How To Be a Goddess

So, here’s a little pagan scented blasphemy for this Feast of Epiphany…

According to the Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. The word “epiphany” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “striking appearance.” Before Christianity, the word was used to record occasions when Greek gods and goddesses made appearances on earth.

Want a surefire, foolproof, 100% guaranteed way to be recognized as an incarnated deity?  Follow these steps:

Be born a woman.
Make love at your most fertile moment.
Act as a hospitable vessel for nine glorious months.
Love the little creature that you have created with all your body, heart, and soul.
Leave aforementioned Angel Baby with a loving grandmother after she has been lavished with two and a half months of dedicated maternal attachment parenting.
Return within four hours to a child with eyelids slightly purpled and swollen from much weeping.
Hold her in your arms and offer her that sweetest mother’s milk.
When this child falls back in a delighted coma of sleepiest nourishment, witness the expression on her flushed face.

Realize that in this moment you will never be gazed upon with such devotion again unless you repeat all of the steps above.

On this Epiphany Day, I was a goddess at lunchtime.  When the work day finished, I again burst upon the scene, a brilliant epiphany to behold.  Tomorrow, the cycle shall repeat.  For now, it is almost enough comfort to get me through these hours mother and child are apart…

Poetry Doesn’t Pay, and Prayer Doesn’t Either

Irish poet Rita Ann Higgins has a poem called “Poetry Doesn’t Pay.”  I began the decade living for poetry.   I end the 2000s with one half remembered line and a focus on payment rather than poetics.

I’m still working on imagining my way out of my day job and into being an at home mom.  Oh what a passel of worries (“gremlins” as Magpie Girl calls them) have been stirred up as I imagine stepping into the void that is life without guaranteed salary and benefits!  One of the more bizarre worries that has emerged is how I’ll find spiritual nourishment in this new venture.

The role of spirituality in my life is not a bizarre concern, of course, but it’s generally considered rather superfluous to one’s career choices.  My current job certainly does not have a spiritual dimension.  Why would I expect the new home business I hope to pull together to have any direct connection to the way I talk to God?

I am coming to realize all the pressure I am putting on myself, on how I expect that earning money in a new way will change everything that motherhood has not already rearranged.  As much as I have liked the general direction of my life, Moira’s birth began the seismic quake I was waiting for.  Now I am looking for everything to shift; I am impatient for all of the random puzzle pieces of me to fall into place.

Some who know me in the “real world” might laugh to hear this, but my ideal job would be to be a priest.  There are several impediments, of course, seeing that I am female, and even if I could become an Episcopalian or something, I still cannot commit to Christianity solely enough to convince a congregation of my piety.  Since I don’t think I am quite ready to start holding revivals in my backyard and no established religions will have me (or I won’t have them…), it seems that prayer isn’t going to bring in a paycheck.  At least not directly…

I am overwhelmed by the weight of my dreams, my burdensome need for poetry and and a life that is purely mine from waking ’til sleep.  The love of my child, my husband, my home is a crippling curse and an incessant blessing and the only thing that matters at the end of the day.  This love is the stuff my prayers are made of.

May this love be strong enough.

May I be strong enough.

But nothing,
you can’t pay me in poems or prayers,
or your husband’s jokes,
or with photographs of your children
in lucky lemon sweaters hand made by your dead Great Aunt
who had amnesia and the croup

Rita Ann Higgins, “Poetry Doesn’t Pay”

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.

Spilled Milk and Stormy Weather: Control and Reaction

One week from tonight will be my first “school night” in about two months.  Going back to work will be difficult for a multitude of reasons, but one of them will definitely be the constant exposure to other people’s energy – both positive and negative.  My time at home with Moira has been richer than I ever would have imagined, full of family and friends in the house and on the computer screen.  I will admit, this selected circle, all full of love for me and my growing family has been like fishing in a stocked pond.  These friendships enable me to grow and evolve, certainly, and there are challenges even in these close relationships, but it’s nothing like facing the challenging personalities that one encounters at work.  With all of these week’s distance from my work life I do have enough perspective to understand that I have grown tremendously when I have learned how to accept and deal with difficult people.

Soon, I am going to be assaulted by other people’s “stuff.”  Wait, let me correct that – I will be assaulted by whatever “stuff” I permit to get to me.

One thing I am going to have to learn to just let pass through me?  Hearing other people take the weather personally.  Yep, we live in the northeast where it is cold and dark in January, but no matter how unlucky you are or how much the gods seem to want to toy with you THE WEATHER IS NEVER ABOUT YOU.

