Thursday, January 27, 2011

being and nothingness

When I studied kung-fu, my teacher used to always say there was nothing more dangerous than a student of three months. He had just enough training to think he had enough training. Push him past that point and he learns that he knows nothing. The more training he has, the less he knows. In the end, the true warrior avoids conflict anyway. Somedays I feel like spiritually I am perpetually three months out in life.

I don't know why I am telling you this. I just want to write and I can't write. I spend a great deal of my spare time reading about what other people think about God and humanity and life, and I have never quite made up my own mind. This fucking koan is stuck in my head again: if you have a stick, I will give you one. If you don't have a stick, I will take one away. I took it once to a philosophy professor. I meditated on it all the time, but it never came to me. "This is not a logical argument," he said. "It is a riddle." And that made me more determined to figure it out. What do you think it means? I finally took out stick and put in truth.

If you have truth, I will give you truth. If you don't have a truth, I will take your truth away.

Maybe it should be God. Or confusion. Or wisdom. Or baby.

The funny thing is that I used to balk when reading these Buddhist stories of monks who meditate on the same koan for years, and I have invested a decade on that one and have nothing.


The only authenticity I have is to admit that I am human. I adapt to my surroundings. But even my adaptations are flawed. And when I unravel my humanness, I realize it is all based on something flawed-fear, reputation, pain, sadness, grief. My experiences seem to lead up to this one point in my life. It is a point of acceptance that I am the sum of all the great flaws of humanity. It doesn't make me special. We all are the sum of flaws. I said that like it's a bad thing, but it's not. It is not bad or good. It just is.

I know nothing. I am nothing. Peel away the layers of me and it boils down to that. This month, I have been absolutely humbled. All of my wisdom, a lie. Well, maybe not all, but I am in a place of absolute bones and bareness. But in this place of absolute vulnerability and fear and nothingness, I am kind of happy. For when I stripped away the things I thought were holding me up, I realized that I had already been standing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


“Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.”
Dogen(Japanese Buddhist monk and philosopher 1200-1253)

I am over at Glow today, writing about my enlightenment, or lack thereof.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fibs and prayers.

This post is almost solely about parenting my living children. I'll give you some room to leave.

While you are waiting, I will give you a little Connery.

Good evening, bitches!

Honestly, I have no idea what is wrong with me. I am sober, actually. I am just in a weird Connery codpiece kind of mood. Alright, onto the post.

My daughter talks about her vagina now. She makes jokes about it like a frat boy jokes about his johnson.

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"My vagina."
"Don't be sassy, Beatrice."
"I'm not sassy. I am funny."
"Well, actually, that was kind of funny, but it is also sassy to joke about your vagina."

She draws it too. There is her head, then her body, then her vagina and then her legs. I actually thought she was drawing a thorax, but no, she assures me it is her vagina. It is a lot like performance art with her these days.

She sat today with namaste hands, eyes closed, cross-legged under her princess canopy.
"Excuse me, Mommy."
Sam and I look up from our heated conversation about how we envision the children's room, bunk bed and loft reading spaces. Thomas joining in conversation by screaming here and there.
"Yes, my love."
"I am trying to meditate, so you need to be quiet, or leave my room."
You are three, daughter.
"Oh, I'm sorry, honey. We are going." But I wonder what happens in meditation for a toddler. And then I realize that I taught her that. I taught her about the meditation and the vagina.

I had all kinds of ideas about the kind of mother I would be when I was a single woman. I'd get lost in the 100 yard stare, imagining a thousand "what if" scenarios. I have never really encountered a scenario for which I have been prepared. I mean, sort of, but not really. Not conversations about death, or birth, or vaginas or meditation. She comes at it with her own perspective, interest and questions. It is disarming and comforting to know that she will always be unpredictably herself. And I will never be a lecturer. She will always be someone I am getting to know.

I watch my daughter with equal parts amazement and wonder. She is so much like me as a child. Her little way of being, her diligence, her generous spirit and curiosity. Her desire to talk and connect and be part of the adult world. All of it is straight me, and when I see an adult get impatient with her, I pull her on my lap, and kiss her eyes. "My angel," I whisper. "Don't change."

It is the ultimate healing to love this girl. I find myself being more forgiving, compassionate and loving towards myself as a child. I always thought I was a bad kid. My mother assures me now that I was nothing close to bad, but in my head, I hear her admonishments and annoyance at my imperfections. I've always been notoriously hard on myself. It is no different now, I guess.

My parents' main parenting style, from what I can parse out by questions over wine, is primarily shame, not in a wholly unkind way either. Maybe that is a Catholic thing, or the way parenting used to be. I was ashamed when I misbehaved in public, and so I didn't. Shame is still a very close companion for me. Shame motivates me in a way that nothing else can, and in the same way, abandoning shame feels like finding that child again, pulling her on my lap, kissing her eyelids.

We drove upon the aftermath of an accident a month or so ago. Ambulance. Police cars. Lights. She watched a man strapped to a board being taken aboard the ambulance, and she said, "Who is that, Mama?" as though I know everyone in the world. I could only see that it was a man in his thirties, perhaps.

"I don't know, my love."

She paused, and said, "Maybe it is one of my friends." I turned around quickly. It caught me up--my breath and my parenting both. It was a moment where I needed to say something profound, something important. "This is the time when I teach a lesson about compassion," I thought. This is the moment I imagined before I ever had children, when I would imagine a scenario and how I would deal with it. I said something about how it wasn't her friend, but that it was good to see everyone as someone's friend. And then I kept going until I made no sense anymore. I am just winging it. I am just making this parenting stuff up as I go along. Maybe I am even making this life stuff up as I am going along too.

