Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Mother

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Dark Phase, Dreams, motherhood
Tags: , , , ,

mom-and-meMother

Mad woman rattling pots and pans in the kitchen at midnight

Hanging wash in the basement at 3 AM

Conversing loudly with the dead

An anxious litany

“You know what they’ll do? Do you know what they’ll do? They’ll come take the house.”

With Daddy gone

The only thing left to lose

“Don’t run the water like that”

“Close the door”

“Don’t you touch the thermostat”

“Do you know what they’ll do if I can’t pay the bills? Do you know what they’ll do?”

“They’ll come take the house.”

That fear

That fear seeped out of the foundation like rain water

Bubbled up from the basement drain with the raw sewage

Forced you to put a lock on the cellar door

But the lock never contained it

That fear sat with me at the kitchen table

Eating boiled meats, mashed potatoes and canned peas

While you stood with your back to us

Eating over the sink

That fear hid in the corner of the living room

Behind Daddy’s empty chair

When we stayed up late watching horror movies

“Spooky,” you said. “Time for bed”

And that fear trailed me all the way down the hall

Lurked, creaking the floor boards just beyond the night light’s glow

While you muttered obscenities in the bathroom.

I left as soon as I could.

You remained vigilant.

I came home years later

To find you asleep in your chair

Amidst bags of dirty dishes

And stacks of magazine

“She needs better care,” the doctor said.

And we shuffled you on

Your belongings falling away

Your life made smaller and smaller

To accommodate each new convalescing room.

 

I sold the house.

 

To pay your way

To keep you with me

Just a little while longer.

 

In my dreams

We are together in the house.

You, me and that fear

“I can’t stay” you tell me

“It’s not safe.”

The locks gone from the doors

The furniture sits in the yard

They have come

To take the house

Even then I cannot contain

The guilt, the shame and

The small victory

That “they”

Would be me

After all.

ShyThis is my first memory of it: I am five years old, shopping with my mother at Kmart. We run into a friend of my mother’s. The friend says hello to me and asks me how I am. I stare up at this unfamiliar adult; I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure how I am. The person’s fixed smile and expectant gaze makes me uncomfortable but I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to say anything about it. My silence goes on for too long. Then my mother says in an apologetic tone, “She’s shy.” And that’s when I know how I am – I’m shy. My mother will say this many more times throughout my life with her. Eventually the apologetic tone will change into one of annoyance and embarrassment as I remain shy well into my teens.

When I reach my 20’s I begin to recognize that certain goals I have set for myself can only be achieved by meeting and talking to people. I feel this most sharply when attending classes at the Film Arts Foundation. I want to make movies in a serious way, but as I sit through a seminar on screenwriting or a workshop on Super-8 cameras, I take notice during the breaks that people are talking to each other. At first I tell myself these people must all know each other from previous classes, but as I eavesdrop in on conversations I realize that no, they are meeting right there before my very eyes. Not only that, but they are talking about their film projects, they are talking about working with each other, they are networking. But I am shy, which based on the tone and context my mother and teachers used when discussing my introverted nature, is a bad thing. If only I had stopped being shy when my mom pointed it out to me, when teachers coerced me to speak up in class, when my college advisor told me I was too quiet and that made me boring. But instead I just felt embarrassed and ashamed and then defiant. Screw you, world, I had thought on those occasions, you think I’m quiet now? Just you wait, I will never speak again.

Of course I did speak again, but it wasn’t until my 20’s that I started trying to figure out ways to become less shy. There were many, many well-meaning people along the way who would tell me I just had to get out of my comfort zone and do it; they had been very shy but now they had become comfortable talking to everyone. A therapist recommended Toastmasters, I perused the Learning Annex catalog, a bastion of self-help and self-improvement seminars, and considered taking “How to Make Small Talk” and “Become a Master Conversationalist” but I doubted a 3 hour lecture would take me from being unable to make eye contact to being the life of the party (or film-making class). Finally I started consciously running a reminder script in my head, “Make eye contact. Say hi.” Surprisingly, when I remembered to do it and made the effort, it actually worked! Soon I found myself with another problem: making eye contact and saying hello gave many people the impression that I wanted to talk to them.

