Mother is Scared, But…

This summer I felt my first earthquake while sleeping in a teepee. A loud boom erupted in the distance. My first thought was that train cars were connecting on the railroad on the other side of the Jefferson River where I was camping, but it didn’t make sense that railcars were active in the middle of the night. The mountainous landscape was dry and sparse, a synchronous description of the activity along the wide river’s valley.

The earth rocked beneath me—really deep beneath me. Later, I would learn it was a 5.8. Zipped inside a puffy sleeping bag, I shook like a cocoon in a breeze. I sat up and said, “Earthquake”. It was more of a statement than a warning. My two daughters, and Charlotte, our French exchange student for a month, formed three-fourths of a ring on the ground and I wanted them to know the cause of the rattling. For them, I wanted to pretend that I wasn’t afraid.

I was, of course, very afraid.

I waited for them to respond. Aileen, my oldest daughter, twisted her head to look at me.

“Did you feel that?” I said, probably a little too emphatically. My heart was racing. The other girls hadn’t moved.

Aileen nodded, sleepy-eyed. I waited for her to react appropriately, to tuck her head beneath her arms or something like that, to show that she was just as scared as me.

“I have to pee,” she said.

I groaned inside. Then came the dreaded question.

“Will you go with me?” she said.

I wasn’t excited to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night with my sixteen year old, but I did it anyway, because I knew she was afraid. A mother intuits her child.

Teepee

Teepee, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, MT

My sleeping bag completed the fourth part of the ring. I had taken the girls to Lewis and Clark State Park for a night under the stars. The next day we would tour the caves that snake through the depths of limestone rock like secret passageways to a hidden world. It was supposed to be an adventure, and with a bright waxing moon in the sky it would become a night-day mix-up, a transversal of daylight’s stretch stopped within the gaping mouth of limestone that continued to a nighttime world.

I walked with my daughter to the outhouse. Rain began to fall in quiet, little drops on my shoulders. After we climbed back into our sleeping bags, two aftershocks waved through before I was able to fall asleep. Meanwhile, the rain pinged the canvas walls with a softness that only happens in summer. Lightning flashed overhead.

It wasn’t perfect. I was afraid of entering the caves the following day. Despite knowing I had no reason to worry about a teepee catastrophe, I imagined being deep in the caves during another earthquake. The worst part was that I imagined bringing the girls to their doom.

After an unrestful sleep, I had to make a plan in the morning. Do I go? Do I not go? Do I let them go without me? Certainly, they were old enough.

But what if they were inside the caves without me and an earthquake struck?

While waiting for hot water to boil on a propane burner, I chose the ultimate job required of parents–—I sacrificed. A hiss formed the background noise while I consciously solidified my life’s prerogative: I was willing to die for my children.

Like the fourth arc in the ring of life, having a clear initiative transcended the fear. I felt complete. I wonder now, how many times have I initiated out of fear rather than love? How often have I disappointed rather than embraced? Is it really that hard to sacrifice?

That morning, with the hot morning sun burning our skin through our shirts, I walked into the dark mouth of the cave with my daughters. It was day. It was night. I walked into the cave with my daughters because it was the right thing to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Writing: Memoir Update

I am how many years into writing my memoir? Three? Four? I bet you’re wondering when it will be done. I can’t say. As in, I have no idea.

It sounds tireless, but in these three or four years I have gained more than 130 pages of text. I have participated in conferences, attended workshops, taken numerous classes, and have read everything I can get my hands on, about, or in the form of memoir. It is a drive for understanding.

Because I began in confusion.

I was confused about my anxiety, my worth, my purpose. So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

And now people tell me they like my writing which is like putting a soft, fluffy pillow on the hard chair I sit on. It makes it easier to come back to, allows me to stay a bit longer.

This is crucial for memoir. I have found that self-knowledge by introspection sinks deeper than I had originally imagined. Sitting alone, I have burrowed into calcified memories and pried them apart to have a good look at their meaning, usually one that files me under the category of, well, mortal.

In other terms that means horrendously flawed.