This year, I have made one resolution--to forgive myself and forgive my body. To learn to love this shell of me, because it is just a shell that I need to keep strong and healthy, even though the shell is not me. And I am not my shell. Forgiving my body, and learning to live in this skin is exceedingly hard, especially when you realize that you have been lying to yourself for so long you suspect you may be built of fibs and prayers.

But still, I am working hard these days on healing, on forgiving myself, on being a whole person honest with my faults, my shortcomings and my defects of character. It feels like a little like being skinned alive. I want to crawl under something which provides warmth and darkness, like the stove, until my skin grows back. And yet, some days, when I hold my girl on my lap, I realize that I am still exactly like her on some level. I am still little somewhere in me, even if I have found destructively adult ways to cope with the littleness.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I used to think that I would heal from my daughter's death, but I am a leper. I will never really heal. I am always in some kind of dull grief pain, so much so that I rarely feel it anymore. My skin itches. My eyes run. But it's okay, really. I mostly live my life with others of my kind. In a colony. Or a virtual colony. And because I live with others of my kind, I feel normal. I sometimes venture into the non-leper world--mommy blogs, or play dates and the such, but I realize I don't belong there. It is as though the healthy, non-leper people are pointing at me and saying, "Ack, a leper."

"What? Me?" I stare at my scabby, oozing sores. "Oh, right, yes. A leper, but we all knew that already, no?"

When you are past two years, maybe it is time when you should not be still writing, arting and talking about grief.  A new babylost mama said to me recently that she didn't want to be someone whose whole life was about the grief from her child's stillbirth, and then I realized that my whole life is about the grief from my child's stillbirth. I wasn't offended, and she wasn't being offensive. It just was a moment where I reflected. This feels like the authentic me, though. I know, authenticity is such a bullshit word to so many people, but in a wholly existential way, it feels authentic. This is the real me. One who lives on the edge of the living and the dead, straddling both worlds, not truly part of either. I think that has always been my place in the world. A liminal place between worlds--white and Latina, masculine and feminine, mainstream and punk, artist and poser, sacred and profane, dead and undead. It feels right and good to make art and write about what comes up. But then again, maybe I am stuck. Maybe I am not supposed to still feel sad. I don't know. I. Don't. Fucking. Know.

Actually, maybe this leper talk is kind of creepy, or plain unfair to people with leprosy. But I think the analogy is good. Did you know that 95% of the human race have a natural immunity to leprosy? And that while I was mostly healthy and a good conversationalist, my kid still died in me. It was like a one in 160 pregnancy chance. I don't know why I am comparing statistics. When you have been a one, no other number of the other side looks big enough. And statistics kind of feel like bullshit. Still, leprosy and  full term stillbirth have their similarities.

My daughter asked me tonight why we can't have a girl baby that stays, and I have no response that feels adequate. I just stammered and then she said we can name her Lucy again, since we all like that name so much. It broke my heart open again, like it is the first time someone suggested that we can just have another baby. She is so earnest about it, so logical, I feel silly for arguing that Lucia is the only sister who gets that name. And that we can't just have girl babies because it seems like a girl baby should nurse with the boy baby.

Thomas turned nine months on January 1st. Nine months. Today I received the travel journal after its harrowing journey through Europe, Canada and the United States. Ines included a bag of hand-carved pebbles. Skytimes included a little handmade journal, and everyone wrote diary entries from the Travel Gnome's point of view, and it made me feel like crying. I mean, if I were a different person, I would have wept. Last year, I would have wept. But this year, I just laughed, and my soul did cartwheels like the first time someone wrote a goofy haiku with me and thought it was funny. I read the whole thing with a glass of amazing red wine. It is perfect to have others put their hearts and souls into something you also put your heart and soul into. I don't know how else to describe it.

As my Facebook friends know, someone kept the journal for a month and a half. I know she would argue at that categorization, but let's just say, it was mailed in mid-November, and didn't arrive on the next person's doorstep until the end of December. We exchanged emails about it, since I felt she should apologize to all the women and she felt like I was being a controlling bitch. She acted entitled. I don't know, I reacted, and shouldn't have. I have no defense except that I give a shit. I gave a shit about the travel journal being the last piece on still life 365 for the year and it wasn't and it upset me. She said her family was sick, and she gave me a load of excuses. I wanted to tell her everything I had been through this year, and still managed to publish a piece of art every day of the fucking year. I wanted to tell her that the day I was in labor with Thomas Harry, the day I went to the hospital, is the day I mailed out the journal. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning the night before sending off emails to every person participating, and packed it up and waddled to the post office. Then I birthed Thor.

Maybe it is just me who is a leper. You know, she isn't the first person to call me a controlling bitch. Probably not the last. I am not even offended by that, really. I get things done. Some call that controlling, others efficient. I have thick skin for that sort of insult. But it reminded me of the betrayals of my life. This is a drop in the bucket, yes, but still, that feeling of someone saying, "Your desire to have things a certain way betrayed you, not me." It is a truth I can never seem to learn. I have to stop desiring things.

In a separate note and question, how long is it supposed to take a couple to finish a bottle of port wine? Sam claims this should last us more than three days. And that I am perhaps drinking it more like wine, rather than port. But it is so dang good in front of the fire while wearing my big heavy woolen grief socks. I also promised an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. Maybe tomorrow? Anyone coming to the reading on Sunday?