I just with myself? So I save this time for after they are in bed, or nap time, but then this looks like me giving a half assed attempt to clean up our home (sigh) before I finally sit down and look at my phone. I respond to my messages (or if you know me well enough) maybe I don't. I respond to email, try to organize our calendar and then check my Instagram. Thank God I just have instagram. BUT STILL...This can take up to an hour. And then there is the rabbit hole of inspiration/confusion I often find myself in. By this time I don't feel ready to create. I feel ready for bed. I find myself in this conundrum and I know I am not alone, I just don't know what I am supposed to do about it. It feels pressing, like never before, like I MUST make a change. And yet I don't want to always be that person who has to go against the grain. Living without a car already makes us different. Living without a cellphone? Just call us Amish. I don't mind the label, I just want to make sure whatever I choose is life-giving and just like with the car, we had no idea what it would actually look like. Will living without a cell phone create more peace or more chaos? Will I miss social media? Yeah, I think I would, because despite it's flaws it is equally redemptive. But I will I miss it more than the feelings of unrest and inability to be in my own life? That I don't know. I'm even annoyed that I am writing these words. It feels so insignificant and meaningless, so empty and almost embarrassing, and yet it is relevant.
As I am wrapping up or maybe just beginning (?) Octave runs into my bed because she is tired of being in her room. The weepies are still playing and she is settling into the sounds and giving into slumber. I am reminded of the first time I met her. When I held her in my arms and was scared shitless that maybe she knew something I didn't. Typically the roles are reversed, but why? I've always looked at her like that, with fervent curiosity, ready to learn, like maybe I had so little to teach her, but she had everything to teach me. And tonight was no exception. It was rather simple. Moana was the catalyst for something stirring beneath our bones. Her and I, we love who we are and what we have, and yet we yearn for more, or maybe just something different. Also, 2017, you have my heart. Forever.