Wednesday, November 14, 2012

deep down

i boarded the train at 9:38 am on thursday and it sped south toward olympia with the same straight-forward determination i felt.  it was something along the lines of "get me the hell out of here."  perhaps  not the warm and sappy thoughts a mother "should" have about leaving her family for three nights away, but then in many ways i don't feel like most mothers.

if there was a twinge of my heart aching it was hard to hear over the sizzling of my nerves after two weeks on my own with the boys while my husband and boss were away- leaving me to find places and people for my sons to be with while i worked for a depressing wage.  so while i do love my family and i do love my job...i loved leaving them too.

during the train ride i smirked at the overheard conversations of men drinking bloody marys, introducing themselves as "mobile entertainment technicians" which makes being a carnie sound like it requires a degree and lamenting about the loss of the sonics to another city- and the sad reality that even if the sonics did come back they would never be loved again.  it wasn't particularly interesting conversation under normal circumstances but it was entirely different than the usual and so it was interesting to the point that i began recording their sentences in my journal to savor for later.

the purpose of my trip was to get away and the means to this end was a 5Rhythms workshop at Waves Studio- a place I had spent many hours blissed-out, battling myself, building friendships that counter the closest of family ties.  blood is thicker than water, but shared sweat rivals blood bonds most definitely.

i danced Thursday and Friday evenings at the studio, each night for two hours and had breakfast plans for saturday morning- and here's where the tale really begins.  over eggs and tortillas i learn that a friend of a friend- sitting to my right- has a deck of tarot cards in his pocket.  i watch as two others pull one card as a sort of guide or symbol of that moment, their day.  the deck is beautiful with muted warm earth toned illustrations that have a vague feeling of munche or toulouse.  i watch each person before me draw queens, the later one a perfectly symmetrical drawing of one woman with one cup, beautiful and regal.

this reminds me of the last time i drew a card in olympia, about four years prior when i was pregnant with Small Son.  i sat on the living floor of marie's and "asked" the deck about my unborn child.  specifically i wanted to know what gender my baby was.  the first card i pulled a knight with a long sword.  i slapped it down and pushed it aside.  i tried again.  another sword.  and again.  more swords.  i then flipped through the deck to ensure there were some feminine images, and yes of course there were- but none had touched my fingers.  all i had drawn were true to him- my second son.

so when i decided to pull a card on saturday morning i was confident the deck would show me what i needed to see.  i pulled out a card and gazed at it.  my first thought was "she looks like me!"  and then i laughed to see how completely wobbly the card was.  the image was of a woman with a light pink derby on with wavy blond hair and uneven eyes.  it seemed that she was looking straight on with her right eye while her left looked far off to her side.  in front of her was a thin infinity sign with a red pentacle in the center of each loop- at first glance it looked like she was roping them up in a rodeo.  the blue sky was above her and around her was water.

i described what i saw to my new friend- a fiery man with small round spectacles that intensified his eyes even more so than his observant nature.  he listened carefully and then pointed out that she was indeed surrounded by water and that perhaps she was in a boat.  he mentioned, almost casually the need for balance, although his warm eyes looked at me meaningfully like a teacher willing a student to "get it."

balance. ah yes.  what i seek, what i miss, what i need.  in all aspects of my life i often feel out-of-balance.  too much this, not enough that.  within my own self, in my relationship, as a mother, as a human it feels that i often am struggling to redistribute tasks, thoughts, needs to be more balanced.  coming to the dance was an attempt to right myself a bit- to figure out how to balance a job, homeschooling kids, working on my marriage, having a garden, serving on a board, and the keeping the house from falling into complete ruin, laundry pile first.

coming to the dance is always about this.

so dance i did.  i danced furiously, curiously, drastically, bombastically.  i danced through so many flavors of joy and fear, celebration and indignation, opening and closing....and then right back to fear.  the deepest, darkest fear my body has ever held.  the fear i think i have "gotten over" only to have her slide up beside me and unsettle me all over because this fear isn't based on a shadow, but a truth i have felt in my exploding lungs and hurting heart- even though i cannot recall the details with my mind, these other organs scream protest, they scream witness.

the story goes that when i was a child- about 2 or 3- i fell into a swimming pool and sank.  my brother, who is 4 years older than me, was my witness.  he told me once, casually over dinner in vancouver, that when they pulled me up i was blue.

now, i could have dismissed this as a mis-memory on my brother's part- except that my body jolted with a clear recognition that was impossible to deny.  years of swimming lessons all undone by the slightly splash of water on my face, the way my heart races if my feet do not touch bottom, the many hours it took to simple trust water enough to float in a pool four feet deep.  the "click" of understanding a bit more about myself must have been audible that night.

but i had felt i had dealt with that old fear- until suddenly, while dancing- i was there again.  alone, terrified, drowning in tepid water, frantic for someone to come and help me.  which, of course, happened.  someone did come and help me.  i am here now.  except for that small bit of me that is stuck somewhere in my past, trying to catch up with me, sending me messages like greeting cards across breakfast tables.

hours after my break down on the dance floor - oh yes, full on tantrum - i remembered the tarot card and reviewed the sketch i had done of her/me.  then i noticed a few more things. i was in a boat.  i was safely, securely in a boat.  and i was not alone in the boat- someone was looking me in the eye and telling me that even if i lost balance and capsized, even if i sank like a chunk of granite, even if i grew terrified and forgot how to float and how to breath, that no matter what- i would not drown.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Hero

Everyone wants to be a hero, champion, a badass.  Few things compare with that feeling of knowing you were there, just at the right moment, and completely changed the outcome of a situation doomed for darkness.  I could argue that maybe it's this need that fuels motherhood, because being a mama requires being a badass many times a day.

