Month: July 2015

::JOURNAL ENTRY: OCTOBER, 1961::

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Tattered Treasure Box

My altar is secret. I don’t really even have one yet, but I’m getting ready.The things I have for it are tucked away in a box. It’s a shoebox. From Renberg’s. Christmas, 1959. My father’s slippers came in it. If I lower my nose to the box, I can still smell the leather from those slippers.

The box is in the bottom drawer with some other stuff—so that no one can tell it’s something special.

A picture of Susan Van Wyck is in there. Susan Van Wyck’s been on the cover of Seventeen magazine about twenty times. Some people tell me I look like Susan Van Wyck. But she’s so beautiful, it makes me shy to think about it; I can’t believe it. But I keep that picture to remind me.

Then there’s my scapular. I got it in first grade when I made my First Holy Communion. It’s faded and the silk straps are twisted, but it reminds me of the Holy Sacrament. I like to remember when I was seven, and believed everything they told me, without question. Sometimes I sleep with it on, because I need those feelings I had back then. Innocent. Faithful.

There’s a little rock from the time we went to Roman Nose State Park. It was the summer before first grade, and the only vacation we ever took. This stone makes me think of highways, and swimming pools, and places far away.

The four leaf clover is from my boyfriend. Rick gave it to me –or should I say he walked down the aisle at school and dropped it on my desk. That’s how I knew he was my boyfriend. We haven’t talked to each other or anything, but sometimes you just know.

The scrap of brown eyelet material is from Nanny. She taught me how to sew, starting when I was five. When I was ten, She taught me to use the treadle machine on her patio. We made doll clothes all summer that year. Nanny always said, “You can do anything you want to do. Just come up with an idea, then think backwards and you’ll know how to get there.” This piece of fabric reminds me that I can do anything.

The last thing in here is a crystal heart. Daddy gave it to me before the 8th grade dance. It’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, and it makes my own heart squeeze when I look at it. When Daddy’s having a bad night and I can hear him through my door, I take the crystal heart out and put it under my pillow. It helps me remember who he really is.

::TULSA, OKLAHOMA::

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TULSA POSTCARD

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that the Trail of Tears was real, stopped in Tahlequah, and never really ended.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that even half a can of Aqua Net cannot hold sway against the wind.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that the kindness you seek at home is given by the ladies at Bishop’s Bakery, Tuesday afternoons on your way home from school.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that, on a clear day, you can see the state line in all directions.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn what love is. And what it is not.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that basements in a storm can be salvation.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Where you learn that having a dream, making a plan, and hatching a plot may be the only way out.

::WHITE HORSE::

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White Horse

I shall ride a white horse
when I come to free you
although you may be sleeping
you’ll know when I arrive.

Members at your table
in profound agreement
the time is now at hand
for the best of you to rise.

Don’t reinforce your fortress
don’t gird yourself for war
the light, the love I bring you
are what you’ve hungered for.

When you turn to greet me
take a quiet moment
although it may be blinding
look into my eyes.

I am your reflection
I live there inside you
you will recognize me
the elder and the child.

Yours is a noble journey
and when at last you’ve found
the secret of the spirit
You’ll stand on higher ground.
©1994

::REACHING OUT, REACHING BACK::

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Hands Not Holding

Recently someone expressed upset over trying repeatedly to connect with a friend … and the friend was not responding. She wondered what was going on; she felt hurt by the person’s silence.
Basically, what I told her is this:

I know that it’s disheartening and disappointing … sometimes even heartbreaking … when that happens. We reach out to someone we know and we love … and they don’t reach back. The silence is confusing, painful … and it feels so personal.

In the ‘pastoral counseling’ practicum I did in Seminary, there was a statement we were taught to employ:
“Unless you tell me otherwise, I am going to assume that what’s going on with you has nothing to do with me.”

It’s a good tool to use … I recommend it often, and I say it to myself when I’m in situations like this. It’s easy to start searching in my head for what it is I could’ve done wrong; otherwise, why would they be avoiding me?

But in my sane moments, here’s what I know:
Most people are so busy battling their own demons, they are completely blind to what the people around them experience when they fail to respond. And really, there is no way to know what others have going on; they could be dealing with a death, or an accident, or the typical drama we all face every day just being here on the planet.

Their situations – whatever they might be – and the apparent lack of awareness to our feelings – always call for us to extend tender hearts; mercy, and grace. And let’s be gentle with ourselves as well; it’s truly not about us.