To be fair, I did want to talk to them, but only about the things I wanted to talk about and I quickly observed there was an anticipated flow of conversation with someone you had just met. Apparently there had to be a neutral starting point, small talk involving trivial observations about the weather or the class we were taking. Following this was a low-key getting to know each other Q & A: who are you, where are you from, etc. etc. If you could make it past all these hurdles then you might be able to gracefully bring up the thing you wanted to say in the first place – “Will you do the special effects make up for my film?”; “Can I be your camera assistant?” If I didn’t stall out during the small talk portion, I usually hit the “getting to know you” questions too hard and the other person would bail out, most likely feeling as if he was being grilled by the cops rather than enjoying a casual chat.

Thank the universe for the extreme extroverts of the world who are not bothered or unnerved by a mostly silent conversation partner. It’s not surprising that many of the people who came in and out of my life in my 20’s and early 30’s were flamboyant, outspoken, and enjoyed being the center of attention. It was a mutually beneficial relationship for the most part, although I confess to intentionally using their boisterous personality for my own purposes, especially when it came to film making and putting people in front of my camera.

When my first son came along I decided it was time to really grow up and quit being shy. I wanted him to have a good role model for social interactions.  While I never thought to do this for myself, I was willing to do almost anything for him (later I would completely rid myself of my fear of spiders on his behalf, but despite best efforts, my fear of heights remains intact). I joined a mother’s club and playgroups, volunteered at school events, and hosted birthday parties. I tried very hard to act like the other mothers, to fit in, in hopes that my son would learn to fit in as well. It didn’t work out.

Despite putting myself into all those social situations, I was still shy, or I suppose socially anxious as it’s called now. I did make a few good friends, other moms who, like me,  did not easily fit in at mom-centric events like PTO meetings and Pampered Chef parties.  There was also another problem; by age 2, my  son was actively avoiding his peers. Things did not improve in preschool and by age five, at the behest of his kindergarten teacher, we had him evaluated by a child development specialist. Asperger’s Syndrome was the diagnosis. Considered a high functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome can make social interaction very difficult: “The social communication deficits in highly functioning persons with Asperger syndrome include lack of the normal back and forth conversation; lack of typical eye contact, body language, and facial expression; and trouble maintaining relationships.”  Huh. How about that?

My son has just started high school and I don’t think any of his classmates or teachers would classify him as shy.  He’s not the most talkative kid around, but when he has something to say, he says it without hesitation.  I also have a second son who is a natural extrovert.  He makes friends every where and talks to everyone.  At seven he is far more socially savvy than I have ever been.

As for me, I recently made a conscious decision to no longer work towards becoming the extrovert I had long believed existed inside me if only I put myself out there and really tried. I have tried, and with age I’ve gotten better at successfully negotiating social situations, but I feel it’s time to honor the introvert that I am. It feels wonderfully rebellious to no longer beat myself up over my given nature. Obviously I do need to function and interact with society at large, but if I fail to have a conversation with other parents on the school yard at pick up time I’m going to be okay with that. I’m good at smiling and nodding, so when the chatty cashier at the grocery store begins to monologue about something or other, I’m not going to shut him down, instead I’m going to appreciate what he has to say and also that I’m good at giving others room to speak. I very much enjoy listening. Also, I can be talkative when with the right person, so if I’ve ever talked your ear off, know that in my book we’ve made an honest connection.

Finally to all the people who, for whatever reason, love to put introverts on the spot by pointing out how quiet they are I have to say – Stop it! Seriously, cut that out. It’s not helpful and you look like a jerk. I know it’s hard to see in the moment, but I’m not being quiet because I dislike you; I don’t dislike you unless you say something like, “Wow, you just never stop talking . . . ha ha ha.” At which point my newly rebellious introvert self will reply, “Well, you know how the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say . . .”

