Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That Monday Birthday Revisited (to Make it More Perfect)

So I turned 41 on Monday.  Quietly.  Without much fanfare.  No actual party or anything.  I mean, Facebook exploded with some funny and sweet messages from friends (to whom I mindfully replied each and every time I received a message so I could appreciate each soul who kindly remembered me), and I got calls and texts from some family members and close friends, and I opened fun presents with my family, bleary-eyed first thing in the morning.  I absolutely have a lot of people to be thankful for in my life.  But what did I do for the bulk of the day?  I spent most of the day working.  A lot.  Which isn't an entirely bad thing.  It just felt like... any day, I suppose.  Busyness and business.  I guess birthdays never quite live up to the anticipation do they?  Maybe if I'd had some quiet spare time to reflect, I'd have appreciated my own birth more.  Actually celebrated it deep inside somehow.  Maybe I am doing that more in this very moment by writing about it than I was able to do yesterday.  So I guess it's good I have this blog.

My Mom reminded me in an early morning text yesterday (I didn't need reminding, but I loved her reminder just the same) that a cold front blew through when I was born at 3:30 p.m. on October 16 forty-one years ago.  And, serendipitously, I was gifted from the Universe a surprise cool front on the anniversary of my birth-day.  Which is pretty damn cool.   (Ha, pun intended.)

But overall?  I guess it sorta felt like the Monday that it was.  I worked all day and then logged back in to work some more after the kids went to bed.  And I even took a raincheck on some phone calls because I didn't have time to take them....  I was so busy working I even missed the passage of midnight marking the end of the day as it slipped silently away while I was typing.  So my birthday ended with a whimper, not a bang.  Which isn't how I like things.

So what is a girl to do to make up for this blah Monday of a birthday (to be fair, it's only 41, not 42 or anything...)?

Well, it just so happens that my awesome brother called me and told me I get to/have to (okay, twist my arm; wait, no don't... my shoulder) visit San Francisco (and promised me some serious cliffs) next summer when he is getting married (!!!), and he and his lovely fiance also got me an incredibly generous SPA GIFT CERTIFICATE.  Soul gifts - the dream of cliffs and soon-to-come SPA TIME.  So I made an appointment today, and I'll be taking advantage of that by getting a hot stone massage on October 29 (which just so happens to be the first time I am free to even consider doing something of my choosing to celebrate my birthday).  This is gonna entirely make up for the Monday blahness, I am certain.  Silver linings.  There's always one if we look.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

That Perfect... I Don't Even Know... Rambling Something Important About Life (Wow This is Really Long)

When I stop to think about the incessant disagreement all around me, lately the political climate has made an easy illustration of this, I am coming to realize a fundamental truth underlying all of it.  Something is missing.  I'm getting ahead of myself.

And this post isn't about politics.  I generally dislike discussing politics, in fact.  It might seem like it's about law in a moment, too.  But it isn't really about that, either.  It started with a rumbling in my mind early this morning, and I'm just now able to sit and write about it.  You're on a rambling ride with me, so sit tight.

Let's think about systems.  I don't mean circle-of-life-type biological systems.  I'm thinking of those that are constructed.  Those that govern us because we agree, explicitly or tacitly, to be bound by them.  Maybe it's just by happenstance of birth and geography (as an aside... is that really happenstance?).  But in any event, there are many constructs with rigid formulae that govern how things are done in the world.  Or "should" be done.  And speaking of "govern," our system of laws is a good example.  So let's begin there.  Why on this great green Earth do we disagree SO much about what laws should be in place?  I mean, we've fundamentally agreed to be a society bound by laws.  Granted, there are countless laws you've never heard of if you're not a lawyer, and even if you are a lawyer (due to specialization, of course), and those largely aren't controversial.  But many of them are.  Why can't we all just agree?  There are countless reasons, of course, and I won't devolve into the myriad reasons we all have preferences and prejudices because of our own situatedness.  None of us has that much time on our hands.  But what's got me thinking is this: it feels like there is some deep and vast human piece of us that is being undermined by whatever law (or other thing in the world of systems that herd us and bind us) it is we disagree with.  Maybe it's nameless.  Maybe it's ephemeral.  But there's something in our core that conflicts with it.  Gnaws at us a little.  We are lucky if our self (for lack of a better term) isn't in conflict with the law or rule of the moment.  Maybe we concur with it, but don't fully agree (like a concurring court opinion, for example, which agrees with the result but has a few bones to pick).  We're on board with it enough to not get angry, but we take umbrage with something about it.  But overall, we will go on our merry way and probably forget about it at the end of the day.  But others?  Well, some of them just eat at us.  Here's the judicial dissent territory.  Like some of Scalia's dissenting opinions shortly before his death, there may be significant vitriol in our dissent.  We may be so unnerved by it our very core is shaken.  I see lots of that these days in politics (I know you see it, too, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum).

And yet, even though we may dissent, even vehemently, with a law, in the grand scheme of things, we are still bound by social contract and civility, not to mention the threat of criminal punishment (if nothing else), to abide by the rules of the game of life.  In law school I had the revelation that our Constitution only works because we SAY it does.  Think about that.  I hope you have a *mind blown* moment like I did when I realized that.  It has power because we decided it does.  No, really.  Think about that.  And "we" isn't even "us"; it's our predecessors.  And some of those who crafted it and the laws made purportedly under its authority may have had pristine motives dripping with goodwill.  Many of the deciders and makers of laws, as we know, though are power hungry and ruled by ego.  And just want to perpetuate whatever system benefits them personally.  We all know some people with power who respect that power and have earned it.  But we also know many don't.  They inherit it or have money (which, frankly, talks).  Plain as that.  And so it goes.  We are bound.  To something that may or may not have been well-intentioned.  And when we disagree, something in us is stifled, but we go on, just the same.  Because we just do.  It's kind of crazy if you think about it.  And amazing that it even works as well as it does given where I'm going next. 

And it's damn tricky when you're good at the game of life.  It can swallow you up so completely you forget something important.  We can all play the game, within the confines of the rules, and even enjoy it.  Whatever "game" it is you choose out in the world.  Maybe a job.  Maybe some other role.  It's all a grand mental puzzle.  But there's an inherent conflict there, right?  In any game with rules, there's always something that exists outside the game.  Beyond the rules.  The game board is a rectangle and has boundaries.  And beyond that... here's the thing... the game doesn't even exist.  Another epiphany I had in law school in my Contracts class was when I was learning about promises and obligations.  And, given my own rule-following sensibility, I was okay with that concept.  Until we started talking about the concept of breach.  What happens when a contract is breached?  I had a mental disconnect.  Um, breach?  Aren't we supposed to not break contracts?  Well, it just so happens that there are laws that govern when contracts are breached, too.  Rules for when the rules aren't followed.  Who pays what.  What damages might apply.  Ah, the irony.  Hell, my practice area as a lawyer is restructuring and reorganization, which is a fancy way of saying corporate bankruptcy.  The Bankruptcy Code is full of laws about precisely what happens when things go sideways.  When people and entities don't meet their obligations and promises.  There's even a concept in bankruptcy where a debtor can "reject" a contract.  I mean... stepping back, though it's a completely commonplace occurrence in my law practice, again... mind blown that there's a lawfully sanctioned way to do that.  Because why?  Because we decided that's what the rules would be.  

So I get caught up in the game of life.  Just like you.  And just like everyone.  Well, maybe in my own personal way, but you know what I mean.  We all work for a living because we have to.  Hopefully we enjoy the game we choose to play out in the world.  And I do enjoy my job as a lawyer.  I get to think about fascinating and complicated things, research about things I didn't already know, write a lot, and take actions to help clients accomplish their goals.  It's very rewarding in many ways, as jobs go.  It's also a necessary thing.  It just is.  I also have various other roles in my life; most critically, I am a mother who is simply crazy about her amazing kids and all the love and work that goes with that.

