Finding Light in the Moonlight

With the return to the status quo of the J-O-B, the blossoming of a potential new business that will release me from the aforementioned status quo, and, most importantly, the care and feeding of an Angel Baby, there has been little time to pin epiphanies to the screen.

But, this morning I woke in time for a solitary cup of tea and the chance to watch the fullest lady moon set in the western sky just as the opposite horizon gave itself over to the sun’s glow.  And before that, when I filled up the kettle from the fridge’s water dispenser I realized exactly what I would tell Moira when she someday asks me what she should look for in the person she will marry.

She’ll know she’s met “the one” because the perfect soul mate will always light her way.

Sometimes when stumbling about in the rocky trail of becoming, it is easy to feel isolated and lost even when someone you love more than life slumbers beside you.  But then you need to look around you and find the light shining from most unexpected places, always burning somewhere to guide you home.

In my case, it was the glow of the LEDs on the water dispenser that my husband installed last winter.  Filling up that bedtime glass in the dark kitchen always led to spills and muttered curses, and so he made a little addition to our brand new monster of a refrigerator.  This morning as I filled the kettle in the thickest darkness, that of a January morning at 5 a.m., I was more grateful for its light than I ever had been at nighttime.  I knew I had found the one who would always light my way and that he slept upstairs, sheltering our most perfect creation.

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Flights of Fancy, Sips of Passion

Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Here we go again on a dizzying upswing.  Possibilities are stars and I am hurtling through them at lightspeed.  Somebody told Chewie to punch it, and it seems the hyperdrive is working just fine.   Opportunities are endless.  I can zoom onward, my heart in my throat as I watch all these amazing chances streak by my windows.

But, wait, help!  It’s all flying by too fast and I can’t connect the dots of stars if they just look like trails of laser fire.  And I might be moving at stunning speed, but do I even know where I am going?  Euphoria is sweet, but I’m risking my sanity, achieving all this altitude without sufficient oxygen.

Reaching such velocity and then slowing to the inevitable crawl between these frenzied trips beyond the atmosphere of my every day experience is nothing new, but traveling through life as a new mother is making the ride more brilliant, terrifying, and death-defying than ever before.

This is passion, this is euphoria, this is limitlessness.  And it can be as difficult to harness and capitalize upon as a passing comet.

Christine Kane has a guest blogger who writes about passion today.  She names it, desrcibes it, and invites readers to uncover it in themselves.  What she does not address is how to harness it so you don’t just feel like a helium balloon, rising so fast you forget the feel of the earth.  It’s only the combination of a pair of boots firmly planted in the mud of daily life worn with a set of passion feathered wings that stuff really gets done, that the necessary changes happen.

For me, passion is hope, ever springing eternal.  My task is to capture all of this fabulous momentum and distill it into a potion I can drink each day, a little draft I can add to my morning tea to keep the sweetest adrenalin pumping even when real life is trying to tell me it is impossible to fly.

Kitchen Table Revolution, Interrupted

On Friday, my Mom and I spent the day in the kitchen talking about a revolution.  Well, we were talking about the state of the world, daring to broach our  fears about countless taboo topics.

What happens when we all find out that Al Gore has been right?  What happens when people really start to run out of water?  How many links in the chain have to break before our global network of food distribution?  How many days of product are in an average supermarket?  For a proud liberal, why do I have a funny perspective on guns that I don’t talk about much?  In what part of the psyche and the spirit should stories like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest reside?

Ach, Marisa!  What are you doing to your dear readers on a Monday morning?  The sun isn’t even up yet and with gloomy thoughts like this you are practically daring it not to rise!

Fear not, if you are anything like Mom and me you will plunge into your seas of worry and dredge up all of your 3 a.m. thoughts even though it is the middle of the day.  But then you’ll get up for another cup of tea and the phone will ring and you’ll pay the cable bill or head to the dentist and you’ll pretty much forget this little dip into the nastiest recesses of your “what if…?” consciousness.

Of course, we all do this.  I, for one, have no idea how I would get through each day, full of all sorts of mundane beauty and banal ugliness, if I was truly tuned into my concerns about the state of our collective future.  It is pretty much impossible to fully enjoy an infant’s laugh if you allow yourself to focus on all the evils that might endanger it.