Then again, perhaps I will defiantly say nothing at all.

I have never been good at counting my blessings; I’m far too negative for that. Those chipper, upbeat people on my Facebook feed (how did I even get these friends?) are constantly posting positive, life-affirming sayings, and it takes a great deal of will power on my part to not refute each and every one as oversimplifying, sugar coating or self-aggrandizing the true nature of our existence. Luckily I was taught not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say and so I remain, to most people, very quiet.

However, I sometimes feel the need to take a life inventory of sorts, just to remind myself how none of this makes any sense, but here I am and no matter what, it could always be worse.

Here then, in my most positively pessimistic perspective, is my list of miseries and how it could be worse:

1.) I make music that absolutely no one wants to hear. It’s my passion, my heart and soul, but apparently my heart and soul is lacking, boring, potentially dated and out of tune (do not tell me it’s because I’m a downer , not while The Cure and Morrissey are still touring).

It could be worse. I could be loaded with talent and still just as obscure and nowhere, like many of my truly gifted friends.

2.) My house is an absolute pig-sty having just spent the last week and a half enjoying a visit from a friend and her children and making little effort to contain the chaos.

It could be worse. I could have high expectations of my housekeeping abilities and spend the next week stressed out while working towards a presentable home. Instead I will take this opportunity to continue to enjoy the summer and host many more social engagements, knowing I won’t have to clean up much afterwards to maintain status quo. All the while I will not worry that my friends are secretly judging my messy home and deciding my best efforts are not good enough; I made no effort. Perfect!

There is the added bonus of boosting my friends’ confidence in their own housekeeping standards. Once they leave my place they will have a bright new perspective on how nice their homes truly are. I am a good friend!

3.) I’m turning 46 in a few weeks. How did that even happen? I was 27 just a minute ago and now here I am starting the 4 year countdown to 50. What have I even done with my life? Do I really need to go any further with the physical aging process? Because I know how it ends and I don’t like it. And . . .and . . .reading glasses!

 It could be worse. I could still be living with the youthful optimism that it will all work out without any effort on my part. That was a big lesson I learned only in the past 6 or 7 years: if there is such a thing as fate, you have to get her number and harass her regularly to get her to work for you. Or you can just do the work yourself (easier).

 Also gone is the underlying anxiety of where my life might take me because I finally know:  it’s taken me right here, a messy home with a couple of kids who, I hope, are enjoying summer break with their mom, a woman who isn’t stressing over things that don’t matter that much.

 Without being too optimistic, I’d like to say I am okay with where I am right now (although being at Comic Con this weekend would be good too).  There’s still some road ahead with potential twists and turns, but I think I’m better at navigating it than I was in my youth. Or not.

I certainly don’t see myself embracing the bright side of things anytime soon, so I’ll stick with counting my miseries and my life long philosophy. . .Could have been worse

March-2014-Shows

He did not mean for it to happen
He was just doing what kids do

Capture and release
Wanting to hold something beautiful

But when he  uncupped his hands
A delicate pair of wings  stuck to his palm
A newly flightless creature crawled across his knuckles

Put it down, I said, before you hurt it more

There, he said, as he flicked it off his hand,
Now it has a new life

We watched it crawl along the ground

Yes, I replied
Remembering
It can happen that fast

word pressButterfly

Letting Go

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Dark Phase, images, motherhood
Tags: , ,

I am teaching my children time travel.  It works like this:

Wherever you are right now – pay attention.  Close your eyes.   Notice how your feet feel on the floor; move them around a little to get the full texture.  Listen to the sound your feet are making as they move.  What other parts of your body are touching your surroundings?  Move ever so slightly to take in the sensation.

Listen. What do you hear?  The whoosh of cars going by?  Dishes clinked together while being washed?  Someone typing on a computer?  Music playing on the stereo?

Now take a deep breath.  The air doesn’t just carry the scent of your surroundings; it has a quality to it. It might be heavy with humidity, or thin and cold. But also pay attention to the smell.  Scents are evocative; they can be powerful triggers of memory.

