same me, who dis?

Strong feelings, specifically the ones I have the most difficulty feeling, diminish my capacity for practicing a single virtuous act. When it’s a combination of feelings or the pain seems too great, navigation becomes completely impossible, my ability to love turns into a mirage, an occurance I didn't care to explore—for a very long time. Putting distance between my feelings and myself created a chasm, starting with the first hole I dug.

A picture that hung in my childhood house said love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy//Love does not boast, it is not proud//Love does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking//Love is not easily angered//Love keeps no record of wrongs//Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth//Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes//Love always perseveres//Love never fails.

For many years, my mind has referenced that picture and those words frequently, usually at random. The layout of the print is what I liked best; a grid, each square containing a heart made of different painted flowers. Each heart containing a phrase written in black ink with a nib pen. Compartmentalized. Organized. Of the details my mind has captured and tucked away in files I would later access, this is a popular one. 

But somehow when I am swept away in an ocean of feelings, the ends of those phrases go missing. I think I hold the scales. I think I can control. I think in permanence. I hate. I watch land drift further away as the waves pull me under. The chasm gives life to the depth of an ocean, the bottom of a well; it extends through a keyhole, it is swept under a rug and it exists in the shadows. 

At some points I’m in that chasm. At some points I reach peaks. At some points the road is long and flat and it seems to disappear into the distance, though it's endless. Although I often eagerly seek the comfort of familiarity, I am willing to embrace the newness of each day that lies ahead. There is no new me, I am the same person, in a new day. There is no new life, I have the same life, in a new day.

I can sink or swim. I can draw upon wishes or water. I can seek attention or privacy. I can cheat or be diligent. I can live through my feelings, all of them, and I don't have to change myself to do it. I just have to show up.


it isn't owed and it isn't earned.

She doesn’t want to be held or touched but deep down it's all she craves. It can’t be too quick, too slow, it can’t be less than enough, it can’t be too tight. So how does she know? How does she know how to be loved? She doesn’t always. She expects patience, she expects understanding. Above all, she expects perfect love because she believed at one-point perfection was obtainable. She has nearly killed herself trying to be perfectly loving and perfect enough to be loved.
She is afraid to be abandoned, she is afraid to be criticized, she is afraid to be used. Above all, she is afraid that if she isn’t perfect she won’t be loved. She is afraid to leap where before she’s fallen. She is afraid to be warm where before she’s been burned. She is afraid to trust where before she’s been deceived. She is afraid to be close where before she’s been cut. She is afraid to be open where before she has been rejected. She is all these fears behind a shield and a sword.
She drops her shield when she perceives an honest environment, but she always has the sword at her side, ready to cut the tie. She drops her shield when she perceives patience, but she always has the sword at her side, ready to make time stop altogether. She drops her shield when she perceives understanding, but she always has the sword at her side, ready to defend against rejection. She drops her shield when perfection seems to be on the horizon, when she is impatient, the desire to be loved becomes stronger than her love for herself, but she always has her sword at her side, ready to bring her back to the only reality she’s ever really found a home in. Blood pounding through her veins, fists as tight as a sailor’s knot, the sword she is wielding cutting through her life. Everything is in pieces and she is alone again, not wanting to be held, yet craving it, she's home.
She believed at one point she was nearing perfection. She believed she could be the perfect wife or the perfect mother. The perfect lover or the perfect girlfriend. The perfect person. She believed life was a straight line. She failed to notice the loops she gets caught in. 

She didn’t know that love isn’t owed, and it isn’t earned. 
She didn’t know that every hard thing wasn’t worthy of the sword. She didn’t know that she wasn’t perfect. She didn’t know she could be wrong.
She didn’t know she could be anything. The road she’s walked with all these notions is long.


card house.

I can’t go forward with my own cards stacked against me. Even if I built the damn house.

So I plow through it. The foundation under is a mirage. I’m running toward a fantasy built out of clouds and ice cream and sex. Real building feels foreign to me. A last life. A lost language. A blow to the head and thoughts can and certainly do spin. I rarely settle now. Its almost like I’m not sure how to. It’s been that way for a couple of years now. 