But notwithstanding my being swirled up into the systems that make up my daily life (job, kids' schools, social norms, various obligations of all sorts), someone said something poignant to me the other day.  She reminded me to never forget my private life.  My private life.  Ah, that.  Say that again.  The me that is quietly inside under the surface of all the other things I do.  And it's rich and velvety in there.  When I take the time to root around and nestle in.  It's in that inner life that self-consciousness melts away.  And gimmicks.  And skepticism.  And fear.  And distrust.  And judgment.  It is there, in the quiet inner self that there are no systems or rules.  No games--only the space beyond the game board.  Only the things I allow to be there.  Or that I create and put there.  It is there that what is universal or essential about our spirits can just BE.  Our spirits and very souls are at ease.  Whatever dwells in there is mine, and it is beautiful. 

What is that space?  Really, what IS that?  It's the question we humans have been pondering since the very beginning through science, philosophy, and religion.  The WHY endeavors (they're all really sisters in substance, though some are more sophisticated and logical than others).  The ways of thinking that get us pondering what this is that is IN us, IS us, is UNIVERSAL about us.  It's more than just analytic thought, though.  Science began as INQUIRY.  As CURIOSITY.  As WONDER.  As the Little Prince says, it is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  (Or maybe it's the vagus nerve?  The gut sure seems involved, too, somehow.  And nerves.  Don't get me started on how sensitive they are to things.)  Beyond the games.  And again to the Little Prince: What is essential is invisible to the eye.  This is why the disciplines that seek to understand seem so majestic.  Because what they are asking IS majestic.  They seek truth.  The something deeper.  Without shallow motive of any kind.  And disciplines that internalize the why and then create something from it, be it art, music, writing... those.  Wow.  Those literally create magic in the world that simply didn't exist before.  They come from that universal, quiet, perfect self responding to the thinking and feeling parts of us responding to the very act of being we experience on some deep vibrating level (the seventh wave perhaps?).  And love.  And awe.  The inexplicable things that come from within... that respond to beauty, to connection.  That, my friends, is all outside the game.  Outside the systems.  Off the board.  And this is why the external systems that are forced on us by social contract detract from, can never be on the same wavelength as, what is inside.  This is why we inherently can never agree with the constructs in their entirety.  It's better to go to our inner spaces than to dwell on such conflict. 

Last time I visited my hometown, I went to church with my family, which I haven't done in years.  It was the church I grew up in.  We went every week, sometimes twice, when I was growing up.  There was a sense of community and ritual about it that was always comforting to me, even if I always questioned probably too many things.  But the cool thing about that church in particular is it is a denomination that I was always told is the thinking person's church - it's an Episcopal church.  It was always okay to question.  There wasn't hellfire being hurled at me.  I didn't have to recite Bible verses in Sunday School.  There were lots of hugs.  And helping things we did for others.  And lots of dinners and holding hands.  And coming together for things.  Peaceful, really.  It's red brick, sits majestically at the end of the street I grew up on, and it has red velvety carpet inside.  And there's a bell in the tower I know how to ring with a secret button and did ring many times as an acolyte in my youth.  And the stained glass windows in that place are the most beautiful I've ever seen.  I've been to some astounding cathedrals and churches all over the globe, and these are still my favorites.  I'm not sure how very many hours I've stared at them in this life of mine.  (On a humorous note, I told my parents that I think these windows with beautiful man disciples with long flowing hair are why I always had a penchant for men with long hair... subliminal messages embedded in my psyche from church windows.  Maybe that's weird.  Don't care.  I was going to include a photo here, but the ones I took didn't come out very well.)  Despite my familiar love for that place, I am still a questioner, still not religious, and still don't regularly attend church.  Though I can recite all the prayers from memory without even consciously thinking about them.  But I am spiritual, no doubt.  I don't know what moved me to attend church that morning (my parents had expected I wouldn't), but I am glad I went that Sunday about a month ago.  There was something holy in myself with which I somehow connected while absorbing that space during the service.  I admit, I have an amorphous sense of what God is.  But I feel that whatever God there is simply must be that spiritual beauty within ourselves, especially as manifested in connections of that pure beauty with others.  A real and pure symbiosis.  THAT is what feels spiritual to me.  Holy.  There is no better word.  But nothing so small as a politicized man-made god used for beating others into submission (literally or figuratively) can capture the deep purposeful point-of-it-all beauty I'm describing (she says knowing she is writing about her own person-made conceptions... ever aware of the irony).  There is, I know in my bones... my heart... the primordial dust from whence I came... a universal spiritual connection we can tap into when and if everything lines up.  I suppose if it lined up all the time, we'd be in some utopian world we couldn't even appreciate anymore because even true beauty would be too mundane to notice.  Serendipitous connection and the spaces in between remind us though that we are these spiritual beings underneath all the titles, obligations, clothes, and faces we wear and bear.

And why is it there are so many broken people?  So many of us walking around feeling something is missing?  Because we fill our lives with the systems and rules and all the things.  And we forget what happens off the game board.  And we don't look inside and truly honor that being.  And we miss out on the joy of connection with others in the process.  We feel torn.  All the time.  Because life... with its systems and rules.  But we are both physical beings AND spiritual ones.  It is no wonder drug companies make billions off of medicating the misery that is created by living lives that are stifling to the spirits within us.

Maybe we'll get there.  I'm not perfect either.  I have an ego, just like anyone.  I have earthly desires, just like anyone.  I have needs for security, even more now that I have kids.  I have goals that may be too lofty, but I keep thinking I'll hit the moon at least, even if I'm aiming for the distant stars.  So despite my life out in the world of systems, there's also this me underneath. This private me.  I need to water her, too.  Listen to her, too.  Breathe her in, too.  I am trying hard to be open.  To remember to swim in there.  And I breathe SO much more easily when I do.  To find a balance between Life and the Universe within.  That is the goal.  Everything.  Even if only in my own private mind most of the time.  But that mind is my own kingdom (or queendom).  My garden.  And we simply must dwell there sufficiently in order to be able to connect authentically with others.  As a dear friend of mine in Baton Rouge told me after I'd stayed with her last weekend, "I love you seems too small."  That kind of feeling is what happens when the spiritual us inside is seen for what it is and mingles with and truly sees someone else's.  It is grace.  It's a rare and delicate thing, but it's worth living for.  Always.    










Tuesday, September 12, 2017

That Perfect Step

Hard wood clacking down.  Steps filled with intention.  Newly awakened.

I suppose all shoes are "real" in some sense.  But in my years as a lawyer, I have amassed quite a collection of delicious fancy shoes.  Racks of them.  I'm kind of a shoe whore.  And not ashamed.  But I've been relegated to wearing non-heel, soft-soled shoes for a couple of very long years now.  I won't lie.  I've got some adorable flat shoes.  But they're still... well... flat shoes.  For years before my surgeries, I was known around town as the girl with the cool shoes.  My reputation preceded me.  I was stopped on the street frequently by random women to graciously receive shoe compliments.  As I write this, I'm smiling, but I also realize it sounds shallow.

But, oh, it isn't.

When something becomes such a piece of your identity and it is stripped away from you out of necessity, something withers inside.

I take my fancy shoes down off their racks from time to time and dust them.  It's hard to watch them.  Just.  Sitting.  There.  I've thought of putting them in shadow boxes and hanging them up, afraid they'll never be worn again, but at least that way, I could look at them.  I mean, how cool would a shoe wall be?  I may still do that... at least with the really tall ones. 

But today was different.  A few months back, I bought some gel heel supports to put in this one particular pair of Fluevogs I thought might be workable this far into recovery, and then I strolled around the house in them on hardwoods to determine if I could wear them for any length of time without risking ruining my day by bringing on unnecessary pain before my day even really starts.  I'd tried this once before when I bought the inserts, only to quickly begin feeling sharp pains deep in my left hip muscles with the pounding down of my heel after only a few steps.  So I took them off, carefully replacing them in their spot on the rack, feeling a bit forlorn.  This particular pair isn't even that tall.  It only has a 1.25 inch heel.  Quite literally baby steps.  Or so I thought.  But THIS morning, when I walked through the house in them, half expecting to return them to the shelf any moment, there were no sharp pains.  Okay, there was one eensy sharp pain in my butt.  But it was small.  So I kept them on, determined, and I packed some soft-soled flats in my work bag (just in case) and braved the world in REAL SHOES today.

