Autophony: The sound of living inside a mother’s dementia

  

I scrapped together a few writings I blogged over the year and produced this piece that was published yesterday.

Tripping on sounds, I hear birds outside my window, muffled, over the swish-throb of a heartbeat in my ears, a pulsing slightly alarming and soothing all the same. I also hear a dish clanking outside the closed door of my room, emanating from the kitchen where I imagine my mother is sitting, skeletal and serene in her wheelchair, gazing off through the filmy stare that inhabits her face now. The cataracts of her mind’s eye reaches some unknown space outside or inside her head that swirls and lulls the cerebral juices to twitching stillness, her jerking to and from that space in split-second recognition of a face, idea, song slice or voice. I imagine her waiting like the baby bird with beak wide open in anticipation of its mother’s nurturing tongue, depositing the meaty worm of egg or pear. She is spoon-fed…continue here.

On Rebelle Society–my intimate journey to self acceptance

Please visit Rebelle Society to read “my intimate journey to self acceptance” which has been published today. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace

Evan was not my first love. My heart framed in poetry books, I sought love early. By fourteen I had had my first heartbreak and by sixteen, I was initiated to the world of embattled sex my mother fear-burned into me: woman as fortress and men as invader.

It was the 70s and free love was the slogan but not the practice. I was not the only young woman who paid the bodily price of losing what I did not understand I had–self-love, real love.

So when I fell in love with and married a French man a few years later, love was permeated with heady visions of Romantics like Byron and Wordsworth, but sex was informed by the attitudes of Plath and Sexton, hardened and cynical.

In my mind, love and sex were distinct and only the former was indispensable.

I loved Jean-Marc, but we were not so much “in love” as we were good friends. To me, that was more important.

Besides, it was clear I was not his physical type. He had had a girlfriend when I met him in college, a French goddess of natural beauty, as if she emerged from the heather, golden smooth skin delightfully coating her delicate bones and showcasing her eyes of sea blue.

She was the essence of what I deemed poetic femininity at the time. And I was nothing like her, not delicate, soft, supple, petite or graceful. I wasn’t French. I was New York, bookish and big.

But several years into our marriage, I grew thinner, more athletic. I struck a lean, tall figure with improved grace and balance from running and tennis. I had transformed the book worm smoker of pubs and diners around New York to an outdoorsy athletic competitor in California.

When I separated from my husband, I was in the best shape of my life, 28 years old with a hard body everyone noticed but me.

That is when I met Evan.

Evan taught me to love my body. I met him after my husband confessed that he was in love with someone else, a friend he had grown up with in France. Even though that relationship did not pan out, both of us needed time to sort things out.

In reality, the separation between us occurred long before, had been growing inside me. Jean-Marc’s vision of me affected my own. I was a rebound, the consoler and good friend when the goddess dumped him one New Year’s eve.

I was no beauty, but I was comfort.

His eye for aesthetics and style were distinguishing features of my attraction to him but also the very features that attracted him to others, beautiful, lean, olive-complected men I later came to find out.

So why did I choose someone who could not love my body? Over the years, I have considered that question.

Perhaps the body-mind division I fixed early on, prioritizing the intellectual over the physical sublimated my bodily emotions–etched the picture of an unlovely woman in my mind.

But I imagine, poor body image grew out of many seeds: my parents’ relationship, genetics, cultural dictates, social influences and my own love relationships.

Though Jean-Marc and I shared a love that made us grow in the comfort and safety of that umbrella love of young adults, he could not love me intimately, the way a lover sighs at the sight of his beloved’s nakedness. And we couldn’t talk about it for the pain and the guilt. But the elephant in the room nearly crushed me.

Eventually, I was flattened. I no longer had desire–until Evan.

I fell in love with him in a cafe in New York. He spoke soothingly about presence–being present in each moment–and though I had read my zen and Heidegger, I was witnessing the words rather than thinking about them.

He warned me beforehand and then he touched my hand and said, “You’re a writer; describe the experience of my hand.” Of course I didn’t know what he meant; I only said I wanted to be a writer–not that I was–and I was off balance with his touch.

So I described how I felt uneasy with a near stranger’s touch. To which he asked, “Does it feel warm? soft? rough? Can you feel the arced tips of the nails unforgiving yet pleasantly smooth?”

I hadn’t even thought of the physical sensation. I never did. All passed through my mind first and the physical was always sublimated, denied or ignored. Probably why I rarely saw a doctor, going about my business trying not to think of what ailed me.

