Saturday, May 28, 2011

Children of a Lesser Mom

They rhyme in rhythm
and compound the energy
surrounding them.
They frolic in the fray
astounding them
and receive the love that
is handed them.
They usher words into gaps
where silence drowned them
giving voice and sound to them.
They seek truth  from the lies
that were bound to them
knowing it can be found when
they are on this earthly ground
though much is confounding them.
Their laughter is joy profound
and I, me, am humbly gifted 
to simply be around for them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happiness is Absurd and Vice Versa

In Greek mythology, the gods condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

Sisyphus, what a complicated soul, destined to toil, day in day out, rolling that heavy bolder to the top, only to watch it fall down again, knowing he would open his eyes the next day and face the same fate. Was he a laborer, feeling as if he ended each day no further ahead or did he find a divine enlightenment in his quest to shoulder to boulder on his shoulder, to prove he was able to harness his strength to defeat the expectations of punishment bestowed upon him?  Did he win? Did he prove them wrong by sheer willpower?

If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. Homer goes on and on as to the reasons why Sisyphus became the futile laborer of the underworld. There is espionage, kidnappings, bargaining, deceit and so forth. Homer reported that Sisyphus, the conqueror, had managed to put Death in chains. But Pluto intervened, sending the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of the conqueror.

This did not stop "the Conqueror" from riding high on his reputation.  He proceeded to get himself all caught up in love and jealousy and shit until he created an insidious test for his wife to prove her love for him. Uh yeah, that didn't work out so well;  so hello, he found himself once again in the underworld. Then he got like totally pissed off by the lack of human love so he obtained permission from Pluto (who is not even a planet anymore) to return to earth for the explicit purpose of chastising his wife.

Lesson I am still learning:  Never allow yourself to operate out of anger, bitterness or revenge.

But alas, once on earth, he enjoyed the water and sun, warm stones and the sea and he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. He lived for many years facing the curve of the gulf, the unpredictable sea and the predictable cycles of the earth. The god's became angry and a decree was in order.  Mercury would seize the imprudent man, literally by the collar, leading him back to his station at the bottom of the mountain with a heavy rock awaiting him.

It is well believed Sisyphus was a hero as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. Or is it? Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, it is said one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands.

At the very end of his long effort measured by depth without time, the purpose is achieved. Much like the feeling I have when I am rushing to get my kids out the door in the morning; the toil, the sameness and the insanity of it all.  At the end of the evening when the fucking enormous rock rolls back down, I have to ask myself, do we really need to discuss why we put our pajamas on every single night? I have to get up tomorrow because I need to push an enormous boulder back up a mountain. Have a little respect for that and just do what I say..........okay?

One must be careful though for a face that toils so close to stones could become stone itself (which obviously makes me think of Botox, even though it is not relative to this posting whatsoever.)  One must be superior, or at the very least, equal to his fate and stronger than his rock. For fate, stones, boulders, daily mindless tasks are meant to make us overcome our obstacles and live our truth.

In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus writes. "When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy rises in man's heart: this is the rock's victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism. One does not discover the absurd without attempting to write a manual of happiness. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness."

It resonates with me, these images of earth, these imagined ideas of what I am  supposed to be doing today, just today, just roll that rock and keep on rolling but then I realize the very idea of that is truly insane.  My third eye, the one that can truly see, cannot see past the daily toil to realize why I have been given, nay blessed, with these particular toils.

My kids were recently told by their dad that the bible says God only punishes "those he loves the most". To which his mom, their Grandma nudged him, and laughingly replied, "then God must REALLY, REALLY love your daddy".  Needless to say, I have had some difficulty processing that philosophy.  Where is the accountability for the crime he committed? 

Going a step further, dad tells them of a grand life they will live when he gets out of prison.  He will buy land and begin farming, organic farming nonetheless.  He will purchase a house up north for hunting and fishing.  How will he do this with no money, a felon, convicted of stealing from an employer?  Is it just more of the same, his endless stream of unrealistic consciousness,or will someone step in to help him.  Probably the same people who have refused to offer any help or assistance to his kids while he is away.