What I didn't expect was how the SOUND of the shoes on the pavement would awaken something deep within me.  The first clack of the wooden heels down on my driveway concrete as I walked toward my car on the street echoed in my mind.  Resonated deeply.  Almost brought me to tears.  Happy ones.  And then again on the marble floor in the foyer of the high rise tower of my office.  And then once again on the ceramic tile in the restroom.  And even on the plastic carpet protector under my office chair.  (But the sound on the concrete was the most satisfying.)  The sound of decadent clacking.  It was power, aesthetic beauty, confidence, control, intention, progress, and freedom all at once swirling together in my experience of each step I placed.  Echoes of each step from the moment before stirred anticipation within me to hear the next hard stride to follow it.  GOD I MISSED THIS.  So much.   The beauty of something so... me... returning, even in the tiniest way, cannot be overstated.  Indeed, words can barely capture the feeling that sound evoked in me today.  I sounded like myself coming and going.  And I so want more of THAT.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

That Perfect Musical Attunement

Sometimes, the Universe just speaks to me.  And when I'm especially lucky, it sings to me in verse.

There are two new albums that are just emerging, and I swear they're made just for me.  Whether the artists know it or not.  I don't guess that matters much.  With any art, you can make it yours no matter what the artist's intent was.  I always liked keeping the meaning of my artwork secret.  For many reasons, really, but among them, because I wanted people to connect with the images without preconceived notions, even if those notions were mine.  And it's always better if things aren't spelled out.  When they are, they can be trite... so much so that they make my stomach turn.  Ah, the power of the metaphor.  But if someone who knew me, like really knew me, understood the actual meaning of my work without me having to tell, that has always been my favorite thing, personally.  But that's about feeling understood as the maker.  Which is separate.  I think for the experience of the observer, the artist's meaning is a wholly independent thing altogether.  As the aesthetic experiencer, we long to be understood, but we get to create the meaning and weave it in with what we observe, feel, and hear.  When we give images or music our own meaning in our own situatedness, they become more special to us.  They actually become a part of the layered canvas that is us.  And in that way, we get to live and breathe in the new creation.  Pretty amazing, when you think of it.  We humans are good for something, it seems....

So these two artists with the new albums I mentioned just turn me upside down and inside out and melt my insides time and again.  Always attuned with my spirit.  And the albums aren't fully released yet, so I get to watch my iTunes for updates when new songs show up from the pre-orders I've placed.  Sweet tuneful anticipation, indeed.

The first one is Beast Epic by Iron & Wine (who I get to see in Dallas this November, which makes me so damn giddy every time I think about it).  There are two songs from the album out so far, though the rest of it isn't released yet.  But those two.  Whoosh.  Just try to listen to them without your heart soaring and sinking all at once.  So beautiful.

The first is Call It Dreaming, which came out a few weeks or so ago....  Here's a little excerpt:

"Where we see enough to follow
We can hear when we are hollow
Where we keep the light we're given
We can lose and call it living

...

Where the sun isn't only sinking fast
Every night knows how long it's supposed to last
Where the time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you've left behind
You can have mine."



And then Thomas County Law, another by Iron & Wine, just came out last week, and it's been swirling in my head since then.

"There's nowhere safe to bury all the time I've killed

 ...

There are castles for kings
There are birds without wings
I could whine 'bout it all,
But I won't....

...

When they hold 'em to the light you can see right through
Every dreamer falls asleep in their dancing shoes
I may say I don't belong here
But I know I do."



And now for the new one from my singing soul sister.  I just discovered this song last night on the new album called Native Invader, and it's been ever present with me since then.  I think I even dreamed about it.  I don't know if Tori Amos can actually feel the seasons of my life (surely not), but it's always, always felt that way.  I guess the Universe helps out with that.  First off, this song is called Cloud Riders, which appears to me to be an evolution from one of my old favorites of hers, Cloud on My Tongue.  Probably better to ride a cloud than to let it sit on your tongue.  Anyway.  In her very first line of this one, she sings about cliffs.  Cliffs.  She had me at cliffs.  But then she also saw shooting stars at 4:22 a.m.  And she brought a blanket to ride out a storm.  And was touched by the holy ghost.  And then she reminds me:  "Girl, it’s time you take back your life." 



Sometimes the Universe truly sings; we just have to listen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

That Perfect Concept of a Flower

As I was about to toss some withered and mostly dead flowers unceremoniously into the trash, something gave me pause.  That moment suddenly got larger and more deeply scented in the depths of my mind as I stood there staring at them before they took the plunge into the darkness of the tall metal can lined with plastic.  And I stopped to snap a few photos in that moment... thinking that doing so would capture what I was feeling, which was carrying me quietly to a deeper place.



But then, when taking the photos wasn't enough to capture it, I turned where I often turn.  Writing.  Letting the emotion of the moment pour out, just seeing where it takes me.  Riding the universe of my mind through my words.

Floral sections of markets draw me in on even the most mundane of shopping trips.  I always seem to feel compelled to smell at least one bunch of flowers when passing by as if some bee-like honing quality has momentarily taken over my brain.  Even more delightful still are flowers in the wild.

I guess it's hard to call more than one thing a favorite when you can't narrow it down to a winner, because by definition, a "favorite" is the best one of the bunch....  With flowers, like songs and poems, though, I can't ever seem to pick just one.  Maybe everyone has this problem, and that's why there are such things as bouquets and mix tapes (er, playlists).  But, in any event, these are my favorites: Camellias, and their nostalgic ability to bring my mind zooming back to my childhood life in small town Louisiana.  Zinnias, and all their varied, crowded, gloriously wild intermingling stalks.  Cherry blossoms in their ethereal majesty.  Honeysuckle, in its calling us to partake of its golden sweetness on our tongues.  Wisteria, in its grape-like bunches of cascading petals emoting romance and charm.  Magnolias... that scent... there's really nothing better in this world.  (Hm.  The scent of the magnolia is really capturing something important to me... and after re-reading this post for typos before posting, that now makes so much sense in my retrospection... you'll see.)

But flowers bear a sadness, too, in their very being.  They are the living things, brought to their early demise, so that we can adorn bodies and tables with them on the most special of occasions -- in our hands in weddings, on long dinner tables at holiday feasts, on nervous lapels at proms, or in our hair as crowns in tea parties in fields.  And yet they are also the living things we are compelled to gift to others in times of immense sorrow -- the death or memory of a loved one, a miscarriage, or yet another surgery.  In both those forms of celebration -- in the lightest light and in the darkest dark -- we wield the flowers' life cycle to bring a thing of beauty into a moment that needs or deserves it, yet they also remind us of the reality of the temporal and fleeting nature of beauty... of life... of gifts... of joy... and even of sadness.

They can be a reminder and a muse, all at once.

If we look closely enough in our staring, we can feel the anticipation of the bud just forming, the awe in the glory of the full bloom, and even the melancholic love of the shriveling petal, which dries out no matter how much water it is given.  If we pay attention, we can see the cycle of the flowers, not just the life and death of the singular, momentary flower.

And, in my mind's wandering, I am also reminded of the Little Prince's rose.  In that book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry describes a rose the Little Prince loved above all else.  It was the thought that there was his single rose on his teeny planet somewhere in the universe among the stars that made all the stars special and bright.  Without the knowledge that his rose was among them, the starts might as well have all been dark.  So long as the rose was out there somewhere, all was right in the world of his mind.  To a garden of roses, he spoke:

"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you -- the rose that belongs to me.  But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."