Finally look around and look closely.  See the whole area from the large objects to one or two tiny details you may have never noticed.  And really look at those details.  If you look long enough it will be like seeing something for the first time because perhaps it is.

When you’ve captured your surroundings like this, in a mindful way, tell yourself you’re saving this for later.  I can’t guarantee that everything you save will still be there, but you will find some of it again years from now.  And when you find it, for a second you will be back in that space.   And maybe, depending on how much time has elapsed between the initial imprint and the playback, that place won’t really exist anywhere but in your memory.  And it will feel like time travel.

I tell this to my children but I’m not sure they fully understand.  When you’re a child it can feel like your world is a rock, solid and unmovable.  But as an adult you come to realize how quickly things can change.  Something that seemed certain on one day is already gone the next  and then you need to learn to let go of it.  But if you weren’t really paying attention in the first place  you can get all messed up.  You start making substitutions for what it is you thought you had.  You imagine it bigger or smaller or more or less important than it actually was.  You start having feelings for it that you didn’t have at the time.

And so it’s good to take a moment, wherever you are, to really look around to see what is it you have right now.  Later, when it’s gone, you can visit with it as it really was, or at least as close to what you perceived it to be,  and you can be there again just for a moment before you let it go.

memory board

As crafty as I get

As crafty as I get

 

Summer has hit the bay area.  Here in my neck of the woods we’re weathering temperatures as high as the low 70′s.  Don’t laugh, that’s really warm for us.  I haven’t worn my black hoodie all day and now I’m sporting shorts.  I’d take the kids to the beach but I know it will be packed with people who are pretending they are in Hawaii and that just gets on my nerves.

Our favorite beach time is in January and February when your rain boots can do double duty to both keep your feet dry and the sand out of your socks.  Nothing like sitting on a deserted beach, bundled up in a jacket and a scarf beneath a hazy winter sky, watching all the hardcore surfers bob up and down in the arctic waters waiting to catch the perfect swell. And you always get the best spot on the beach too, a little nook in the rocks to shelter you from the winds.  Don’t forget the sand toys.

With the kids home from school we’ve been checking out the local attractions. We’ve hit the bowling alley, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve,  and the San Francisco Zoo.  Next on my list is Playland-Not-At-the-Beach in El Cerrito. In between the big outings we do the usual things like parks, playgrounds, the library, and of course arts and crafts here at home.  My kids live for the next Oriental Trading Company catalog to show up in our mailbox so they can make plans for a dozen inflatable beach balls or juggling scarves.  This time around we ordered some wooden fish to color and I splurged on a bag of self adhesive jewels, which I plan to stick to everything and everything I can think of, knowing that eventually the glue will dry out and they will all fall off.  While others may feel that spending money on cheap sundries is a waste, I feel it teaches kids a valuable lesson: everything falls apart, nothing is permanent.

With all this frenzy of summer fun, I am doing my best to put in some music practice time. I have a show with the Debora Iyall Group coming up on July 4th at the World One Festival which should be a blast, even without all the fireworks.

I’m also finishing up the tracking and mixing of two songs for my side project, Shot in the Dark.  We played our first online/Second Life show on June 23rd and received a positive reception so I’m excited to get some finished music out there, wherever “there” is.

Finally I’ve got a video project in the works for Zoid.  The ball is in my court and I can see where I want to take it, but the work involved is a little daunting as it requires a lot of sitting quietly at my computer and fiddling with Adobe After Effects.  It’s much easier to go outside with the kids and bop around a dozen or so beach balls from the Oriental Trading Company, because these warm days, like all those beach balls are not here forever.

It really is all about finding balance, isn’t it?

Here’s a couple of things for you to give a listen and look. First,  here’s a song from the Shot in the Dark online show:

Fan Fic (Sexy Serial Killer) – Shot in the Dark, live

And the last video I created for Zoid, which I think turned out pretty well.  Would love to hear what you think in the comments!