The only time he provided was when he succumbed to  a desk job. That was his great burden.

As you can see, I am still working on the bitterness and resentment part but unlike the past, when I have these thoughts, they are quickly dismissed.  I no longer allow myself to wallow in the stress or struggle against the tide for the great boulder has been placed upon my shoulders, and mine alone.  I will carry it, push it, attempt to beat the hell out of it, or find another way around it to survive.   

Caymus goes on to write, ".. there is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is, but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that silent pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death."

"I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Honestly, as I write this, I understand why Sisyphus was happy.  He took the long road.  He wasn't afraid to work hard each and every day.  He didn't desire a shortcut to luxury or wealth the way my children's father did in his pattern of shirking the burden of responsibility, relying on his mom to bail him out and basking in that cross generational bondage that held him to his mother when she desperately clung to the one child she believed would make good.

But in a hairpin turn, with no nod to proper segue whatsoever, I praise my time with him for we bore three beautiful souls, the very ones I am privileged enough to struggle with each and every day and I know, beyond time and depth or depth and time that MY fate was created by me.  

How appropriate I should sit in front of Oklahoma City's sculpture of Sisyphus with my children, feeling futile, knowing hopeless is or could be but a day or perhaps an hour away, if I let it. But these are my greatest gifts, missing my eldest, but with us in spirit. It is an absurd happiness in the midst of the happiest absurdity I could possibly imagine. Can you see it?

The four of us in Oklahoma City, missing #1 Son, in front of Sisyphus.

What a sight it is.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Paths of Destruction

The New Testament speaks of the wide path of destruction we are offered in our lives versus the narrow path we should adhere to in order to reach the gates of heaven.

So simple, so clear, so much easier to walk along a wide path; though I tend to prefer narrow paths that prevent me from having to walk side by side or in large groups. I love the solitude of strolling along the edge of a beach, leaving friends behind while I drink in the sun, allow the wind to curl my hair and delight in the squish of the sand between my toes.

But gheez, we all know, I have not walked the narrow path as set forth in the book of Matthew.  I walk the path my mama always told me to walk.  She would say just start walking and if you find a bunch of big boulders and shit, nay stuff in your way, then turn around. But if the path opens up to you without a lot of obstacles, six-pronged forks, hairpin turns and perilous falls to your certain demise, then by all means, just keep on walkin'.  Didn't matter how wide or narrow.  Didn't matter if it appeared to be the high road or the low road, for deception lies in preconceived notions.  Just walk.

With that said, actually walking that narrow path between the vast, scary ocean and the solid ground beneath my feet literally summarizes my existence.  If I step too far into the water, then I am solidly screwed for I can't swim and I do not like sea creatures of any kind, not even the little Nemo clown fish.  I don't want to be there but once I'm in, it is very difficult for me to get myself out.  However, if I stay put, on the solid yet sandy side - I will prevail.  I may not last very long as we all know what happens with castles built in sand but I will remain on my journey and wake up each day to move closer to the purpose for which I am here.

First order of business then - figure out my purpose.

Last week, while in Oklahoma City, I was able to visit with a wonderful friend from my long ago past.  She and I started out in the corporate world together, both hired around the same time in our late twenties, both naive and green, both single mom's to little boys who were the same age and both ready to set the world on fire. 

We didn't realize it back then but we were smart.  Really, really smart.  During our visit, we remembered words we used to teach each other, plans we made to change the direction of our company (which never materialized) and choices we made to change the directions of our lives (which did materialize, in the seemingly most interesting and fascinating of ways.)

She married a wonderful man who had two boys of his own.  They built a life together, raised those boys, had financial security and did all they were supposed to do to be good parents.  She rose to the top of her industry and is close to retirement with her handsome man complete with a place in Arizona and a family chalet in the mountains of Santa Fe.