While the metaphor of the Little Prince is a tearfully beautiful one to which I have always been drawn -- the idea of a singular special rose -- I am thinking for the first time that this prose, in fact, misses the beauty of the rose.  A gardener does not prune a single rose for his whole life, yet he probably loves roses more than anyone.  A gardener prunes his roses In fact, when you get down to it, isn't even roses in their plural form, nor is it even a singular rose, after all, that move him.  In his mind, it is the singular concept of the rose he loves.  It is his love of the essence of the rose that keeps him wanting to consume its scent and to watch it bloom again and again and what causes him to care for it to keep it alive as long as he can.  But we all know, you can't keep a single rose longer than its life.  Unless you dry it.  And then, I guess you can keep it.  But then it is nothing but a dried rose that no longer smells.  It is not the same.  And a rose under a glass for safe-keeping still doesn't actually stop time, except in fairy tales.  And willing it otherwise only focuses on the fear of the inevitable loss of the one flower.  But, dear readers, do not despair as the Little Prince would have. 

Hope is not lost.  Quite to the contrary.  Indeed, the most deeply incredible thing about flowers is their ability to be, quite literally, distilled down to an essence so that we understand what is essential about the flower, not just its petals... the way it leaves a scent too strong to be overpowered by even the foulest of things this world can throw at us.  Even as we give and receive flowers in our times of greatest joy and our times of greatest need, we are forced to watch them die, which we accept... because we have to.  But unlike the Little Prince's focus on a small, momentary, singular concept of his rose, which evokes his fear, the idea of the flower... the genre of the flower... the eternal nature of its blooming and its perpetual scent can come to us again and again over time and bring a peace with understanding of the ebbs and flows of the process of new flowers blooming.

There is a peace embedded in the idea of the cyclical nature of blooming that helps us escape the mourning of the death of each momentary bloom.  It is this very kind of idea that has driven me to heal time and again after surgeries.  Rebirth.  Re-blooming.  To see myself as a cyclical being with new growth after what felt like near death too many times.  I lost petals.  Maybe even whole blooms.  But I nevertheless bloomed again.  Like ocean tides flowing in and out, flowers bloom again and again, even though individual clusters of petals surely die.  

Every time I see a magnolia tree in bloom and simply remember to inhale, the death of all the prior flowers never even enters my mind, and I am filled with only my love of its scent and the beauty it carries.  When one bloom dies, we simply look forward to the next one in the cyclic beauty of nature.  It is the magnolia we must think of, not the bloom that had its time.  And when we accept that, we can resume the task of tossing the wilted ones in the trash without much pause, or we may need to place them up on a shelf someplace safe to be dried by time because sometimes in our sentimentality we're not quite ready to let these particular petals go just yet, but deep down we know that there will be many more magnolia blooms to come, and they will unfold anew and carry their beautiful scent. 


In a joke I once heard about the irony of giving the gift of flowers, a comedian once said it something like this:  "I love you... so here, watch these flowers die."  The irony has surface comedic appeal, to be sure.  But it assumes that giving the gift of flowers is undermined by the very fate of the individual flower and its transience.  I am consciously realizing anew that it is not the flower, in its momentary bloom, that is even the point.  It's a much more universal concept that is drawing me in.  It is the idea of flowers that bloom again and again that we experience with each new blossoming.  Even if it takes watching flowers die in their season to remind us of that.  The magnolia is always the magnolia, which blooms again and again, and its scent is ingrained.  Maybe, in fact, the essence I have always loved from the Little Prince is even more true when viewed through the lens of the beauty of the essence of the flower versus the existence of a momentary flower:  "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."  We must look at the essence.  Never just the petals.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

That Perfect Mom and Max Trip

Before all my surgeries, I loved driving.  Just about anywhere.  Just about anytime.  Trips large and small are things of joy for me.  I love the dreamy anticipation of reaching the destination while driving there, the pure joy in living in the moment once I've arrived at my desired place, and then having the time to quietly reflect on the memory just made in the car on the way back.  How could I not love that kind of magic?  It is the purest form of combined experience and reflection all rolled up into one.  My son, Max, and I used to take "Mom and Max Trips" a lot before I had all these surgeries that have prevented me from driving myself places for far too long now.  Every time we went somewhere, just the two of us, we announced that we were taking a Mom and Max Trip and reveled in the opportunity to bond for a while without anyone else.  I've begun the tentative (and not fearless) process of driving myself places, alone, again as of a few months ago.  I cried the first time I did it, so overwhelmed by the experience of that independence and freedom again.  I still don't venture out too far alone because my muscles that keep me upright get taxed very easily, and sitting for long periods without being able to recline is still way harder than I'd like.  I've written about that before, so I won't belabor it here.  But I am improving, and I'm able to do more and more all the time.  I drive to work downtown, to doctor's appointments, and to physical therapy alone now with good frequency, which I call a gigantic victory and a huge step in the right direction. 

This morning, something beautiful happened in a moment that for most people would risk being simply mundane.  You see, this morning, we were out of coffee.  Which could have been a bummer or an annoyance.  But it wasn't.  There's a Starbucks a little over a mile from my house, so I decided to make a run to Starbucks to fulfill my selfish need.  Plus I have had a Starbucks gift card in my wallet for quite a while that needed using.  So I threw on some shoes and a bra, tamed my ridiculously large curly mop of hair a tiny bit, and kept on my PJs and decided it was time.  Time for a Mom and Max Trip.  It was a short trip, but I hoped he would be excited, not really about the hot chocolate I was going to buy him, but about the mere happening of a Mom and Max Trip.  And he was.  He was literally jumping for joy.  He didn't want me to take Dad's car, even though it was first out in the driveway.  Nope.  He wanted to ride in Mom's car because that's the car we always used for Mom and Max Trips.  So we backed out the other car and took mine.  We rolled the windows down, and I put on my sunglasses and some upbeat Saturday morning music.  On the way to Starbucks, he recounted to me his memories of prior Mom and Max trips, especially the ones where I took him to swimming lessons at the Y when Eva was a baby, which is when he discovered he loved Somebody I Used to Know by Gotye, which is still his very favorite song.  At Starbucks, I let him take off his seatbelt and carefully procure the cups from the drive-through window as he stood leaning out the back window.  When we'd secured everything in cup holders (without spilling anything, thankfully, because I only told him about five times to be so careful because they were sooo hot), and he was buckled up again, on our way home, he said this:  "Mom, I want to tell you something.  I love you more than video games.  And you know how much I love video games."  The whole way home, we talked about how much we loved each other (it's about a five minute drive, but a very precious five minutes, obviously).  And he said as we neared our house, "Mom, I will always want to take Mom and Max Trips with you.  Every time you ever ask me if I want to take a Mom and Max trip, do you know what I'll say?  YES!"  I, too, will always and forever want to take Mom and Max Trips.  And I wanted to write this all down to document it so I can remind him when he is a stinky teenager and I ask him to go somewhere with me and he would rather hang out with his stinky friends or his girlfriend (who I'm sure will be lovely) that he said he would always say YES to Mom and Max Trips.  But somehow, despite the teenage years, which will be here before I know it, I have a feeling I won't have to remind him.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

That Perfect Dream State


I attempted to write down everything I could recall of the dream I had this morning just before waking instead of letting it fade quickly, as I usually do, before my day begins. Here goes....

