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.

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…

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!

No More Secrets, Mom

Photo by cornish.pixie07,  http://everystockphoto.com

To: Mothers from the Baby Boom Generation

From: Your Daughters of Childbearing Age

Dear Moms,

We know that you have a lot on your mind, what with your decimated retirement savings and wondering whether our Dads (or the men who have replaced them) have had “that talk” with their doctors that the commercials they play during Monday Night Football say are essential, but we have something to discuss with you.

It’s probably not fair to dredge up the past.  Life is all too full of regrets and, now that many of us are mothers ourselves, we understand that guilt and “I should’ves” are all part of motherhood from the moment of conception.  But, you take the bad with the good.

That’s what we really have to talk about.  The good.

HOW COME YOU NEVER TOLD US?

You raised us to believe in ourselves.  You raised us to believe we could do anything.  It wasn’t your fault we ended up with eating disorders or fraught relationships with food.  Those ballet classes were intended to make us love and trust our bodies.  And all that encouragement to study hard and the stellar job you did at getting us to raise our hands just as much as – if not more than – the boys?  That was an excellent parental accomplishment.  You helped pay for college and you cheered us on when we pursued those advanced degrees.  Heck, you were the ones who broke the glass ceiling that made so many of our academic and professional achievements possible.

But, in the midst of all that, how could you forget to tell us?

Did you want to save all the magic for yourself?  Did our “do more, make more, compete more” society really convince you that keeping up with the guys at the office was more important than what you had done with your lives?  So many of you pulled off the 9-5 gig and raised us, but you only really groomed us to take on that not-always-glamorous work world.

Moms, you taught us so much.  We learned just about everything from watching you.  But you kept your secrets, didn’t you?  Perhaps it was the insatiable American desire to make sure that each successive generation has more than the last that made you mum (pardon the pun).

So, here we are in our twenties and thirties.  Some of us have discovered the secret on our own, but many are still fumbling round in the shadows.  Most of us have to get up awfully early to make the commute, you see.  We have started sharing the  the secret with our sisters, but a lot of us are still in the dark.

Those of us who are in the know do not want to cast blame.  We just need help from you, the veterans.

You see, you never told us that motherhood was this incredible. You never mentioned what magic was sparked when you first looked into our infant eyes.  You never described it as the greatest love story never told.

We are still traipsing around, many of us, thinking that pregnancy is something to be avoided at all costs.  We spent our women’s studies classes becoming impassioned about our rights to go Planned Parenthood, but never about our rights to have midwives attend our homebirths.  We have looked at those women with strollers and diaper bags as poor souls, cut off from the tribe of modern chick-dom, unable to pursue the dreams to do more, be more, achieve more that were instilled in us since girlhood.

You’ve loved us well, you’ve shared your beauty and strength with us, but you never really mentioned all that you must have received in return when we were curled up in your arms, dependent on you for every aspect of life.

Please, moms, no more secrets.  Tell us the stories of our births and our babyhoods.  Tell us that motherhood is an odyssey like no other.  Tell us that it is just as valuable as all the stuff we have studied for and trained for.  Tell us how we can be more like you, the mothers to us all.  All of us are not destined to follow in your footsteps, but the world will be a better place if girls and women were raised knowing what bliss might be possible.

Love,

The Mothers and Potential Future Mothers of Your Grandchildren

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.