Corpse Pose

I lie in corpse pose, tracing my breath from belly upward, 

The rise and sinking of life’s fill while my mother dies in

The next room, eroded to the bone, life struggling to breathe.

The disassociation drifts from front room to back, cold to warm.

The back room, where my mother lies, nearly inert, heats up

The temperature rising with the sun and falling just so too, 

While the front room, where I lie as faux corpse, posing, is

Cold as the window faces the backyard, which stays sunless.

Her blood runs colder now, though she always felt the chill of

An early morning, her time, or after dusk, when she’d wish us

To bed, free her to herself, what mothers do as children sleep.

Now, the cold doesn’t penetrate, her defenses gone with decay

Just as I gain the weight I never had, she always had, in our 

Twisted turn of events that find her at the head, me at the back,

She never behind, always the leader, me the child, now the mom,

Oh, it’s all wrong as a matter of right, bad timing for an ending.

Image source

Five Years Ago–Happy Revolutions

Facebook reminds me that I have a memory from five years ago, a picture of my then 12 year old daughter in braids and new-budding body and me, lean and less harried (the intervening five years ran roughshod over my face and spirit), walking a 4th of July 5k that is an annual staple of my town, that and the parade that follows. A rare photo in that my younger daughter awoke early to participate in this event with me. She has seen me run all of her life, even gone with me via stroller or bicycle. Running and soccer predominated over our home all of her life.

Except my daughter, a soccer player since a toddler following in her older sister’s footsteps, literally, has never enjoyed running. In fact, her particular style of soccer reveals a constant strategy to minimize sprints and chases. She outsmarts rather than outruns. So, this particular photo reveals the rare and typical: the two of us in an early morning race–walking. 

I remember this day vividly. She and I raced to the race, having awakened late. By the time we reached the starting line, the race had begun and we raced along in the throngs of sneakered early-morning celebrators. We ran our race before it began, a well-known mistake for one who had run dozens of prior races, short and long. Pacing. We had not paced ourselves, so the photo captures us walking at the three-quarters mark, me with serious intent and recovery written on my expression and she with discovery and rescue broadcast on hers. We were enjoying the moment of breath and notice, me ever deep inside myself and she with wonder of the street lined masses outside.

The friend who took the picture much to my surprise traveled in a group tour with me to the Costa Rican Carribbean rain forest jungle on a yoga retreat. We became waterfall hiking companions as well as yoga classmates on the trip and afterward at the health club we both attended. I did not know he had taken the picture until he posted it on my wall. That memory and all it blankets coupled with a coffee quiet morning foreshadows a lovely 4th. 

Happy, peaceful revolutions to you all.

On the Eve of Yet Another

Sitting across the table from my oldest at our favorite eatery, I could not help seeing what others must have seen in me 36 years ago: a tall, lean vibrant girl with a hyperactive, inquisitive mind and over burdened sense of responsibility for the buoyancy of the conversation. 

I love to watch her gesticulating hands, the petulance in her sea green eyes and the force of her concerns and wishes. She is all youth and wonder, strength and conviction.

My own youth is like an old 35 mm flickering reel, some parts skipping in fractured movement. The plot always seems to nearly unfold just as the threads run wild and loose. Just like me to crave the missing cracks, what lies in those stuttered jumps in the movie, however slight and seemingly insignificant.

If I could make a real movie of my teens to twenties, I would splice together actual footage of all the moments, days and weeks of laughter. So much laughter. My friends and I knew how to chuckle and wheeze ourselves into spasms, once we broke the ironic smirks broadcasting our quick savvy and adoptive world weariness.

The range of emotion exaggerated on a face, the wide-open eyes in surprise or indignity, the outstretched fingers flung from the span of taut exasperation palms, I recall to fleeting memories evoked by my daughter’s questioning advice on relationships, friendships and the state of the world.

She asks me who in their right mind would have a kid with our sadly looming future. And at the peak of her voiced question mark, I hear my own 20 year old voice chiming in, silently mouthing the words with her in grainy film footage. 

If I squint my reality a tad, she is me. 

But on the eve of yet another birthday, one of those off years signaling no milestones, no edges to encroaching decades or mid-split 5’s, I find myself repeating to her: “If I could give you one thing, my most valuable gift, I would export the revelations I gained both wasting time and suffering, just to push your learning curve so far back your starting point advantage would increase the laughing years twenty fold.”

Which always draws a blank green-eyed stare of indulgent tolerance.

By the time she gets it, hopefully I won’t be mere flickering light through film base covered in gelatin emulsion. 

First and Lasting Love


Social Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down to 2 Basic Traits, one of today’s The Mind Unleashed selections gave me a warm feel-good flicker of recognition in resonating truth, though so simple and time-worn as to appear trite. The article”s review of a study on long-term marriages concludes:

In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

Sure, kindness and generosity make the world go round, so this makes sense. Now, I cannot say that I have always remembered this prescript in my own lengthy marriage, but the daily practice is important to better the odds of not forgetting.