I was trying out for this Fluevog film/variety show of some kind. I was a finalist with 5 other interesting, odd folks. We chatted a bit in a small room and then began wandering around. Then somehow, briefly, my kids were in it instead of me, but that didn't last long. Then when I was back in the show instead of my kids, I kept sneaking off to smoke cigarettes (which I haven't done in many years, which was also true in the dream, but I couldn't stop myself despite knowing I was supposed to stay on set). I kept sneaking off to a bistro place that was full of oddities and antique junk - kind of like this old weird kind of a mall place with a bumpy brown brick floor in my old hometown (which was called MacArthur Village, but which doesn't exist anymore), but it was way more filled with stuff (so much you could barely get through, like an upscale flea market) and creepier - like if that old space had become an overwhelming junk boutique. And there were French doors and patios off this one part, where I kept trying to get, that felt like New Orleans, but I knew it was Alexandria.  And that part was upstairs, and there was a creepy elevator I had to use because I was using my old platform walker thing to get around again (the one I used right after hip surgeries), so I couldn't use the stairs. And there was an old sales lady in a red suit with a sparkly brooch, who moved slowly but who had long manicured nails, who kept trying to call the elevator for me, and it didn't ever come when you wanted it, and when it did come, it was slow and you weren't sure if it would even move or if it would trap you in. But I was late getting back to tryouts and managed to get into the elevator, but I accidentally left my platform walker outside of the elevator doors upstairs. I didn't have it in me to go back through the ordeal of the elevator and go back to get the walker once I made it to the first floor because there were a few fat flying spiders in the elevator that kept attacking me, and one got caught in my big curly hair for a moment which freaked me out. So I managed to limp around the first floor and find a cane amid all the weird junk in that place and hobbled myself back to the Fluevog tryouts. When I got back there, I found there was this carpet-like thick fake snow everywhere (tons of it - it looked fake but tranquil), and we were about to have some fancy esoteric photographer do a photo shoot of us each individually. And then we were going to have to do a short stand-up monologue of some kind after that, and I had no idea what I was going to say. But I convinced myself that surely I could think of something interesting to say on the spot. Then the guy in charge started in trying to tell us all the important stuff we needed to know, and this other finalist guy who looked like TJ Miller wouldn't stop loudly talking to me and showing me his iPad, interrupting the important guy, and he wasn't getting my eye-dagger hints to shut up. The director guy got mad at him, and I backed away to distance myself from the trouble. Then we were back to waiting on the photographer guy, and it was dark now with spotlight-lit areas and I started playing with the snow blanket stuff they had spread out for the photo shoot - even covering whole cars and large swaths of land - and then I accidentally ripped it while rubbing it around to see how thick it was, so I mushed it back together to pretend I hadn't done anything, and I walked into a Fluevog store that was part of the set somehow, and I tried some pretty shoes, with diamond-shaped designs in the leather, on my hands. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

That Perfect Road Trip


This perfect road trip hasn't actually happened yet. But I've learned that the reality you want in life doesn't ever come unless you dream it first. And so I am dreaming.

***
 
The window buzzes quietly as it glides down into its slender compartment in the car door and settles down in there with a gentle thump. 

I wonder how many trees there are in these stretches of pine that seem to roll on and on for miles. From above, I’ve seen that the seemingly vast forests surrounding these roads actually only just line them, maybe only ten or twenty jaggedy rows deep. I was disappointed the first time I flew in an airplane and saw that. Can wild animals live in such a shallow arboreal home? I can’t imagine anything interesting living in a fake forest. Why do we even have these? Who plants them? Maybe they were actual forests once upon a time and have been pruned this close to the roads to make room for farmland plots. I think this is probably the case. But I pretend anyway that I am in a deep piney jungle, and a feeling of childlike safety envelops me.

My hair whips my neck over and over with each wind gust I have quietly invited into my car through the open window. It’s amazing how bugs smack and bleed on the windshield without sneaking in through the side window, like a giant mouth open wide. I’m thankful for that. I hate getting a bug in my hair. Or worse, my mouth.

It is a comfortable tumult, this air whirling through the car all around me, though I know there is probably poison from the pollution it carries out on this highway from all the behemoth rigs growling down the road, which bully all the rest of us in our person-carrying cars, and from the refineries in the distance, and the burning piles of trash in rural yards scattered on the landscape here and there, but which only seem to exist down here in the deep south on these lonesome highways. Do people burn trash everywhere? Or just in the nearly empty southern non-cities where there’s nowhere else for it to go and no one who will pick it up and take it any place else? At least fire is cheap, I suppose. Landfills aren’t. At least morally.

Anyway, aren’t so many things that fill us with joy actually killing us slowly? Killing us slowly is better than killing us quickly. We all have an expiration date, ultimately. I wish I could know mine but am also grateful I cannot know. And I wish wishes could stop time. Could freeze moments. Ones like this. Where the wind hugs me, where a stunningly shadowy voice calling through the speakers in a private duet with a gentle guitar burrows straight into my heart and wakes up my belly with a welcome pang, and the road lays itself out before me – calling me and gifting me with a safe path to anywhere I want to go.

I am leaving the window down. I take a swig of still warm coffee, pull my sweater into my lap, and flip on the seat heater to warm me as the cool front begins to settle in. It’s a wilder wind now that plays with my hair more aggressively as it becomes colder. And it stings my cheeks and makes my nose run a little. Harsh, but in the most beautiful way.

I settle into my seat, feeling it against my body, aware mostly of the vibrations of this car flying along on the pavement. It is supporting me, and I feel it there under me, but it doesn’t hurt. My right foot is gently pressing the gas pedal as I pass the car that just merged into the right-hand lane after clogging up the left-hand lane before it finally got over, and my left foot is just resting, knee bent freely, leaning against the comforting interior wall of the car door. I remember when cold air like this would make my muscles scream. But right now, my muscles feel lazy despite the chill. And I am grateful.

I should buy some beef jerky next time I stop. It hurts my jaw if I chew too much of it, but my sentimental nostalgia yearns for it here on the open highway. And it will probably make my stomach hurt. I probably won’t care.

I never thought I would get to do this again.

They ripped open my hips. That’s when I really fell from grace. Or fell from life but found grace in the end. Twice on the left side, and once on the right side. I paid good money for them to slice into me. I was so broken. I used to drive a twelve minute surface street route home from work and was certain I was dying this time, so many times, on that otherwise repetitive drive. I pulled over more days than I want to admit, succumbing to the dizziness that was overtaking my brain as it tried its best to shut out the pain filling my body, like a hot liquid lava spreading and leaving burned and cracking surfaces, but inside me, in its wake. I suppose the passing out from pain phenomenon is an evolutionary mechanism we have developed so that our brains don’t fry like an overheated motherboard while trying to survive intense pain. I wonder if animals other than humans experience this sensation.

I learned my left hip was dislocating every, single, fucking time I sat. At least that explained it. I’m not overreacting. Or exaggerating. The surgeon explicitly told me that after he’d sealed me back up after the first hip surgery and left me with three scars littering the front of my thigh where he had sliced into me. He was shocked it was so bad and unstable in there. The doctor drew an exclamation mark after he wrote the word “Instability” on the drawing he had made of my hip to show what he had found during surgery. I wasn’t surprised at all. But I was relieved there was a legitimate reason I had become so incapable of even performing the mere act of sitting, which meant I also couldn’t do the higher level things I’ve been trained to do, and had gotten so good at over the years, either. And yet I welcomed the concrete news that the cause was mechanical and not me losing my mind.

After many months of physical therapy and slow, slow healing after surgery – slower than the slowest molasses dripping, slower than the laziest snail – my left hip stopped dislocating. But then I had to allow them to cut into me again, not too many months later, this time to repair a tear in my right hip that happened when I was forced to over-rely on my right leg when my left one had become so fully and entirely dilapidated. So I got a brand new matching set of three scars scattered on the front of my right thigh when they sliced into that one as well.

But then, despite a year of hip surgeries and recoveries from those operations, after having already endured many tortuous months of diagnosing and conservative hip treatment (after four previous shoulder surgeries I won’t even let my mind acknowledge right now), I still couldn’t sit. Although I could stand again without feeling like my torso would slide off of my pelvis, a miraculous development to be sure, the intense pain and feeling of needing to pass out just from sitting did not leave me. My pelvis felt like it was ripping itself apart. Turns out it was. My doctor looked me in the eye and said it isn’t cancer, but what most people won’t understand is that what you’re going through is kind of like that. This is big, he said. Fuck, I thought.