And so we engage in these impassioned discussions and stir up the sediment that our modern, Western, wasteful lives have created in the riverbeds of our awareness and then we start making dinner.  The conversation I had with my mom was so amazing and touched on so many important topics, it had me wanting to take meeting minutes.  But, I had my hands full with the baby when I was not clearing up the endless piles of clutter and I never got around to writing til right this Monday morning minute.

If I had had the chance to play scribe and record the litany of ills and the faint glimmers of solution would we be any closer to solving any of the world’s problems?  The tragedy of the whole conversation was that, as much as we were both so invigorated to trade ideas mother to daughter and back again and to flow along in the tides of conversation, we really felt pretty powerless.  Talking about Washington’s party politics and the conservative pundits’ maniacal desire to debase our president’s every action and motive left us rather deflated.  We were saved by a gently shaken snow globe of a January day  and by an infant just discovering her voice.  A baby who has not yet had to worry about the lies that the media propagates and the impossible search for truth.

We are not powerless, of course.  We have the loving bonds that allow us to dive deep and surface together.  It is as true that enough of these conversation will change the world as it is necessary to believe that they can.

Throwing Open the Doors, Come What May

May the guesthouse of your soul know no January days...

Beloved Tess over at Anchors and Masts shared this poem by Rumi the other day:

This being human is a guesthouse;
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honourably.
She may be clearing you out for some new delight
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them all at the door laughing and invite them in
Be grateful for whatever comes
Because each has been sent as
A guide from beyond!

The last day of my maternity leave is nearing its end.  Though I will only be going into the office three days a week and will be with Moira much more than I am away from her, I somehow feel like I am leaving a remote island where the world has not been able to touch us for the last two and a half months.  We have journeyed out a bit, but when the waves crashed too high we could always retreat back to this country of two, of mother and daughter where the spell of the womb still lingered.

I still belong to Moira in ways I will belong to no other entity.  No job, no obligation, no passion will be stronger than my devotion to my daughter.  And yet, she is not the only being in my guesthouse.  Of course, my husband, the rest of my family, and my friends fill up many of my rooms with laughter and with love, but still, there are also the public spaces where others must be permitted to tread.

A week ago I looked to this time of returning and considered about how I grow through each interaction with those difficult people that my work life sends into my orbit.  In weakness, I still cringe a bit at having to walk back into certain rooms where the air is heavy with mistakes of the past, where relationships have soured and interactions have become strained.  In strength, I can let that old smoke dissipate with one deep breath.  I can willfully forget damaged histories and walk back to the office a woman reborn because hey, I was in many, many ways.

Since Christmas, ghosts of answers to those prayers I was slinging into the Universe about finding a way to stay home with baby girl seem to be finding me.  There is a long way to go to be sure, but little lights are flickering on and little windows are opening in the house of my dreams.  I am realizing that if I am going to fling wide the doors so that such bits of opportunity can make themselves comfortable, then those doors will also have to be open to Rumi’s “cloud of sorrows.”

Right now, I am in a mood that allows anything to be possible, and that includes being grateful for all the good and all the bad that I may encounter in this fully lived life.  Going back to work tomorrow may not be my ideal way to spend a day, but it is the only January 5, 2010 that I will ever see, so I might as well show up and be a good hostess, come what may.

January 5, 2010… Sounds like a pretty mundane sort of day.  What sort of magic will you allow to find you in all its wintry midst?

What Would You Do With This Turkey?

One day when I was in college I entered the kitchen to find my grandmother looking at an uncooked turkey on the counter.  She looked at me and asked, with that most beautiful twinkle in her eye, “Marisa, if you were to come home to this turkey, what would you do?”

Without a trace of irony I replied, “I’d put it back in the fridge.”

Nanna’s laughter and shaking her head made it clear that this was not the sort of answer she was seeking.  She wanted to share a moment with her granddaughter, passing on culinary knowledge.  I was concerned that the family might get food poisoning if the bird stayed out too long.  It didn’t occur to me to be interested in cooking anything.  Even spending time with Nanna was not enough to convince me that preparing a meal was more worthwhile than reading a book.

