Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where to begin.

Indeed it's been many weeks since I've posted, but don't think I ever forget for even a minute. I begin to long for it when too much time passes—the clicking at the keys, the discovery of the perfect word—and I turn itchy and I'm grumpy until I finally sit my ass down to write. Then I think to myself, now what was more important than this again?

It's been quite a month. Since the last blog, there was a lovely family visit which overlapped with Opal catching an ear-eyes-throat virus while at the same time cutting her molars. I then managed to pick up a subsequent illness that I haven't yet beaten after more than two weeks. (I still get queasy after a few hours of exertion and feel like the right side of my skull is perpetually submerged in bathwater, a thing that is as disorienting as talking into a cell phone with an echo). This is the second LONG illness I've had this summer and to say it's been an emotional and physical drag would be a grotesque understatement. But I'll spare you the details and simply defer you to the post "Sickness." from only a few months ago if you'd like some indications on the specifics of being ill while caring for a toddler.

Fundamentally, though, everything is fine and this is but a blip on the radar.

I've recently written a few article-type essays (one for the Shambhala Times and one for Elephant) which are a hell of a lot of fun to write, but also a little like offering my spiels while wearing Sunday formals, with a full face of make-up and a slightly artificial British inflection. Proper and buffed.
My intention for this blog has always been to be a place where I can show up in my tank-top with lopsided breasts and a pigeon's nest for a head of hair while I deliver the straight news and gory details on parenting and the like to those who choose to listen. First draft, no polishing necessary. This hasn't always been achieved as I tend to obsess upon polishing. But let the record show that it's been my intention to work towards working less.

So, here I am, merely one step up from being in my pajamas—casual loungewear—and wearing my new woven cap that keeps me from mindlessly twisting at my hair, gearing up to look at my own reflection in a cup of murky-pink Kombucha.
It's the same feeling as when I finally called my grandpa last night after way too long: a bit heartbroken at the amount of time I'd let pass by, water-logged by the preceding gap, a little guilty and brimming with love for him. I didn't quite know where to begin.

Not in Front of the Children, Pal.

We can no longer talk about Opal in front of Opal, especially with regards to discipline.

Here is an example:
Opal's default volume when trying to communicate is currently one of panic and command. PICK IT UP RIGHT NOW MAMA!!! She screams.
And when I say Opalll—with the long "L," wearing the quintessential watch it lady parent-face—she yells PLEEEEZE!!! at the same volume.
So we are working on teaching her to continue to excel at asking for what she needs but in a kinder tone of voice.

On a particularly bossy day last week, we were all riding in the car together, Jesse and I in the front and Opal in the back in her car-seat. I said to Jesse, softly, maybe we should try just ignoring her when she yells like that. When she whines, we either say we can't understand her until she talks in a normal voice or we invite her to keep whining but in a different room. This has worked beautifully, which I haven't recognized until this moment in the writing of it. She rarely ever whines unless she is sleepy or tired, but not even then all that much. So why don't we try that with the screaming? She can choose to keep screaming but she'll get no attention until she's done and chooses another option.
Jesse gave me a look that said, not now, honey, the walls have ears.

And no sooner had his non-verbal clicked into comprehension did Opal begin to SCREAM her lungs out in the back of the car. One LONG stretch of source-less, screeching, shrilling, as if to say, ignore THIS, mom and dad.
Point received.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Something happened to my perception of time. They tell me this is August but I'm still circling somewhere above mid-July, like a confused little commuter plane awaiting further instruction.

Has it really all come and gone, this 2-weeks-of-mama-time-away we spent the better part of 2011 preparing for? Are we really on the other side of it now, confidently enjoying a chat and watching the sun set from a different perspective?

The last few weeks have been more of a belly-full to process than I would have guessed. And returning to normal is just as big of an adjustment now as the initial transition of settling in to (meditation) program-life was during my time away.

I tried not to expect anything in particular from Opal upon returning home. I'd heard of many kids who gave their returning-parent a definitive cold shoulder until things settled down a bit and returned to ordinary. (This notion terrified me much more at the beginning of the week than when our reunion was close at hand.)