Maybe the other person’s conduct or choices will not allow us to be around them … but we can love them from afar, and hold them in prayer.

I’ve found that it’s when we are at our most unlovable … that we need love the most. It was true for my children, and it’s true for all of us.

“Strive to be understanding, rather than be understood.”

That’s another one we learned in Seminary. It’s sound advice, and something I always try to remember.

Take a deep breath; take three … and wrap your arms around yourself. You are loved. And not forgotten.

May we all be compelled to love without condition … and if, ultimately, we get the sense it’s time to move on, may we do what is necessary; what is best … guided by our tender, compassionate hearts.

Not sure any of this helps, but I hope it does. ♥

::THE BOY IN THE BAND::

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Broken Heart Guitar Pic

I was a child of the sixties, and grew up in a household centered around the Holy Catholic Church and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. My parents were children of the Great Depression; they learned that life means do without, stretch a dollar, work hard, drink harder, and show up at Mass every Sunday. I was their first child, born to them when they were young, tragically beautiful, and very much in love.

When I was a little girl I would study my mother’s face … her hazel eyes, long eyelashes, full red lips. She was clearly a movie star. I wondered what she was doing in that two bedroom house on North Marion Street, with its linoleum kitchen floor and parched sapling in the front yard. Even at four-and-a-half, I knew she’d been miscast. Through the years, five more babies, and alcoholic chaos, it became an undeniable fact: my mother belonged in a different movie.

As the oldest daughter, my job was laugh inducing peacemaker. Lots of oldest daughters have that role. My brother, two years younger, was mother’s tenderhearted caretaker. We spent our childhood together in the family foxhole. Nothing will bond siblings like friendly fire. It’s a sort of hellish, heartbreaking love that no one else knows. But at the time, it was our family’s brand of ‘normal;’ imagine my surprise when, years later, I learned that some families had no foxhole at all.

I grew up and, with what I’d learned of how life works, and my place in it, I went out into the world. Within short order, I said “I do” to the boy in the band.

The boy and I were a textbook example of symbiotic dysfunction. Our fractured parts fit together perfectly. Through twenty five years and two children, we cut ourselves and each other on those jagged edges. Part of his brokenness included repeated indiscretions. Part of my brokenness included denying they were happening, while blaming myself that they were.

It was his final, spectacular betrayal with my sister that made me sit up and say, “No. There is no amount of glue that can put us back together this time.” I gathered up the pieces of my heart; I left the boy in the band.

The next eighteen months were like a slow motion train wreck. All I could do was hang on, and wait for it to stop.

I remember the date. May 10, 1991. That morning the phone woke me up. My attorney, calling to tell me the divorce was final. She’d used the word, “Congratulations.” I think I said, “Thank you,” but I wasn’t grateful for any of it. I hung up, and laid in bed, waiting. I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought I would surely feel … relief? Excitement, maybe? No. Just silence.

I threw off the covers, walked into the bathroom, and stared at the face in the mirror. Who will I be now? I whispered at her. A sincere question. I’d lurched through the decades, constantly reinventing myself, determined to be whoever those claiming to love me told me I was. Now I had no one to tell me. I was at a loss.

The next months and years were like being born, over and over again. I was the mother giving birth;  I was the baby shooting out of the canal into what I prayed would be a gymnast landing. I wanted a 10 from the judges.

But it wasn’t working anymore, as if it ever really had. I finally raised the white flag of surrender. I’d run out of things to try, people to be. I was exhausted. All I had left was me. When I finally gave into myself, it felt like declaring bankruptcy.

For months, going out in public unvarnished was really frightening; but there was also an undercurrent of excitement. And eventually, slowly, what I’d feared most became easier, partly because it was natural. And I’d have to say the surprise for me was that while life is always full of challenges, showing up in it doesn’t have to be hard. Sometimes there are still glitches, but every day I’m moving closer to the center of someone I’ve always known; the person God put here and breathed life into. There’s a peace in connecting with what’s true in me; authentic perspective gives a clarity like nothing else.

During those years, I was living in Toluca Lake. On my walk one morning I glanced at a flower growing up through a crack in the asphalt. I went past it, then stopped, backed up, and studied it. That little flower was blooming and reaching for the sun, in spite of the considerable efforts made to stop it. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s me.”