I thought back to this conversation tonight while I was cooking dinner.  Admittedly, I was only half present. Even as I was aware that there was sacredness in making soup for my family, I had a bunch of other tasks that I had wanted to accomplish.  I was composing this post in my head, cursing my garlic covered fingers that made jotting down my fleeting ideas impossible.

As I remembered Nanna, I was also thinking about yesterday’s open letter to our mothers, the women who “forgot” to tell my generation how phenomenal motherhood could be.  There was no doubt that Nanna adored being a mother – almost as much as she adored being a grandmother. By the same token, I know that my mother loved being a mom to my sister and me.  And when it comes to Mom’s take on being a grandmother… well, that tremendous love is apparent to anyone who has been in the same room as her and Moira.

I’m guessing that the signs were always there.  Nanna and Mom were constantly sending out signals that most casual observers could quickly decipher: motherhood was/is a huge and brilliant part of their identities and they would recommend it to anyone.  Several women responded to my post, describing how much they have loved motherhood and how they have made it a point to share this with their daughters.  When my own mom reads it she will probably say the same.  Will my mother tell me that she tried to describe motherhood to me many times but that I just wasn’t listening?

From the outside looking in, I think mothering can look like monotony and drudgery much of the time.  How do you explain to someone that changing a cloth diaper every two hours is not a relentless chore but an amazing chance to be barraged by a dozen new infant giggles and coos?

What if my generation’s perceived lack of interest in, or, perhaps more accurately, lack of knowledge of mothering springs not because our moms never mentioned it but because the whole world programmed us not to hear what they were saying?

The planet seems to be spinning faster and faster.  Everything is driven by productivity and performance.  From my ten weeks’ experience as a mom, I can tell you that being “productive” has never been so difficult (hi, I brushed my teeth, got out of the house in less than an hour and a half, and managed to write an Epiphany or two – give me a medal!).  As for performance… many of us try to mold the experience into something readable, but, for the most part, motherhood for the sake of show is a fool’s errand.

When you’re in college and living off of beer and bagels, measuring success by how many hook ups you’ve had and how many books you’ve read, cooking can seem ridiculously dull.  So much energy expended for something as un-sexy as a square meal.  And motherhood… well, at nineteen that is even more un-sexy to most girls.

Mothering and cooking a decent dinner:  both take more time than you have; you’re always a little afraid of screwing up; you most likely will need to improvise because you’ll never have all the ingredients; your mind is often flying in several unrelated directions at the same time.

But, oh the rewards of a meal well prepared and a baby curled up peacefully beside you at the end of a long day!

Unicorns, Plotting the Future, and Living in the Moment

A local radio station is asking listeners to vote on the best songs of the decade.  They must have skipped a few years on the calendar because I know I was just a junior in college watching the millennium dawn across Galway’s Corrib River.  My best friend only just said to me, “Hey, look, the Earth doesn’t care that we think we just turned 2000.”

Have ten years really passed?  Am I really a mother and a wife who has already written the story of her twenties?  I think I must be.  This morning, when it seemed like Moira recognized herself in the mirror for the first time, her dimples were on full display as she giggled and cooed.  The way the sun fell upon us made me notice for the first time that my own dimples were carving grooves in my cheeks.  Things change when you look away from your own reflection for a while.  At least those lines mean I am an experienced smiler!

These thoughts coincide well with a conversation I had with my Dad yesterday.  For as long as I can remember, he has been counting on his fingers: “Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years?”  This time we were talking about visionaries, those who determine where corporations and culture will be in fifteen, twenty-five, fifty years.  He was taking my dream of staying home to raise Moira completely seriously and is ready to engage with me as I work on the broad dreams and the devilish details that will get me there. Not only did he want me to focus on how to envision what life will be like through the time that MJ’s gets on the bus for kindergarten, he also was inviting me to peer into a more universal future and decide how I wanted to position myself within it.

In many ways, imaging what the world will look like and what I would like my place in it to be when I am eighty years old seems completely ridiculous since I cannot even picture what it will be like to go back to work next week.  But still, it is a valid and important perspective to be willing to adopt.  Plus, it stops you from looking back one year, five years, ten years and getting caught up in the trap of regret.  (I fight every day not to fall into self recrimination for not having figured out all this stuff before I had a daughter who deserves all the attention and passion she needs.)