After more months of tests, manipulations, oohs and ahs from interns and residents watching intently but with a cold astuteness as I lay on tables while doctors manipulated my leg around in the air in various positions as they examined my dysfunction, and waiting for a surgery date, I underwent a femoral derorational osteotomy on my left side. Much bigger scar this time. A big slice was made through my muscles in the back of my hip. Through this incision, my femur was sawed all the way through, and the top of it was rotated about twenty degrees from where it had been my whole life, and then reattached to the rest of the bone – its other half – with a titanium rifle-barrel-like rod shoved into it and now running the entire length of my thigh, with screws at my knee and hip to hold the rod in place. I’m told I shouldn’t set off metal detectors. I was also told I was lucky they know how to fix this problem nowadays. People with my hip rotational problem used to have back surgeries, knee surgeries, and hip replacements after their hips imposed far-reaching destruction on distant body parts, and a lifetime of pain pills. At least I have a shot at avoiding that.

All the muscles that attach to my pelvis and femur finally stopped feeling like they were a wrap dress tangled and being pulled with immense and wrong tension while strung up on a hanger, hampering and hindering my movement and making me want to just sleep and drug away the pain. Even though I used to be the girl who refused to even take ibuprofen. I hate taking drugs. I cannot count how many days I lost. How much of myself I lost. But, after the osteotomy, a peace settled into my muscles that had been at war for years. But they were so weak after the long, invisible battle. Shaky and fragile. And there was so much strengthening to be done. And my own body scared me to my core. The thing holding my very soul and all my potential, and with it, my identity, the very thing tying my me to this earthly world and those I love, threatened to be my unraveling on the deepest level. Deeper than any heartbreak I’d ever felt, deeper than any other fear that had ever shaken me. And surgery to repair such physical brokenness, even when it works (and sometimes, it doesn’t), does not erase the fear that builds up over years of bodily failure once it embeds into your psyche. Not quickly anyway.

But I slowly gained strength. After the bleeding, the limping, the swelling, the dizzying drugs, the endless hours not being able to sit or roll over or, at first, to get up at all to even pee… after entirely too many empty moments, tears of frustration, and hours of physical therapy yet again, I began to make progress. I ate calcium tablets with the pain pills, wishing the bone to heal. I was warmed by love letters, calls, and trinkets from friends. Please, please let it be soon. I need a miracle.

I tried not to ask Why Me? But I did sometimes. That never helped. When I did, I just resented my disabilities more and more, while I knew I needed to just be with it and let it exist. Fighting it only hurt me more. I consciously tried to slow my breath and my heart, a lot. Tried to grab calm from the air and swallow it whole. But that was a skill that I took years to learn. And I still forget it sometimes when I need it most. I can be really fucking bull-headed sometimes. I love efficiency too much. And achievement too much. But less now. Out of necessity.

Sometimes I pretend to smoke an imaginary cigarette, and by some miracle, I am able to force more air, with a strange ease, into my lungs. Funny how such a poisonous habit from my youth, abandoned so many years ago, helps me now when I feel too anxious to consciously breathe properly.

And I thought so many times that I would never drive again. Not alone anyway. I’ve been stuck before. I’ve thought I was at my end too many times. I developed a deep-seated fear of a thing I once loved. In my youth, I adored road trips. Three to four, or even more, hours of my time in a car seemed a luxury – a music-filled, daydream-wrapped journey to somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere I longed to visit. I always loved the drive. But as my stamina left me, in my thirties no less, my love of the road became tortuous. What if I got stranded somewhere because I couldn’t go on and my body finally decided to try to give all the way out in some unpredictable place? Who would save me? Or would it just be the end? I don’t want to end with a whimper, but I was certain sometimes I just would.

But here I am. Wheels spinning, comfortably hitting seventy. Humming along. Flocks of birds changing direction in a symmetrical dance in the vast sky above me.

And, of course, I notice the bored, road-weary expressions on the faces of all the other drivers I pass who appear to lack the capacity to fathom how special, how wonderful, how amazing it is to drive anywhere you fucking want. I cry just a little, feeling sorry for myself for all the years I couldn’t do this. Swells of emotion always make me cry. Always have. Maybe it’s raining somewhere now because of it. I missed feeling like this, this free, for so long. I dreamed of taking road trips again. I wished on stars for the ability to just go anywhere while not wondering if I would make it there.

And here I am driving. Reveling. Relishing. Just breathing instead of hurting. Not even having to pretend to smoke or to convince myself I’ll survive this moment, too. I already know I will.  





Monday, July 25, 2016

That Perfect Ennui

I remember my sophomore year of high school being assigned the task of drafting an essay on a word. I was to write a paper detailing the etymology of a single word. What I don't recall is how I decided upon the term on which I would write, but I do recall being given the freedom to choose any word I liked. The word I chose was this:

ennui

Webster's defines it as lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest; a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that it was derived in the 1660's as a French word in English and was nativized in1758 from French ennui, from Old French enui, or "annoyance" (13c.). And Google concurs that it arrived mid-18th century to French, from Latin mihi in odio est "it is hateful to me." 

I can tell you this. High-School-Sophomore-Me had no inkling of how apropos that word choice would be as it floats to and bobs on the surface of my mind, arising from my depths, in recent days and very much so today.

Those of you who know me -- I mean really know me -- would never question that I possess as strong of a spirit as there is.  I persist beyond comprehension at tasks and goals, frequently confounding even the hardest workers I know.  I dream every night -- vividly.  I create all the time.  I write, I read, I draw.  I love learning and discovering and reaching deep down more than anything.  I love achieving new things; learning and mastering new skills; reaching new heights; connecting with kindred spirits; finding new things to smile about; discovering what stirs my soul and opens my eyes afresh.  I love digging in and conquering whatever it is to which I set my mind. And I am so grateful for the love and gifts I have had throughout my entire life.

But I feel the deepest dissatisfaction, the most dreaded lack of spirit -- a perfect sort of ennui -- stemming from these cracks in my body, my vessel, that undermine my plans, that inject chaos into my dreams, and that lead people to leave me in insufferable silence entirely too frequently for simply a lack of knowing what to say to me as my body fails the me they (and I) expect me to be.

I have so far endured six surgeries. I like to think that number should have been three rather than six but for an incompetent surgeon masquerading as an esteemed professional who first operated on my left shoulder. Not knowing better, I let him re-repair it when I should have moved on to a different surgeon (which I ultimately did).  But that is neither here nor there.  To date, the number is six.  Four surgeries on my left shoulder. One on my left hip. One on my right hip.  All "minimally invasive" arthroscopic surgeries. And years and years of physical therapy.

I should be on my way now. I should be on the up and up now. I should be highly successful by now. I should be able to walk down the street by now. I should be able to sit in a regular chair by now. But I'm not.  And I can't.  I have worked so damn hard to get where I am, and my body is spoiling it. People have been so patient, hoping for the best, but I can feel the weight of the disappointment that I'm not better yet from everyone as the years pass and I am not at my peak, as expected. Worse yet, I can feel that disappointment coming from within. 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my hip doctor along with a new hip doctor - a hip trauma specialist. My team is supposed to set in motion the plan for me, which I'm told will be what's called a femoral derotational osteotomy on my left hip.  Try saying that three times fast.  The surgery I'm advised is on the horizon, the femoral derotational osteotomy, will consist of intentionally breaking my femur and reattaching the top of it to realign the femoral head so that it actually, for once in my life, fits into my hip socket.  I'm told this will resolve my back pain, will allow me to walk normally again, and afford me the pleasure of sitting again.  (Don't ever take for granted the pure fucking joy of sitting.)  The surgery I had on it a year ago stopped my left hip from dislocating, which it was apparently doing every time I sat, and probably many other times, too.  The surgery stabilized the joint in many ways.  I can balance on my left leg now, even with my eyes closed, whereas before the surgery I felt like my torso would literally slide off of my pelvis if I even shifted weight to my left hip while standing if it weren't for the skin and other tissues fighting to keep me in one piece.  Before that surgery, I'd been told the minimally invasive procedure on that hip would bring my hip's grade up from a low F to a B or a C.  For someone who is still pissed about the three Bs she earned in undergrad that kept her from having all As, and who is still a little disappointed at graduating fourth in my law school class instead of first, a B or C grade for my hip sounded pretty great, all things considered.  It wouldn't be perfect, but we hoped it would be livable. 