Ever since I was a tiny girl, I’ve felt a check in my spirit … like a tiny thread of light, deep inside. Piled over with years of Catholic school, alcoholic parents, sweet babies, abusive marriage, broken dreams … you’d think that thread would have snapped, or caught fire, or disintegrated. It never did. And that’s what I’m back in touch with now.

These days, I know where home is. I’ve discovered that I was right here all the time.

And I have to smile because the truth is, I’ll always love the boy in the band.

::WINGS OF GLASS::

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Fairy-With-Glass-Wings

To shake the confines of
This mental cage
To fly above the clouds on
Wings of glass
To feel the rush of freedom on
My skin
To soar, and know I’ve found my Self
At last
When out of nowhere comes
The break,
The fall,
When my wings shatter,
I’ll have gone
All in
When all that’s left is
Hit the earth,
Full stop
I’ll have learned that
I
Can rise again

::SAFE HARBOR::

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SAND AND SEA

I got back from the beach last night. On my morning walks by the shore I harvested a few beautiful shells. Now I stand at the kitchen sink with my coffee, lower them into the basin of water.
And my mind drifts …

“Come out of your shell.” Or, “She needs to come out of her shell.” I’ve heard it said about others, I’ve heard it said about me−both sincerely and sarcastically, as in , “Umm, girlie, you need to climb back into your shell; you’re a little ‘too far out’.”

But the shell thing−like sea urchins or snails−what a Divine idea. To carry your protection on your back; to be able at a moment’s notice to dodge any bullet simply by “climbing in.”

If I could have, I would have. Especially in the nineties. Those were ‘the paranoid years’. The time when my hair fell out in clumps. I knew people were whispering about me through the soup cans at the grocery store. One of the things Tim did was he copied my journal, rewrote it, then showed it to everyone he could think of. Hell yes, I wanted a shell. One that could hold a woman in her forties, protect her from the man who’d claimed to love her; one where she could cry every tear until they made an ocean she could float away on.

I run the water till it’s a little warm, and begin massaging each of the small, ridged shapes with my fingertips until their pearly surfaces become visible.

Some say time heals wounds. But it never says anything about what you’re supposed to do while the healing happens. Sit on the floor, back corner of the closet? That was a favorite spot. Fall asleep on the couch, with the TV on? That happened more times than I can count. Get home from your therapist, pace for twenty four hours, watching the clock til it’s time to get in the car and head back to her office? For months I did that. She saved my life.

Those experiences−the closet floor, the couch, Dr. High’s office−they never felt like healing at all. They felt like one big gyroscopic attempt to hang on. I thought the spinning would never level out, that I would never find solid ground. But the truth is, I did. And healing happened.

When I think about the woman I was then, I am moved by her pain; by her need to hide away. I want to reach back and hold her. I want to tell her it will be okay. Tell her that, believe it or not, she’ll survive. And she’ll be glad she did.

I swish the water gently and choose a shell, think of the moment I picked it from the sand. I turn this delicate vessel over in my hand. It is a profound reminder of protection and release.

Where have the creatures gone? Perhaps they found other shells for safe harbor. Perhaps their time came to transition, becoming one with the flotsam and jetsam. Or perhaps they are braving this world like I am−out of my shell, ready to move forward into whatever this day and this life will bring.

EAGER HEARTS

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HEARTS IN FLIGHT

Every heart
born new and tender
Beats with
hope and eagerness
Reaching upward
toward its mother
Cradled safe
upon her breast.

Fearless, strong,
hearts journey onward
Knowing not of
what’s in store
Driven only by
the wonder
What is it they’re
put here for.

In a world of
broken promise
At the port of
broken dreams
You’ll find hearts
broken in pieces
Still not knowing
what it means.

Every dream has faced
a cynic
Every cynic’s scoffed
a dream.

Dreamer
Cynic
Your decision
Can be nothing
in between.