IMG_0006

I’ve learned to be objective. The classes didn’t teach me this. The books didn’t teach me this. It’s just a little wrap of kindness I realized was there all along. Sometimes we put it around the shoulders of someone else, and other times we clutch its corners like oncoming death.

Because that’s what the world requires from us.

In the past several years, I have received more than my fair share of kindness after sharing my story. It erupted from a state of vulnerability into a full blown shower of appreciation and gratitude from strangers, friends, classmates, editors, and authors. Because they believe my story matters.

Everyone has a story that matters.

The hours, days, years suddenly don’t mean anything because what I’ve found along the way has impact. It has scoured away my original doubt and confusion and gives me purpose. Wrapped in the beauty of kind words, I’m grounded here. With you.

I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memoir Review: Love Warrior

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is an inside-out version of what it means to be a female who struggles with finding a Self she can live with. At the age of ten, her desire—or as she says, the world’s desire— for female perfection sends her to the bathroom after every meal.

She struggles through high school, sending forth to the world her Respresentative, the illusive persona created by a mind who aims to please society by succumbing to external wishes, leaving her true identity feeling lifeless and numb. In other words, this is a typical  female struggle, one that I, and I assume many other women, can understand. She verifies the intensity of this cultural dogma which won’t change until it is challenged by the Self.

download.jpg

The author tells her story with blunt truth. Being female has pressures that can drive us into a void. She reveals the layers of these pressures and provides us with a blood and guts portrayal of her journey to empowerment. She sheds her skin within the pages of the book, revealing a compassionate heart who learns to love herself as much as she loves others.

This is a must-read for women in their their 30s and 40s who yearn to reclaim their identity lost to children, spouses, work, family, and everything else spinning on the globe. She inspires the reader to find their grounding, connect, and make choices based on volition instead of obligation. Ironically, the world will thank you for it.

*

My Thoughts: A beautiful story written with raw honesty and endless courage

 

 

Girl Song

Crunch of gravel beneath car tires. Cars let go. Like so many people, so many people.

 

Hats with names of bands I never liked. The color orange is everywhere.

I am wild and

Lost.

Don’t you hear the music?

 

Heavy hearted honeysuckle.

Oh to be her.

Or her.

Daddy, I’m right here.


Alone.

Downstairs. Damn basement. Kindest friend I could find.

Or a rooftop.

 

IMG_3395

 

Lake at midnight. Northern Lights. A man I don’t know asks if I’m a Size 2.

Effervescent pink in a glass bottle.

 

Skin. My damn skin.

Camels. With filters this time.

 

Escape. Escape. Escape.

 

Nice girls don’t frown.

 

Can’t you see the music?

Except you let go. Like so many people, so many people.

 

 

Words: Coffee Talk*

If we were having a cup of coffee right now I would tell you my husband is cooking Chicken Parmesan for dinner tonight. I’d say I love it when he cooks because I’m not much into cooking and it sometimes turns me stale.

If we were having coffee right now I would tell you how my book is progressing. I’d say I had a major meltdown at 3 a.m. one night and tore apart the book Writing and Selling Your Memoir because I hated that it made me feel incapable of the task. I’d share the following snippet of writing I have since come up with.

Mom told me the first time she laid eyes on Dad, he was the most macho guy she had ever seen. He dazzled her with his black hair and green eyes. And that mustache! She knew at once he would be the man she would marry. When I asked how she could be so certain, she said, “I just knew.”

Mom and Dad were married in a friend’s living room in January, 1970. Mom wore a short gray dress with long sleeves. Their wedding photo revealed a terrifying, joyous occasion. Mom’s broad smile and stylish cropped hair, so typical of brides, clashed with Daddy’s restricted grin. A clock on the mantel behind them evoked a curious omen. Doomed or eternal? Mom and Dad’s marriage was both. They wore the prospects on their fingers-Mom with a gold band, Daddy with none.

Six months later, my big sister was born.

If we were having coffee right now, I would look in your eyes, hopeful I can write this book.

IMG_0493.jpg

Drum Coffee is great.

If we were having coffee, I would ask how your world is going.

*Response to Day Eleven of Everyday Inspiration