But it isn't. 

Now my femur, being about twenty degrees rotated from where it should be (and it's likely always been this way, slowly wreaking havoc as I continue to move through my life) is yanking my pelvis out of alignment when I sit, and all the dysfunction is taxing my abdominal and back core muscles so much, I have trouble standing on top of the trouble I have sitting.  This new impending surgery is not minimally invasive like the others.  I am guessing (and will learn more tomorrow) that, rather than the puncture type scars that litter my left shoulder (thirteen, in all) and both thighs (three on each leg), I will have a long incision along my outer left hip somewhere so the surgeon can get to the femur he has to break and reattach.  I don't care so much about the scars anymore, I just want normal life back. Granted, normal used to be exceptional, so I may be asking too much. I probably am. But I have always asked for too much so that I could be at least satisfied with the returns I get, even if they aren't as high as I had hoped.

Only one month before my left hip surgery, when I could hardly stand, in June of 2015, I was awarded the Romina L. Mulloy-Bossio Achievement Award - Outstanding Young Bankruptcy Lawyer, awarded by the State Bar of Texas.  And it wasn't a pity award - hardly anyone knew I could barely stand (I hid it that well until I couldn't stand, or even drive myself home one day).  The past two years in a row I have been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star. I have taken my show on the road and have spoken at many conferences in Texas and Louisiana and have now published three law review articles. And all this after earning four degrees - two undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree, and a doctorate.  And while raising two amazing children.  And making artwork.  And being active with leadership roles in the arts community in Dallas.  I am so proud of what I have accomplished.  

But I did not get this far to only get this far.

That last line sounded like my usual optimism and gumption peeking through the ennui that has settled in today. I think I am just incredibly trepidatious about the surgical fate that tomorrow will officially set into motion. I cannot yet know precisely what the doctors will advise me tomorrow or what recovery from this surgery will be like.  However, I anticipate it will be rougher than the minimally invasive ones I've endured to date. Which were no walk in the park, of course.  It will test and strain everything.  Again.

I just hope that those in the legal and arts communities with whom I have close relationships will not give up on me. And I hope that my kids will get to have a Mom back who can run (or even walk) with them at the park again (it's a good thing I like drawing, reading, and board games so we can at least do those things together right now).  And I hope I can finally fucking stop disappointing those I love with all my frailty and struggles to get my vessel back in some semi-functional condition.

I want so deeply to have high hopes about the femoral derotational osteotomy.  It sounds like it should solve the mechanical dysfunction that keeps causing my body to feel like a wrap dress tangled up in itself, trying desperately to stay on its hanger. But I've been hopeful before and have been disappointed too many times to be naive now.  But I am not angry.  I was angry.  I was very angry some time ago. I wondered why I was so afflicted. I even wondered who had a voodoo doll of me somewhere and how I could possibly apologize for whatever it was I did so I could make all the pain stop and just get back to business. Maybe I secretly believed in karma. But I've grown past all that. I am calm. I acknowledge where and who I am. But just because I acknowledge my limitations, that doesn't make me accept less than I want from my self: this self that I have worked on so diligently for thirty-nine years.

It's hard to come so far and fear not getting as far as I dreamed.  It's hard to disappoint people who have come to rely on my skills and prowess.  It's hard to disappoint those I love. Again and again, despite every fiber of my being wishing wishing wishing to be better.  The confluence of all those disappointments, with a new surgery circling like a treacherous cyclone on my path ahead, creates a fog of ennui that sits heavy over most everything in this moment. Just like with fog on a highway, there are breaks in it, thankfully. But sometimes it's so thick you just have to pull over. I don't always feel like this. But today, I can't help but pull over for a while as I wait, and hope, for it to dissipate.







Saturday, July 9, 2016

That Perfect Wisdom

When I was a mere seventeen years old, I resided in the land of soul searching. I was as passionate and inspired as a young woman could possibly be. I wanted to try and learn everything I could. I was a seeker of wonder, a seeker of experience, a seeker of love.  I didn't want to miss a thing that would fill my mind with new perspectives and thoughts and envelop my body with new sensations and feelings. And, indeed, I found so much wonder, experience, and love on my journey. That woman amazes me to this day, and I am deeply pleased she is a part of the woman I have become.

But I could not have been so free and open to experience and learning, could not have been so passionate about finding myself and my place in the world, without my father.  He is, to this day, the wisest person I know.  It's perfectly fitting that it is he who gets to wear the black robe in the federal courthouse in my hometown these days.

That seventeen-year-old me wrote my Dad a letter.  Let that sink in.  That seventeen-year-old angst-filled, driven, passionate, artistic, independent, rebellious me wrote my Dad--who was then a well-respected lawyer like I am today--a letter.  Trust me when I say there was some serious angst or disagreement that drove the letter.  When I need to say the most important things, I frequently find I can't say them out loud.  I turn to writing to articulate with precision the things that matter most.  And I did then.  My memory of the letter I wrote isn't as clear as I wish it was, so I am not sure if it was about religion or my then-boyfriend or something else, but I do know we must have been in conflict about something that burned in my soul, and I felt I needed to communicate something momentous to him, or it would not have been in writing.  What I do remember is that in the letter, I made reference to a song by Tori Amos called Winter.  Here are the lyrics:

Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove
I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"
He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Boys get discovered as winter melts
Flowers competing for the sun
Years go by and I'm here still waiting
Withering where some snowman was
Mirror mirror where's the crystal palace
But I only can see myself
Skating around the truth who I am
But I know dad the ice is getting thin

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses have gone ahead
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change
My dear

I am now a parent.  I cannot imagine the head-to-head heartfelt disagreements I will surely one day have with my own children when they are seventeen and doing things of which I disapprove or which scare me.  But I know this.  I want to be like my father when that happens.  My father could have gotten angry, could have stood his ground, could have said I was wrong for whatever it was I was feeling or doing.  Though I had been a debater in high school, my father was a lawyer.  He could have bested me with his experience and inherent authority.  But the wisdom he embodies won out over all those possibilities.  Instead of anything hurtful or authoritarian in response to my letter, what he did was this.  He bought me a copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.  He wrote the following inscription inside:


And here's what page 54-55 says:


Instead of imposing any other view on mine, my Dad tenderly acknowledged my searching and encouraged me to find my truth.  My soul.  That's a hard message to gift to your child who is growing into adulthood and may be varying from a path you might choose for her if only you could. That, my friends, is love.  That, my friends, is wisdom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