I sped through the 2 hour drive home, on the morning of August 3rd, with the impetus of having been shot from a catapult, though also trying to maintain some sense of mindfulness in the journey, so as not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater of the emotional space I'd gathered during the preceding 12 days. My car was the only thing given permission to speed. No cell phone calls were made while on the road. Not too much messing with the radio, though I did stumble on an unfortunate story about a young girl—she was about Opal's age—who had died from cancer. I cried for a good 20 miles and then opted for silence or, perhaps, classic rock.

Finally, I pulled into the driveway—my car felt so heaving and intrusive—and I could see them in the window as reflective silhouettes. I heard Jesse say "Look who it is! It's mommy!" Opal looked confused for the first few moments while in Jesse's arms, uncertain and skeptical. Her expression was exacerbated by a sizable spider bite that swelled like red ink in the center of her perfect milky cheek.

As Jesse stepped through the front door and towards me, she reached for me, wrapped her arms around my neck and tucked her little chin into my bare, sweaty shoulder. The tears rushed down my cheeks as we stood there, so warm, like a baptismal offering of coming home home home. Jesse grinned and reached to hug the both of us.

Just like that, the whole thing was behind us. I had returned.

Opal led me to the living room and introduced me to all the games and tricks that had been established by she and daddy during the time I was away. The stool that served as a car when placed over stretched-out legs, the accompanying red-light-green-light drawings, the elaborate school bus scenarios, the wooden train that lived in Jesse's office until I'd officially left, scheduled to emerge when Opal most needed a pick-me-up. This little world encapsulated in our living room dripped with carnivalesque qualities—so brilliant, so lush— and I just sat there like the coach after a winning game, having been doused in a blazon of Gatorade.

It was beyond good to see my family. It was like someone had drawn in the color again.

And, shortly thereafter, the Ordinary of Life ensued. Jesse got ready for work while Opal and I had lunch, vacillating between Hey Mambo and Nick Drake (Opal's turn for a song, mommy's turn for a song) on my laptop while eating. We warmed her milk in the microwave (what a wonder!) and read our favorite books for her nap. I holed up in our fridge-box of a bedroom while she slept, sipping tea and making homecoming-calls to my family gently and leisurely, protecting myself from the heaving mounds of tasks and to-dos as if it was the hospital I had returned from and not the mountains. As if I needed to save my strength.

That rest of that first day followed a joyful suit. An ornery, joyful trip to the grocery. Delicious dinner when Jesse got home from work. A meandering stroll with my husband and daughter while casually and profoundly discussing the teachings of the program, which Jesse had also attended years ago and was delighted to revisit in discourse.

However, surprising or not, the days that followed were much less easy; the details of my life—with the exception of motherhood—felt jarringly unfamiliar. Perhaps I'd broken away from my routine for just long enough to totally lose my footing. Or maybe I'd been away from the demands of speed and technology for just long enough to feel an abruptly toxic effect when they were reintroduced. Or maybe the mountainous heap of 12 days of life, calling on me like an irritated collection agent, was too much to sift through all at once. It's taken until today, five days of wading through a disordered and overgrown internal state, to finally feel a real clearing in the weeds.

Insert large inhale/exhale here.*

This was one of those experiences that is quite tricky to discern into a piece of writing, especially one that requests a beginning, middle and end. I draw to mind the image of the cartoon elephant who springs from the diving board and is frozen in mid-swandive headed for a thimble full of water below. There is just so much. It is just so big.

The content of the program: the teachings, the people, the friendships, the insights that were just dying to effervesce once the volume was turned low enough and the proper space was given, the emotions that scurried about like active woodland creatures in and out of the scene. The Wild Heart.
The swelling gratitude for my husband and amazing family (Grammy, Grampy, Auntie Alex and Jaimie, Uncle Will and D, and Looloo the doggy) for enveloping Opal like a protective cloak while I was away. The devastating brilliance of the team Opal and Jesse made while in my absence.

Opal said Holy Moly!! the other day while reading a book, plucked it from the clear blue sky. A state back-and-forth laughter ensued like an unexpected display of fireworks, ending only when we were both pleasantly deflated on the floor.

Holy Moly.
I will end with Opal's words because I couldn't have said it better myself.