::TWELVE COOKIES::

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COOKIE BITE

I sat on the chair, held his hands. He stood there in front of me, straight faced, looked into my eyes.
“I just need you to tell me the truth, buddy. I said no cookies before dinner. Did you take one anyway?”
He squirmed, and tried to pull his hands out of my hold, so I firmed up the grip.
“No, I didn’t take it. STOP!!” As he protested, I watched the speck of chocolate chip in the left corner of his mouth.
“Because I told you what the rules are. It’s too close to dinner, so no snacks right now. But I’m thinking you had a snack!”
“You think wrong! I’m not lying!” He kept squirming; the chocolate speck was melting into a tiny chocolate line. I looked in his eyes. He glared back at me. A standoff.
“Okay. There were twelve cookies on the tray. Let’s go count.” I got up and headed to the counter.
“Fine. Let’s count.”
I pulled the stool over and he climbed up. We started counting.
“One, two, three, four, five …” when we got to ten, I said,
“So now, how many are left?”
“Only one.”
“And how many will that make?”
“Eleven.” We locked eyes.
“Hmmm,” I said. “Wonder what happened to twelve.” He held my gaze, then slowly climbed down, started to walk away.
“Come here, I want to show you something.” He pivoted.
“What?” I took his hand and we walked into the powder room. I flipped on the light.
“Tip toes, and look in the mirror.” He stretched up, looked in the mirror; grinned at himself.
“Wait; what in the world is that on your face?” I took my finger and did a Vanna White on the chocolate, which now chased along his lower lip. He cut his eyes up at me. I sat down on the commode lid, pulled him over to me.
“I think number twelve is.” I poked his belly gently. “Right. In. There.” I smiled at him. He ducked his head, a smile came on his face.
“You guessed it,” he whispered. I took his chin, tilted his head up and looked in his eyes.
“You told me a lie,” I said. “THAT is the worst part.”
“But I was hungry, and you said no snacks!”
“Yes, you’re right about that. Because dinnertime is now. So, what do you say?”
“Sorry, Nannyboo.”
Sorry for what?”
“Eating the cookie.”
“And what else?”
“Lying to you.”
“Okay, do not lie again.” I hugged him and stood up. “Let’s get dinner.”
“I’m not hungry.”

::THE WE OF ME::

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INNER CHILD AT SUNSET

Lately I’ve been wondering how much of me is left. I mean, when I think back, it seems like there have been at least a couple of incarnations in this one lifetime. I was someone’s kid in the first lifetime, and a sister. In the second lifetime I was someone’s wife, and mother. How much of me did that use up? By the time I became a wife, did I remember who that girl was? Was I still that person? Today I’m someone’s mother, someone’s mother in law, and someone’s grandmother. What about that kid? Is she still here? Does she know how old we are? Is she observing the relationship challenges, the unreached horizons that float in the mist, just ahead of wherever it is I am? Or is she the one driving me forward?

It’s funny. These days there’s a familiar authenticity inside my skin; is this what she felt then? Or is that dementia? Is that old age? I don’t know. But I can tell you this: I feel more on purpose than I’ve felt since I was five. Since I was the kid on that swing in the back yard at 1563 North Marion, crying because I couldn’t write a song like the ones on the radio. I don’t cry about that now. Today I’m grown up, and I write songs for a living. Does she know?

When I work on the various projects that keep my passions fired, I feel her here. She sits across the table, smiling at me, her chin resting on one dimpled hand.

I also feel her tears. When my Daddy — OUR Daddy — died earlier this year, she is the one who cried into my pillow. She’s also the one who took my sister’s face in her hands at the funeral home and told her everything was okay. In many ways I felt like I was watching her do that. I was the observer. Looking back at that weekend, I realize the girl of me led us through it with her broken heart wide open, loving everybody as big as she could.

Since then, she and I have hit a rough patch. One where healing and grief keep getting locked in hand to hand combat. It leaves me bone weary, and she’s trying to make sense of it all.

When I lie down and rest my head in the dark, I feel her there. She keeps watch through the night. Sometimes in that space between awake and asleep, I hear her whisper, “Daddy always believed in us.” The adult of we never thought so. The girl of we always knew.

There are those who would call me daft for seeing us as two separate people. Shrinks might tell me to “integrate.” I reject that clinical diagnosis. The adult mind lives on the surface where life appears steady, things are kept in tidy lines, and all rules apply. But the child mind is boundless; it explores below the surface. There are times I need to get hopelessly lost in her world of unseen wonder, secret caverns, mighty whirlwinds, and fragments of dreams unlived. This is where the thrill of excitement rides in on a sunbeam, where fragile hearts dive deep, shatter and heal, only to dive deep again.

Not breaking through the surface with her would pose a far greater risk to my Spirit. I cannot bear the thought of skimming the top, and never living the we of me at all.

If Daddy can see us, we know he’s proud.