Or attempting to be a badass and failing at it, locking yourself into the bathroom and taking a bath at 3:30 in the afternoon because you figure you are least likely to do permanent damage this way while you mourn the fantasy of being the badass you used to once be.

I realized into my seventh year of parenting my Big Son that this desire, to be the unexpected solution to a problem, was HUGE.  It fueled his play, picked his toys, and provided a significant motivation when it came to chores.  While asking "can you help unload the dish washer?" was met with lackluster interest, rephrasing the question into something more of a plea for help, the clean dishes being menacing and overwhelming (which they often are, damn plates) resulting in an enthusiastic rescue.

I'm not above playing the stereotypical helpless maiden bound by circumstances outside of my control (sock sorting, for example) when it comes getting help with the housework.  Don't tell Ani, but sometimes being the kitten in the tree has perks.

There have been real life situation when I did need a hero.  A Hero, even (and I include in this the female form of the word Heroine...but not the liquid suicide you inject into your veins.  That has no place here.)  Times when one showed up, times when one didn't, times when I just got tired of waiting and decided to be my own.  Or times when all three happen at once.

For example...

Sometimes my brain clicks on, loudly and fierce like a downhill train without brakes, at the wee hours of the morn. I lay in the dark, resentful of nearby snoring, and review all the ways I have fucked up.  Or worry about the way I am going to fuck up.  Sure, there is a undercurrent of self-love and grandmotherly charm somewhere in my head too, but it's mostly drowned out by the screeching.  After ninety minutes of this, it feels like a good time to do laundry.

On this particular October morn, I found my flip-flops in the dark and wandered toward the laundry room.  Ok, that noun "room" implies that it is more than a hall- which is what it really is - the laundry hall/pantry.  A very tight hall packed full of glass jars I can't seem to use, recycle or surrender pushed into the crevices of boxes, packages and cans of food that I often forget to use.  It's not a particularly welcoming area of the house, it's supposed to be about function - but does not have much form.  True, I often get a little skittish because you have to walk through the dark hall, three steps, to reach the light switch and then you stand facing the window on the back door and more than once I have scared the shit out of myself by seeing my reflection staring back at me (really, a child should never watch those Halloween movies).  Oh, and there was the time I switched on the light and found a country mouse (also known as a rat) clinging to the wall, staring at me with big, wet, black eyes.

This morning I was too sleepy to remember to be scared though, and as it would happen, as soon as I switched on the light there was a thudding sound of something hitting a wall and the squawks of startled chickens.   At 4 in the morning, before the slow glow of dawn has begun to tickle sounds out of the world, these are really loud and terrifying sounds and instantly cleared the whiny bitch noise in my head.  If I had only heard the thudding sound I would not have grabbed the closest "weapon," the broom, and ran out into the dark night.  I would have gone and woke up the slumbering big man of a bear in the bedroom.  It was the squawk.  A squawk of equal parts terrors and indignation...a call to arms.  Broom in hand, I went forth.

As I ran out of the door and down the slippery wooden steps, I hollered over my shoulder to the sleeping house "SOMETHING'SINTHEHENHOUSE!" and ran, full tilt to meet the tormentors.

And then I stopped.  As I cleared the corner of the house, darkness cut a sharp angle and only shadows of the hen house greeted me.  I was taken over with the realization that my sleepy attire of yoga pants and flip-flops was sooo not the rodent-fighting armor I was wishing for.   I have a vivid imagination, and in that nano-second of seeing the hen house and knowing I was going to get closer to it, I clearly lived the horror of having my toes mauled by a fierce furry thing.  Something with a looong and pointy tail. My toes were cold and worried.  They were wondering if maybe they were higher up on the priority list then the chickens, because yes- the eggs are good but walking is really good.

Their complaints were hardly acknowledged before another loud round of thumping and squawking erupting from the wooden coop, which caused me to scream and randomly bang the outside of the coop.  At the time, I had a vague notion that this was going to scare the critter out of the coop.  Now I realize it was just reinforcing the perception my neighbors have of me that I am crazy.  In fact, I was just practicing my broom swing...cuz I was fixin' to do some mean sweeping on those darn varmints.  "Sweep 'em clear to Sunday," is the term I would later coin to explain my weapon of choice.

I could see ruffled feathered hens darting in the bottom run of the chicken coop so I ventured round to open the run- squishing into wet grass - toes loudly protesting as I neared the door.  Two chickens ran swiftly into the safety of the dark and then ran back out of the dark because the dark doesn't really feel that safe most of the time.

Now the chicken coop was put together from various found wood, which we hoard, and isn't really the most clever in the design area.  It is on wheels and it sits parallel the elevated back deck.  There is the bottom run, which has a ramp leading up through a hatch- which had been left open the night before - and into the roosting area and nesting box.  The nesting box has a lid that opens and the roosting area has a large door that you can swing open and latch.  If you get really close and put down your broom.  That's what I did to find sleeping birds and lots of menacing blackness.

The perfect moment for a hero to arrive.

The outside light sprang on with a fierceness and the sliding glass down rolled open with a velocity that caused it to bounce back a tad, and out stepped my Big Son, his long brown hair wild and full, clad only in his plaid boxer shorts, holding in his two hands his pellet rifle, cocked and loaded.  And as he stepped into the light he yelled out in a high voice imitating a low voice, "WHO IS MESSING WITH MY GIRLS?!"

I'm writing to Websters and telling them to update their entry for "badass."

And for "hero" too.