That Perfect Love

Despite the miles, they just know you need a little compassion on a rough day they didn't even consciously know was rough for you.  They wake you up with your coffee just the way you like it and even put it in one of your favorite mugs.  They remember the names of the first boys you ever had a crush on and the names of the few you actually loved.  They actually know you can (and love to) sing despite your modesty.  They know the little things mean Everything.  They look at weird bumps in your mouth or other places you can't see on your own very well... when you ask them to just to reassure you that you are okay.  They fix your friend's broken stuff.  They love how you nerd out.  Their happiness makes you happier than your own.  Watching them do what they do best thrills you.  They want to know what you think about things that they don't yet understand.  They knew it just by your laughter.  They tell you that you are the best Mom in the whole entire world, out of nowhere while playing a video game in which you thought they were one hundred percent absorbed -- apparently not.  They recognize where you belong.  They sit in the hospital with you.  They somehow believe that you're the awesome one when it's clear that they are the awesome one.  They demand that you don't give up just when you were thinking maybe you should.  They tell you they've been thinking about you and that you probably felt it.  They know your Pictionary drawing from a couple of lines.  They would rather sit by you than anyone else.  They see themselves in you.  You are the one they need to be with them at the funeral.  They are thinking the same thing as you and tell you so with just a look, and you both, and only you both, understand.  They know you never lie when it matters.  They answer your questions about what their favorite things are even when they don't want to, just to make you happy.  They appear in your dreams, and you wonder if you appeared in theirs the same night by some mysterious dream power.  They send inappropriate texts with reckless abandon and remember the best Cards Against Humanity jokes.  That damn song makes them cry, too.  They give you back scratches and play with your hair.  They give you something they love for you to keep.  They share their creations with you without fear of being criticized (never in a million years).  Seeing them love their children makes you feel warm inside.  They tell you that you have the right grey matter.  They make you breakfast when they don't give a flying fuck about eating breakfast themselves.  They include knowing undertones in their word choice when they write to you.  They hug you with words.  They give you nicknames.  Their Moms love you and believe in you.  They keep the art you made them hanging up in their house.  They want to know what song inspires you this week.  They already have some of the most important old favorite songs in common with you.  They can cry in front of you anytime for any reason, which will make you cry, too.  It wouldn't feel right if they didn't show up.  They read the book just because you loved it, which they know means they will love it, too.  They pee in front of you without thinking about it at all.  They sincerely believe you are amazing.  They already know where the forks and the extra toilet paper in your house are.  They send you surprise packages and letters telling you that you are their hero, and mean it.  They tell you that you are the best daughter on the planet.  They genuinely want you to have inescapable happiness.  They play with your kids but not because they usually like to play with kids.  They bring over donuts in their clothes from last night.  They tell you they'd do it all over again just to see you feel good.  They watch Girls with you (again).  They entrust you with the knowledge of their childhood traumas that have broken parts of them, and you love them even more for trusting you and for being honest and real with you.  They tell you that you are stronger than the ages, and you believe it.  They scratch the itchy spot you can't reach.  They laugh at all your jokes, and they inspire you to be funny even when stuff hurts.  They think of you when that song comes on.  They dream of traveling somewhere with you.  They aren't embarrassed to be seen with you when you have a walker.  They give you extra kisses.  They stay on the line when you really need them to.  They recognize what is so special about you -- you know, the stuff you secretly think is special about yourself but wait quietly for someone else to finally notice and appreciate.  They wonder what you are doing right now.  They like sitting in the same room with you even when no one is talking.  They always loved you, never forgot you, and in their youth, they had the world, because of you. They inspire you to be better.  They just know you miss them without you even saying it.  Better yet, they know you love them no matter what because they KNOW you. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

That Perfect God-Shaped Hole

I just finished reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  To be more precise, I just finished wiping away tears that fell helplessly down my face after reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  I started it yesterday, had it running in the back of my mind all day at work today, and then could not put it down until I finished it just now.  I have a pit in my stomach--a glorious, gnawing pit in my stomach.  I complain frequently, mostly to myself, that I never meet people who are real enough, feel enough, appreciate enough, realize enough, dig deep enough or who see how those things are Everything to me.  With this book, I felt like I met people I have been longing to meet or to remember from my past, in this life or some other.  I might be forced to begin re-reading it really soon just to re-absorb the feelings it aroused in me, even though I think it did leave me with a God-shaped hole, or reminded me of one I already have.  Thank you, Tiffanie DeBartolo for letting such a beautiful story pour out of you.  Thank you for stirring up shards and loves and wisps inside of me that needed prodding.  Life is bigger and more glorious than we remember to give it credit for on most days, especially Wednesdays.  Who thinks to appreciate the really important subtle things on Wednesdays?  But this.  This book is memorable.  This particular Wednesday is now very special.  I want to scream to someone that they must read it.  Now.  But I won't scream it anywhere to anyone.  I'll just quietly put it here, where words are King.  And maybe those who should read it will read this and then they will.


Friday, March 18, 2016

That Perfect Me

How is it possible to be nothing but me and yet miss me so terribly?  Seven years and six shoulder and hip surgeries later, I only partly recognize myself.  The confident, independent woman I became through years of love, encouragement, support, and studying is still around... somewhere.  She must be.  But where did she go?  Maybe that old trunk I stuffed away in the attic but can't get to now because of all the damn stairs.  Maybe under the bed in that box of old journals and sketchbooks.  Maybe I left her tromping around in the greenness of Ireland.  Or on that daunting but dominated mountaintop in Big Bend National Park.  Or in one of many libraries I spent so many hours in.  Or in scattered pieces in each of the homes I've left behind.  Or in that first doctor's office when things started to go wrong.  Or in the office of the one doctor who botched a surgery and could not bring himself to admit it.  I was so strong.  Stronger than the ages, I was once told.  I reveled in my strength.  I never questioned it.  Until I did.  New moments have warped the steel girl I was.  That perfect me.  But does perfection consist solely of confidence, strength, and independence of body?  Dare I adjudicate my old self "perfect" for possessing those things I lack now?  For about five years, I think I believed that, at least when it came to how I saw myself.  I held myself to the highest standards, never failing, always exceeding expectations.  Never and Always.  As my body fell apart, it scared me to my core, and I incessantly grieved who I was becoming and who I was failing to be; struggling, ripping at the seams, to fight this decrepit yet young person into whom I was transforming against my will.  And then a couple of years ago, I stopped.  And remembered to breathe.  I changed.  I finally let myself be the person I am, scars and all.  Old and new.  I quit the me struggle and just focused on checking things off of lists in the hopes that when I check off enough of them, I'll escape the nightmare -- getting all the broken parts fixed, and fixed right by amazing doctors (check); letting myself rest when I need it (check (though this is way harder than I would have thought)); riding my stationary bike 30 minutes a day, five days a week (on the days I don't have physical therapy) (check); going to my office and putting in more hours than I intended when I left the house every time I go (check); remembering to thank my husband for the millions of tasks he helps with that I can't do, all the while trying to do more and more things for myself (check); being present for my children, playing with them, reading with them, asking them questions about what they think and how they feel, cuddling with them, being proud of them for each new thing they discover and become, and having my heart hurt for them every time they stub a toe or have their feelings hurt (check); remembering to reach out to far away people I love (check... sometimes, but I think about it often); reading and writing personal things again after so many years of reading and writing only legal documents, articles, books, court opinions, emails, and children's books (check).  I am endeavoring in every way I can think of to find me again, but she's not fully back yet.  I won't even judge her if she's not the perfect me anymore when I do find her.  How could she be?  But I hope she loves more dearly than ever; thinks as deeply and clearly as ever; continues to see beauty in unlikely places; is as open to experience as she ever was; appreciates the very many things to be grateful for each day; speaks her mind no matter what; and lifts up her children so they can be the best versions of themselves they can be.  In writing this, I am recognizing and understanding that I have, in fact, found pieces of her, or maybe they are just pieces of her that never left and have finally begun to be able to peek out from behind the pain curtain -- and I am thankful for that.  And in the process of lamenting the loss of former perfect me, of course I realize deep down that perfection is illusory, except the kind of perfection that lies in unique imperfection, which makes us lovable to others.  No, I don't think physical strength is the epitome of perfection, but I think it's my missing piece right now.  That thing that is keeping me from the perfection I had and want so badly to have back.  My body needs to heal and regain its power.  My spirit is ever strong and bubbling under the surface, so ready to emerge in full force as soon as my vessel is strong enough.  Thank God my spirit never quits.  And I couldn't care less anymore about my crooked tooth or my baby belly stretch marks or even all the surgical scars I've amassed.  And I love my curly hair, the color of my eyes, and the shape of my hands.  I just want to take a really long walk, or even a really long drive.  Alone.  Ever.  And enjoy it like I used to.  Not scared of lacking the strength to finish the task and being stuck somewhere.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  For now, my body is too tired to thoroughly consider whether this stream-of-consciousness bit of writing is even worth posting because I went to work today, rode my bike, spent time with my children while my body rested, and I have physical therapy in the morning.  Which all feels like a lot right now (though old, workaholic "perfect" me might have scoffed at that thought). Maybe I'll find another piece of me tomorrow.  Maybe it'll even be one I've never seen -- strength bigger than I've ever known in this much more challenging terrain.  Getting this perpetually injured body back to normal (whatever that is) is even harder than that time I literally climbed a mountain.  But I have to believe I'll arrive at my destination -- an older and wiser perfect me.  Maybe I already have, sort of.