For me, she was the first person with the title of “mother” that ever made me feel as if I actually had one, had a mother. We had a long, complicated, and often difficult journey together and for the past year and a half, we have not been in each other’s lives for a variety of reasons. But I’ve never forgotten that she made me feel loveable and wanted and as if I deserved to be alive at a time when things could have gone very very wrong for me.
It is an unwellness that is troubling me. I am having anxiety symptoms lying in bed at night. Is my heart racing because I’m having a tachardic episode or is this anxiety triggering my racing heart? The question itself causes anxiety. It makes for challenging nights. And I am tired.
I’ve known that anxiety was a foreign feeling to my wife for quite some time. I remember the incredulity I felt when she first told me. It was as if hearing that some people can hold their breath without dying or that there are people that never feel sad during the holidays. When the pandemic changed her experience with anxiety, my response was a confusing mixture of sadness that she was going through it, concern about how she would learn to cope with it, and the slightest bit of relief that perhaps now she would be more understanding of what I live with. I’m not proud of that last bit but who doesn’t want to be understood better?
Gwen and I walk into a bar. Wait behind the taped-off area for the bartender to be free. He greets us. By that point, my mask has started to feel like I’m sucking air through a sauna and I’ve grown nervous about being out in the world again. We order drinks and then I very smartly ask: Do you have menus? Bartender, on his way to grab said menus: No, we’re one of those restaurants…
Awe and wonder. The way that hearing birds chirping first thing in the morning feels like a thread connecting me to every ancestor I’ve never known but whose DNA is in my body. They knew birds, I’m certain of it.
And leaves. And rain and sunshine. Some of them knew love and what it was like to give life and to keep that life going long enough to grow into their own being with the next generation of us.
When I want to know the quiet of time before too much technology and too many people, nature lets me tap into that deep history.
In the book God in All Worlds, Lucinda Vardey writes “I believe we begin our search for meaning with doubt, pain, and a lot of questions” (3). In Buddhism, many of the teachings are about how to move beyond suffering. The people I grew up with turn to the Christian God when they are in pain, scared, confused. For myself, the least authentic approach to Spirit is the path of pain and suffering. Prayer becomes…
Sheryl was, like any family member I grew up with, complicated. She was the first person to help me out of a traumatic situation when I was a teenager, even though her approach was itself problematic. Decades later, she was my father’s hospice nurse and then stayed on to live with my stepmother after he passed. Both of which were incredible gifts and for which I will always be grateful.
William Stafford wrote over 20,000 poems. My favorite quote about Stafford’s prolificness (prolificity?) comes from our local paper, The Oregonian:
“Writing every day resulted in about 20,000 completed or attempted poems; only about 6,000 have been published.”
ONLY 6,000… I imagine the author of that article has a dry sense of humor. It’s the “20,000 completed or attempted poems” that intrigues me, however. Stafford woke up early every day and wrote. His advice to others about what to do when they can’t write?
“Lower your standards and keep writing.”
Rational Brain says let’s take the day off and go to the park; Reactive Brain says TREAT and offers no resistance. Rational Brain says let’s spend today working on this manuscript that scares the hell out of me; Reactive Brain sounds the alarms, slams on the brakes, and starts refreshing Pinterest as if your life depends on knowing how to clean your toilet with baking soda and vinegar.