But, I am not trying to preempt office whining with blog whining, promise.  I just mention it as an example that I thought of when I was considering the twisty conundrums of control and reaction.

I think many of us are really confused about what we can and cannot control in our lives.  We so often mix up what we should and should not react to.

Last week I talked about how much changing my diet has changed my daughter’s mood and physical well-being.  Cutting out a few foods (a few dietary staples, frankly) has made her into an even more amazing, happy baby.  Something that is so often whispered about like the worst possible fate, the dreaded colic, was pretty much eliminated overnight by cooking something else for dinner.  I have complete control over what I eat and I was able to exercise that control to conquer something that could have victimized us for as long as I was breastfeeding (and perhaps beyond, since we now know her first solid food will decidedly NOT be potatoes!).

The weather and one baby’s crying fits – I realize these are only two handpicked examples, but I wonder if they could help me assemble a theory that could be tested on other things…

We take the weather personally and can be convinced that the clouds have conspired to congregate just because we have a day at the beach planned.  And yet, it is not made immediately clear to all nursing moms that eating foods that have never bothered them might actually be the cause of their babies’ hardened bellies and plaintive cries.

Is it possible that we choose to react to exactly the things we CANNOT control?  We are safe if we bitch about the weather since we know the only action we can take is to wear a raincoat.  But when it comes to something we can control, like eliminating such ubiquitous foodstuffs as corn and wheat and potatoes, why is it that we step back and hide behind the blanket death sentence of “colic”?  (Again, I understand that I am basing all of this on one baby’s belly, but bear with me on this one… I think there may be something to this idea if you insert your own examples).

It’s damn hard to be the primary agent of change in your own life and it certainly isn’t easy to effectively evaluate each situation to determine if it falls within your control and if it necessitates a reaction.  I am going to start small – I won’t react to people who let the sleet ruin their day and I will continue to control what foods land on my plate.

You?

Precious Cargo

Those pink fuzzies? The best booties ever. May Moira never grow out of her "Muppet Feet"!

A sure sign that it’s coming on Christmas that I never noticed before?  The cars you pass, even just on the way to town, are filled with more people.

Beat up sedans full of girls who must be together for the first time since getting back from college.  SUVs that gleam despite the salty roads driven by manicured women who are accompanied by a tiny woman who must be grandma, out on a rare adventure for the holidays.  For a few days at least, our little isolation booths, our tons of steel and glass that hurtle down the roads delivering us from one mission to the next, are not just vehicles for one.  We have the chance to break the routines and take routes we’d never get to travel in the middle of any other week in the year and share the journey with those who gather because it is nearly December 25th.

Who are these other people, untethered by the 9-5 work day? What are their stories on this Christmas Eve Eve and what will they be on any other day in January when the lights have all been removed and we are resigned to the typical gray of winter?

These last two months at home, especially the last few weeks when I actually venture out with Moira secure in her carseat behind me, have really made me appreciate uncharted days, a bundle of hours that are not structured by anyone else’s schedule.  It still feels oddly reckless to make a chiropractor appointment for noontime.  For all that I have been begging the gods to get me out of my day job, I still feel like somebody must be wondering why that thirty year old woman is not at work.

As much as I always though they were ridiculous, I suddenly am starting to understand why people hang those silly little “Baby On Board” signs in their car windows.  When you walk down the street or through the supermarket with a stroller, everyone knows to hold the door for you.  You come to expect a little more patience from people and you may be slightly offended when they don’t look at the angel who happens to be sleeping in your grocery cart.  A baby is a good luck charm and a guarantee of others’ good behavior.  As permeable as one feels as a new mother out in the world with an infant, you need what little protection and consideration can offer.

My story as I drive around town in these last moments before the world takes a collective Christmas breath is that my heart, my mind, the entire focus of my being is tucked into the back seat.  I am not traveling solo anymore, and though she will grow more and more independent and allow me some breathing room when the time is right so I can get my wits about me and remember what it is just to be Marisa, right now, I cannot imagine us existing without each other.

I don’t want to hang one of those yellow signs in the window so that I can have an excuse to drive like a madwoman, I just want the world to know that my PT Cruiser carries a new life and a new mama and that is something pretty special.

Because I want to find the river that takes me to an unending number of days when Moira and I can craft our own schedule and gad about town any old time, I give you Joni Mitchell…