If I were to give my daughters advice on choosing a life partner, I would tell them to love someone kind and generous–to them as well as others. Hopefully, my daughters won’t need such advice in earnest for a while, though they inch along nearing that precipice of desire.

My soon-to-be-19 year old daughter is falling in love, probably for the first time. I assume both in light of her uncharacteristic giddiness over today’s “date” and the missing catalyst to such annoying behavior previously. Unlike her mother, she is starting out on her love life journey later. She is probably better off for that.

The challenge for me, for any mother, is what to say when. Does today’s second date provide the opportunity to donate wisdom, the benefit of my years? Unsolicited, yes, but shouldn’t a mother do that for her charges, give without being asked or even being appreciated for the offering? So many hats a mother wears, teacher is certainly one of them. A teacher instructs and shares, gracing her students with the benefit of her education, training and life experience, whether the course is English or Accounting and whether the education is received and utilized.

I took the chance, risked rebuff and spoke. An “in” presented itself after a simple line of questioning of plans and whereabouts.
She answered, “I told him I like surprises, so he is picking me up and taking me somewhere. He hasn’t said where.”
“So, he seems interested in you, since he paid attention to what you said you liked.”
“Yeah, I can’t figure out why he does,” she shrugged with a cynical but glowing smile.

I bristled at her statement and wondered why it had to be this way for young women, skepticism and self-doubt, insecurity. Was she being coy or humble? Considering her audience, she didn’t need to make a showing of such virtues or strategies. The mother bear in me overreacted immediately.

“Don’t say that. It’s demeaning to someone I love.”

But then, backing off, I monologued a bit, and she was gracious to listen. I pondered before her attentive eyes: Is it possible for us to develop a healthy love at all with what we are fed by our parents, our culture? I explained to her what my mother told me about sex: Don’t do it until you’re married, boys are only after one thing, and your life will be ruined if you get pregnant. Did I communicate that same defensive posture to her?

I told her the early impression of sex I inherited, one I wrote about on this blog before: women are fortresses and men the invading armies. While the aim of it–precaution–is sensible, especially to young girls of little reference or information from ages 10 to 17, the attitude engendered is one of suspicion and so sex and love are regarded as dangerous.

“The trick is somehow to balance self-preservation and good sense with wonder and openness to some of the best of what life offers. That takes believing in your own worth and risking hurt in exchange for an opportunity to experience euphoric connection with another.”

That was the best I could offer. Fortunately, she is a solidly emerging woman, smart and selective. She has often chosen to be alone rather than be with others who add too little to her life or too much, those toxic relations. But this is new territory, one that tests the mettle of anyone’s constitution to keep one’s head and heart in proper alignment. Generally it takes the burns and bruises of time to calibrate the right give and take, how much and what to sacrifice in exchange for what is gained: the typical cost-benefit analysis applied to almost everything.

She is embarking on this heart adventure much older than I entered the love arena. I was always ready to jump into love and sensuality often and early. My first kiss was in first grade by Artie with the big ears, and even then I felt special. By fourth grade, I developed breasts and the teasing attention of boys. By sixth grade, I longed for the attention of the popular girls who had boys’ silly antics surrounding them and landed my first kiss with a spin the bottle birthday party.

The melt into soft fleshy lips and the scent of another’s closeness, was all it was cracked up to be in my imagination infused with popular lore and far too many books.

By 7th grade, I was going steady with a French kisser and it wasn’t long after that sex entered my life–as both war and weapon. A painful void of information with which to frame a comfortable sexual identity invaded my vision of love up to that time, one concocted from my parents, television, books, songs and neighbors, and fractured it.

Desire and the lure of divinely natural impulses battled fear of heartbreak, exploitation and pregnancy. Sex and love became divorced. And I think it stayed that way for far too many years until I navigated enough relationships to negotiate a re-integration–refashioned and reformulated.

I found that sex and love could be a continuum and an extension of one another. But, ultimately, all winds back to me, my understanding of self in conjunction with others. And not just self-love=ability to love others. That formula glosses over the details, the delicate balance of a hundred or more moving parts, only a few of the major ones being acceptance of humans as largely immutable, education through books and life experience to understand the human condition through behaviors and underlying motivations, and a brave belief in and awe of mystery.

With that in mind, I gave her my best advice–leap, but look both ways before doing so and keep your eyes and ears open. Whether that means something to her or not, I may never know. I still think, however, she has a leg up on me in having waited longer, farther down the life timeline for more brain, body and heart growth. She will have had a longer time living with herself and so a better sense to deal with inevitable disappointment and hurt.

But today will be about exploring and the exhilaration of learning about another–and herself. There will be assessments, inventory taking, chuckling, maybe hard laughs, anxiety and curiosity. There will be self-doubt toying with confidence. The heart will burn apace in the heat of desire and the speed of wonder. And possibly the deep surrender to the womb of the unknown.

It makes me hold my breath and bite my nails for the possibility of the story’s unfolding. I know for certain I will be there for the fallout, great or small. Such is a mother’s love of a daughter, which is nothing if not a devoted practice of kindness and generosity.