From the bottom everything changed. My walls were built initially on whims. A hand in the dark. I’d never climbed this mountain. I had always stayed on the other side of the bridge. Then I crossed it, and now I’m here. The bridge is not. It fell as I cut it. I saw it drop. I listened to it fall. I studied the sound to be sure I was hearing it go away. I spent worthwhile time there, listening. No way back, except in the narrative form. It’s one of the only ways I know how to prove my existence and I’m questioning the importance of that lately.

The fog is no longer my life. But the other side of the bridge is a climb. Every day it’s a climb. Some days the climb is rewarding. Some days when I’ve put in the work it’s easy. Other days it’s life shattering. Others break me. Today, I am going to take a break from the climb. 


symbols, synonyms and rituals.

In any given interaction, usually several, mostly all, my mind existed in the realm built on nothing other than gasoline fumes. That see through wall. Just beyond that I felt I might see what the other is doing, thinking, planning, not planning, and sometimes even beyond that, just past the scope of even pseudo-reality, what I'd like the other to be doing, thinking, planning and not planning, all of that stuff a well person disregards. The stuff a mindful person would watch bend gravity the way a dandelion petal does as it lazily follows an invisible conveyer belt, in this moment, then not. 

I also noticed the less favorable the result the more I pressed forward, in the past. And like two weeks ago. Also, last year.

I'm giving it my full attention now. I am far more interested in solitude and slow time than I've admittedly ever been.


It’s dark outside. I'm in the kitchen listening to my kids talk to their dad and their dad’s girlfriend, and that woman’s kids, on the phone. I let that sound wash over me. That sound; it feels like it belongs in a layer of one of my old pseudo-realities but it is rightfully here. It is the way things are now. It is real. It is new.

I think of where I was for all those years and where I stand now. 

An unpleasant feeling is creeping up through me, I know it. It used to be my catalyst. My catalyst to indulge, my catalyst to visit delirium, my catalyst to resist reality. To become flustered. To eventually set the fires that I used to set, create an environment where sabotage and destruction rule. Burn it all down but not before I build it up.

That feeling now, I acknowledge it and I move on. I bee line it to the bathroom. Turn the shower on as hot as I can make it and I send my kids to bed. I stand there letting water burn my hands and my arms, my toes. I think fuck it and I step in and I let the water bring me back. To right now, or right then.

Soon my mind is orbiting away from that feeling. I am aware that I exist, here and now, there and then. I will exist tomorrow, with patience, tomorrow will come. One day at a time, I will continue to exist, so I let the uneasy feelings run through my blonde hair. They touch my neck, and fall over the soft edge of my shoulders, stream down my lean arms. They build up and then drip off my fingertips and ride down my legs, circle the drain and head earthward.

I am present again. I kiss my dreaming kids and proceed to join in that after-dark ritual. One more day down.


magic on a Thursday.

Thursday morning before school we went to a coffee shop for breakfast. We sit upstairs there. My kids use the time to look at screens just like most of the adults do below. I use the time to look at them. I like seeing them take the big steps, turn the corner and scale the second set. I like seeing them hang their jackets on a chair back, climb up, have a conversation with each other about the wi-fi password. I love being their mom. I've never loved anything more.

I walk down to grab some water. A cute barista is toasting a marshmallow for each saucer of the kids' cocoa. Her excitement started this. The magic.

The small torch, a hot flame—a shift in some usually meaningless experience, opening the door between ordinary and magic. A toasted marshmallow.
A hot summer afternoon, myself as a kid, laying on the front lawn. Waiting for anything to happen. A car drives by blasting good music. Simple, but it’s something. A connection. I watch the car until it's out of site and then I go back to the quiet that makes me notice I'm alive, I do exist.

We wait.
I watch my kids, sometimes they look up to see me looking at them and I smile. I smile so hard. They smile back. We hear my name.

The girls help me bring plates of toast and cocoa upstairs. Hannah gets the easy job. She picks up two plates of toast and cruises up the stairs. 