As much as I am on fire to pour all available energy into this new non-9 to 5 adventure (more details in time, promise!) because it is fresh and exciting and because it is all meant to be in Moira’s best interests, I am keenly aware of the balancing act it will require.  She sleeps in her swing while I fill a legal pad with ideas.  She coos in her Sleepy Wrap as I type this.  Nothing has my full attention right now, but is it possible to be focused on one thing right now?  Even if I were not trying to construct a DIY livelihood right now I would succumb to multitasking’s siren song. I’d read a novel while I nursed and I’d still be on Facebook while we watched a DVD.

But honestly, how many Zen masters have been 21st century mamas looking to contribute to the household coffers?  Call me when you meet one.  I know that there is huge opposition between the modern imperative to do four things at once and the pursuit of  focused mindfulness.  I have tried to dream myself into the latter camp, but it seems I will have to take the lessons that meditation have taught me and bring them over the world of women who successfully juggle it all.

I have to believe that I can be the mythical supermommy who can be present for her kids, bring in much needed income, and maintain her own sense of self worth.  They are as rare as unicorns, and just as beautiful.

Thing is, I do believe in unicorns, and with all of my energy and consciousness I will raise a daughter who believes in them too.

Alchemical Art: Angst Becomes Creation

In beautiful, wide-ranging post, Sybil at Art of the Spirit offers this about the place of the artist in the world as translator of the sou:

The artist opens the door to the present moment which is the only place to truly experience of the Divine. It is silly to try and pretend that darkness does not exist in the world, that we could exist without sadness, anger or pain. Artists help us to name and experience these emotions… to locate these feelings in the universal experience, their part in the never-ending upward spiral toward the Universal Maker which snakes from light to dark and back again.

What a brilliant reminder of how vital it is to respect and heed artists for the vital services they perform in our societies.

Chris Metcalf, Bikes, Lights and a Sledder (everystockphoto.com
Chris Metcalf, Bikes, Lights and a Sledder (everystockphoto.com

Today I am particularly struck by Sybil’s words because I feel like my walk across campus was like passing through a gauntlet of emotions. Every pair of students and every cell phone carrying individual I passed was engaged in heated conversation. There was no single, energizing event happening at the college that had everyone excited. People were just recounting their own dramas, all of which sounded like they were full of angst and strife.

A girl steamed angrily because she had been swindled on a car that had already broken down. Another describing how she had reason to storm from someone’s bed that morning. A couple looked to be in the middle of a break up on the library steps. Everywhere were words upon words meant to describe the darkness,anger, and pain mentioned above.

All of these stories seemed too fresh to yet get sublimated into art. The only creative expression was the art of venting. I am of two minds over whether venting equals the necessary release of emotions or an unproductive way to make sure the whole world cries with you. Regardless of what judgments I may have wanted to passed as I walked through all this venom and exegesis, all sorts of unpleasant was reality flying about.

No doubt, there is great creative potential to be uncovered on the other side of grief or getting really pissed off. I guess the magnitude of one’s creative power can be measured in how quickly that the alchemy can be performed that turns all that darkness into soul-enriching gold.

In my life, there has been a time for emotions – be they joy or grief, and then a time to of quietude to distill those feelings into a cocktail of (hopefully) artful words. Admittedly, the second stage, when I make something enduring from those great waves of feeling has always the optional stage. If I did get around to turning it all my real life drama into inspired creations, it all happened much later when I felt the dust had settled enough to make way for artistic inspiration.

But as I listen to all the frenzied conversations around campus, I realize how much energy is being released (wasted?) in such sessions.  What if I decide to harness my own such energy and choose to pour it onto the page? As fast as possible, not days later when I have already bored friends with my outrage.  I don’t want this to happen at the expense of living in the moment, but I wonder how this approach would color my waking life.  Can it help me cultivate the perspective of a creator, one who is always mining for the material to engage the next fit of creative fancy?

And then I wonder how my relationship with language and communication might change if I started reserving a portion of my passion that so often squandered on gossip and indignation.  Would it help me to realize that words matter? Would it give new potency to all that I do chose to voice?

At first, implementing this change may mean that I am writing down my frustrations rather than speaking them aloud.  Eventually though I am dreaming that the magic that is art may begin to invade and I will find a way to enact some of what Sybil describes, to help locate elation and defeat in the “universal experience.”