Later, his first touch of studied tenderness opened my eyes and aroused passion I buried long before I knew its heat, its colorful flavors. He touched me, what was before his eyes, not a projection of me.

And then he took me on a tour of the secret vales and rich verdure of my body. It blazed real love.

Love–true love–is presence in touch; it needs no longing, fantasy, style, grace or poise–merely acceptance in being.

When I embraced my own beauty, uniquely my biological experience, replete with singular angles and curves, scars and splotches, I learned to be heart-wise loved by someone who could love me–all of me–and confirm I was worthy of another’s hand softly sweeping the hair off my brow.

My feminine, I learned, was desire—being—in touch.

How can we ever know how others sense the world? The question should evoke a yearning to find out without the hope of ever doing so. However, it is the practice–the focused being of and with others–that matters. It’s how we connect, avoid loneliness, while maintaining our own integrity.

It is how we find love, real love.

Touch led me from interpreting the world to experiencing it. Getting out of my mind, possessed with others’ formulations of love and sex, and into the moment–breathing presence; it brought me the fullness of acceptance, as a body, my body, with someone else’s.

No, Evan did not teach me acceptance by his touch; eventually, I was able to receive his touch by my own clarity–of space, moment, nearness of another’s presence becoming my own.

He taught me to “see” like the scientists and philosophers and lovers we are–empirically, intellectually and emotionally.

I wasn’t rushing headlong into someone else’s story for me. I had learned to better integrate my body and mind, which took examining inherited perceptions: those of my mother, husband, authors, and culture.

It took practice to own my body. It still does.

And being in the precise moment recalled by someone’s touch–healing in its grounding.

Evan lies next to me now, his pillowed head in the shadow of mine. I am reading, elbow-propped, turned away.

We are prone, bare, having just settled into bed for the night. Humid heat of a New England summer makes flannel impossible and silk torturously sticky. We sleep this way most nights four seasons long.

His body is serpent shape mirror of mine with inches of space between us, creating the comfort of a cooling air canal. We are art in symmetry.

His hand, open palmed, smooths across the contours of my hip, waist and shoulder, smearing heat like oil upon the line of curvy seas in the imagination of his hand–port to starboard to port again. The slow rhythm of his caress lulls my lids to half mast as the warmth and tingling skin sensors combine, dance me to lullaby languor. These are the moments.

I stop reading to softly lower my head to the pillow, ever so slowly, avoiding the slightest ripple in the water of his soliloquy wave. I hold my breath the whole way down.

Releasing, exhaling in measured silent wisps of warm air through my teeth and the pebble O my lips make, anchor hits bottom, the sync of his hypnotic oar undisturbed; it continues to brush the still of my anatomy’s ebb and flow.

I breathe just enough air to live, causing not so much as a flutter-by in the sheets. If I fill my lungs too deeply, selfishly, I will signal sleep’s onslaught, killer of this powerfully peaceful moment of breath, body and hand. No dream could be better than this. I own it–to the coral depths of fibrous memory.

Published on Rebelle Society: Ananda–Count Your Bliss-ings Not Your Troubles

  

Please enjoy my article on Rebelle Society, a wonderful, impeccably professional and delightful site full of creativity and practical information as well. I have been a fan even before the editors accepted my first submitted essay on February 7th of this year. Good fortune visited me the day I happened upon them in a search for something compelling to write about on a lackluster day creatively speaking. I go there often now just to get a lift.

I hope you, my dear readers and happen-to-drop-by visitors, take some pleasure from momentary ananda my words may inspirit.

Peace, 

the Gaze

Ananda

A lover of poetry and yoga, sex and wine, and family and friends, I, like the rest of humanity, yearn for blissful moments. And though I am not a scholar of Sanskrit or the Vedantas with its Hindu terms in metes and measures, I sometimes look to their words for understanding bliss–and for creativity.

On a particularly grey day of dreary weather and woe in the face of loss–my mother’s withering mind, my oldest daughter’s going off to college next month, the recent loss of my second career in the kind of misstep that leaves me in awe of how close we all are always to falling into the margins–I contemplate bliss and its countless manifestations just to cheer me up.

However, more often I catalogue my gifts to inspire longer-term goals like grateful living and daily writing.

We–my lingual species–take for granted words like bliss, happiness, joy and even sadness, depression or despair, the ready words to capture nuances of feeling. Yet, as a complexly feeling people, we enjoy labeling the colors of our moods, one of the many inheritances that distinguishes us from other earthly creatures.