The barista, Ada and I each carry a cocoa and I grab the other two plates. 

I ascend the stairs two at a time and turn the corner. A college aged boy is holding back a laugh and I follow his gaze.

Hannah is wiping the floor with her jacket. It's not even her jacket, she borrowed it from Ada. The floor is now lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar. There is a freshly buffed spot in the middle, butter.

She sees me and quickly hangs the jacket up on her chair back. She knows I’ve seen and now she waits. She stares at me and waits. I can't tell if she is nervous or proud. 

She watches me, seeing if I put the clues of this mystery together. The toast in Ada’s place looks different from the rest. 

You can use napkins for things like that, you know that right? 
She smiles. I know.  

I trade Ada's plate with mine. And I don't care that I'm eating floor toast because I love Hannah and I love that she would use a jacket to clean the floor. I love that she is seven. I love that she tried. I love that she is clever and silly and weird. I love being her mom even when it's hard because we don't always see eye to eye. She is growing and that means she doesn't tuck herself under my wing as much anymore. She is learning to fly. She is cleaning up after her mistakes, with a jacket that she borrowed from her sister and I would not change a thing about that. Ever.

The magic wasn't the barista's excitement, it wasn't the toasted marshmallow. It was Hannah. A child, in the wild. My child. My magic girl with her sweet smile and sparkling eyes wearing a cinnamon sugar jacket.


kind of like punching a mirror but not really.

I've thought a lot about her. Doubted her. Misunderstood her. Confided in her.
I've thrown her under the bus. Saved her. Excused her. Abused her. Feared her.
I’ve written about her. Dreamed about her. Dated her.
I’ve forgiven her.

She left me. 

She left me at a diner in Idaho. She left me on the side of the road in southern Utah. She left me at the top of a peak in Arizona. On a bus in Austin, Texas. Miles from a marina in the Pacific Ocean. She left me at Union Station. She left me in the Rocky Mountains. She left me following a late-night phone call and on that first tear filled night that followed. She left me a year ago.  

She is the girl who watched her dad hammer those nails into the rug on the stairs of her childhood home. Peering from behind thick lenses in bulky plastic frames. She is the one who spent a lot of time as a child staring into a mirror. She wondered what was happening in that world, the one she was seeing on the other side. She is the one with whom I became aware of my world. My inner voice for most of my life. Sometimes still wondering what was happening on the other side of the mirror. She was there when I got married, but not when I divorced. She was there when my first child was born but not when I fell in love with motherhood.

She left me when I stopped giving second chances to someone else, and gave one to myself.


I am that driver in the morning on the freeway, the one who hesitates while changing lanes. Slows down on the on ramp, so you get on the freeway behind your new friend who’s going 35 miles per hour. I am that in boxing, not on the freeway. (You’re welcome.)

My feet are glued to the ground, my body is stiff. I need to turn my hand, use my hips. I need to lift my elbow, loop the punch around. Protect my face. Protect my face. Protect my face. Widen my stance, shorten my stance, adjust my stance. Move around and most importantly, protect my face. I can feel the hesitation, my mind locks up, what is five? Move my feet, protect my face. The bell rings. Start a new combination. Remember the one from before and think of all the ways to improve it.

See the other boxers, see the ones who are good. See the ones who make it look easy and wonder if they started out just as fucked up as me. Loosen up, keep my feet moving, throw some punches, land one good one. Drink some water. Unwrap my hands. Roll the wraps. Want to be better.

Apply that to everything. Accept the work. Learn to love it, learn to acknowledge little improvements. Appreciate the rewards. Most importantly, protect my face. And move my feet. One step at a time. Get better at something hard, make it become something easy.

Most importantly, set a good example for my kids. Show them what a persistent, hard working, confident woman looks like.

Focused. Powerful. In control. Deserving of respect. Knows the beauty of silence. Not a victim. Not anymore. Never again.


magic on Saturday.

Some days time and my mind pick a pace that lines them up perfectly. 