Bliss, with its thick, rich history and vibrancy steers us through that complexity as it soaks us with recognition, sense and order. The feathered tendrils of meaning that touch upon its neighboring moods captured in “pleasure” and “delight” create extensions that reach down and through our lives.

Whether we search the Oxford English Dictionary or the Vedas and the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Ananda–the Sanskrit word for bliss–wholly resonates the thought-emotion from the eternal to the local. I often write on it for poetic inspiration, especially when my mood and writing discipline falters. Its order and principles cure writer’s block.

When I am stuck, I, like the Sanskrit Dictionary, begin with Pleasure, a term with associations ranging from the simple, like the tickle of childhood in watching the mercury bubble gurgle to and fro inside the glass of an old-time thermometer, to the ecstatic, like orgasm from an in-love-with lover or the runner’s high amid the stillness of a solitary crisp morning run along a cow-lined country lane in the heather of Central France.

Pleasure alone is not enough, however, for the distinct flavors of bliss parsed from the Sanskrit. Thinly sliced from Pleasure is Sensual Pleasure, which I must confess drives my daily experiences. Lure by all that teases the senses, I can close my eyes and smell the house-filled aroma of garlicky tomato sauce simmering and feel the headiness of inhaling the sweet, milky scent of my infant’s skin.

Poetry writes itself to the earliest memories of my mother’s fingernails stroking the scalp beneath the thick curls framing my resting head in her lap.

Two others related to Sensual Pleasure are Sensual Joy, found in a late Friday afternoon nap, unclothed and entwined with a lover, and a Kind of Flute, an instrument hollow and wooden or a vessel for champagne, both soothing and stimulating the ears and mind. The memory sounds of dancing to South American pan flutes puffed outside the market in downtown Caracas and toasting in the new year floats in the buzz of the bubbles and sway.

Which is a different high from Delight, a sharper edged bliss compared to the roundness of pleasure. I find it in placing that last piece into that one perfectly matched squiggly space left in the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle or the twenty dollar bill pulled from the pocket of my jeans one unsuspecting morning.

It’s the imagined lightswitch on when it all makes sense.

Happiness strikes me as less spiky than the sparkle and shine of Delight, deeper set and sustained: the mood makes us skip down the path just because…it is a lightness in the step, in the being. But turn happiness up a notch to a swelling sustenance to the heart and you have joy.

Joy catches us unawares, say, when a mother turns from her busy-ness to spy her infant’s gaze following her every movement. However, Joy’s cousin Enjoyment is quieter, less a beaming and more a warmth, though no less satisfying. For me, it’s a book to live in for a while; the first bite of deep, dark, smoky chocolate; or the silent spell of a Shakespearean sonnet.
But Pure Happiness is seeing the fruits of our efforts to help others ripen and blossom or the awe of creating another human being through unimaginable struggle.

Yet another bliss, Cheerfulness is not so much a mood as a temperament that drifts between internal and external space: the unforced mental smile naturally unfolding at the thought of another day as another opportunity to get something right or the gleam in the eyes of the genuine gift giver.

Some types of bliss follow strife, a sort of relief as in the contrast of high pressure to low. I imagine this sensation in Sanskrit as End of the Drama. I think of it as resolution after the struggle, war, riot, tussle, or tragedy and in another bliss–a Thing Wished For–the triumph of acceptance, often a satisfactory ending to a poor beginning.

Reaching to the sublime, Beatitude anticipates the first spring blossom clearing the snow face, break-through acts of kindness, a helping hand when all hope is lost, a miracle, and nature’s whisper. Somehow related in my mind, One of the Three Attributes of Atman or Brahman in the VedAnta Philosophy means a sort of holy, the oneness at the tip of the final exhale concluding meditation.

And in all things comes the contentment in order: Name of the Forty-Eighth year of the cycle of Jupiter intuits that human comfort in prediction and patterns and the recognition of the unknowable vastness, the multiverse, of which we are merely particles from planetary bursts—as well as the burden that knowledge relieves.

And finally earthbound and encircling ourselves, bliss is a Kind of House like all shelters that provide the safety and security that we imagined as children gleefully building blanket forts in the living room.

A trick of the mind or a daily devotion, inventorying all that makes us happy not only soundly defeats the writing doldrums but potentially pulls us from a slump, maybe even depression. The habit balances us–if not as an antidote, at least as a partial cure for the ills of a day or a life–and improves health.

A day when even the sun seems to let us down is perfect for cataloguing gifts and counting bliss-ings. Let us begin with Ananda.

Note: Classifications of Ananda are in the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit; definitions are in the mind of this star gazing poet.