The gray days. Something about that shadowy/light box affect, surrounded by majestic mountains with a lid of cottony gray clouds, it just does it for me. 

We drive into the city so I can run an errand. This drive is short now that we only live across the bridge and I make sure I drive past the basketball arena. I want to take Otto to a game, his eyes will be on the court and mine will be on him. 

I show Ada where the symphony plays and the gold railing in the window. I show Hannah the planetarium and an art museum. 

We’re driving around looking for a place to park, Hannah is my helper. Her eyes are open, Otto says they’re peeled because he heard that once from his grandpa, the same one he would later tell me he goes to the barbershop with all the time (that’s why he’s not afraid of haircuts, by the way), my dad.

I give Hannah a break from being a parking spot seeker,
Look out the window those women crossing are ballerinas, they do that for their job. They travel all over and they perform down the street. 
Hannah’s eyes light up. Otto turns a full 180 as they cross and then turn. 

I find a spot after a couple of laps. Parallel parking and me, absolutely terrible couple. 

We start to walk. Let’s see how they do. Crossing the street Ada turns around, looks at me like wow and just grins, blinking, two or three times, with her long dreamy lashes. Her hair bouncing as she hops along. A giggle almost ringing the bell at the top of one of those carnival games, I can see it rising in her chest. 

I’m here. I’m happy. I’m with my kids and I’m finally at a point where I am starting to feel like myself again. 
Stop. Look at that car. Do you see the driver? You’ve got to look right at them so you know they know you’re there before you cross.
Something tells me I need them to understand this. “Mom, remember when I fell down and my hands were in my pockets? That hurt really bad but getting runned over would hurt worser.”
Yep bud, it sure would
His voice, it makes me smile, I don’t know what sound he’s going for but it’s like he’s in tough guy mode. His lips flare out the tougher he tries to sound but he hasn’t polished his l’s and r’s yet. I absolutely adore him. Among the many names I wanted for him was Rocky, it would’ve been a fit. 

Otto is a full on kid now. Sometimes a baby version still tries to get that last little bit of existence in. And I get mad about it. I know, what the hell? “You’ll miss it when it’s gone.” But at the same time, it’s nice to hear “Mom I’m tired/mad/hungry/sad” instead of being hit with a fit out of left field. The “Mom I’m happy/I did it!/I love you” doesn’t get old either. 

Later, “There they are mom, the ballerinas” They are different people but they are ballerinas too. I’m glad to know she is observant, my Hannah. 

Reflecting now, I think Ada smiled that time-pausing smile earlier because the train was rolling by. As we were walking she asked if we could ride it. I told her we could some other time. But as soon as the period finished my sentence,
Actually, yes we can ride it today. Even if we pass the car by a block we’ll just walk the difference. 

When we walked onto the platform I made sure to let them all know to stand clear of the edge. Things I think they need to be told right from the get go. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The girls listened. Otto asked why.
Because you don’t want to be that close to a moving train...because it moves fast...because I told you no.
His age man, it’s such a distinct teeter between baby and child. They either get it or they just don’t give a fuck. 

The doors open and the kids find seats, they got that one figured out. Oh shit, I can feel their excitement. They are riding a train and they are pumped. 

Every day I see this go on. And the magic is lost on so many. One of my favorite parts of being their mom is seeing the magic they see. Their enthusiasm to ride a train makes me feel grateful to be breathing this stale train air along with them. 

I see Ada about to laugh. Double pointing with thumbs raised, out the window, there goes my car. She thinks it’s funny. I do too. 

We walk back and I stop for a small coffee, the kids climb on stools to talk and wait. The girl behind the counter says “I didn’t know kids still played that,” referring to some game they’re playing. It’s one of those magic school yard traditions, passed down; myths, legends, cats cradle, the song that never ends, all discovered while standing with a group of friends by a fence at the edge of the lot or under the biggest tree. In the lunch line. During the frosty, cool mornings, waiting for the bell to start the day. She said she played it when she was little. 

When we get back out on the street Ada tells me about the game and for a few seconds I’m standing under the big willow tree from my childhood in the school yard.