I married a wonderful man, later divorced him out of boredom then married another man, had three more kids, moved to Wisconsin, got another divorce and am now raising the whole brood while the ex is serving time at federal camp "good time" for felony fraud.  I rose to the top of my career as well but retirment is not a word I will entertain for many, many years to come.  I struggle with the burdens and sometimes I breakdown from the sheer load of it all. I told her of nearly losing my second son, The Commando, after his dad went to prison. And I have no handsome man or mountain chalet anywhere near or far, not even with a telescopic lens.

She understood the agonizing story I told her of watching as they took The Commando from me and she lauded my bravery in not stepping in to snatch him up and take him home.  She knew how deep I had to dig to go through with this measure of intervention on a child who was raging, creating his own rath of destruction.

Then she told me how her son, the one who is the same age as my #1Son is strung out on drugs, committing crime, jobless, nearly homeless and still hasn't hit rock bottom. All three of their boys went down the same path of destruction my brothers chose.  She knows, just as I knew with my brothers, this will likely end in death or jail for each of them.

One would think my son would have been the one to fall into the deep end with the crazy life I created for him. Instead he is centered and good, thoughtful, hard-working, loyal and kind.

One would think her son would have benefited from a loving relationship, financial security, all the trappings of a solid, centered life.

But one can never know how these things turn out.

Just as it has been for my life, the edge of that water is always so close at hand, or at foot as the case may be. It is quite easy to fall in, to fall out, to fall over until you find yourself going down the road too wide. Wrong choice of friends, basic wiring of the brain, just a tiny slip and you are cast out into the raging currant.  Especially when it comes to drugs.  Drugs are as vast as the ocean and every bit as deep.  The longer you try to keep your head above water, the more drugs you will need to stay above sea level. Then you are caught in a whirlpool of sharks, waves, wind and three-headed sea monsters from the deep that will pull your ass under and keep you there until you grow fins and gills and breath it in just to survive.

I drifted off, into the analogy of the deep as my friend was sharing her heartbreaking news. I asked all the questions I could ask from someone who had experienced this many times over. But there was one question remaining. One that had never been asked, not even of my parents.

I asked if she knew what happened to him?  Could she tell me what went wrong?

It was then this beautiful soul, who gifted me so often in our times of abandoned youth, deliberately placed the most powerful gift of all in my hands, in my heart and in my mind. It was wickedly deliberate, because she is brilliant enough to know exactly what I needed to hear. She lit her words and then set back to watch the fuse burn until she could see the shrapnel, tearing through my brain and systematically removing all of my fears of being a single parent with a crazy life.  She obliterated my doubts and uncertainty for what the Commando and I went through.

She told me she could look back and see the exact moment when she lost her son to drugs.  She said she hadn't been strong enough to do what I did when she had the opportunity, when he was young enough still, to save.

And just like that, I remembered my purpose.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Dance of the Divine

As I enter the clearing at the top of the universe, I have to repeat to myself, you wanted this, you asked for it, you wanted this, you asked for it.  And yet, even in this moment, I still fear my own truth.

I love that word, not Truth as you might have expected, but the word, Still.


For I know I must sit still long enough to receive it, that which is my truth.

But sitting still is not easy for me.  I have a pattern, created very early in my years, of growing tired of things, places, people and circumstances.  My pattern is to let them go. Run Jenny Run.  Run like the wind.  Change is needed to fuel me and I am hungry for change.

Many friends, husbands, relationships, jobs, goals and dreams have succumbed to this dance of mine.  It is a ten year cycle.  For each, it is ten years - then done.  I only very recently stopped to count the number of instances in relationship to the number of years for each and I was duly startled.  It is clearly ten years. That's pretty much all I am good for.

Except for my children and a precious few who have survived, circumvented or otherwise put up with the faults known as my ten year limits.

I have always counted myself blessed with bountiful friends, more than any one person should deserve but this realization has awakened me to my truth.  I can be difficult, feisty, sometimes mean, but that is the armor I have used for all these years to drive the chafe from the wheat.

As I slide head first toward 50, I don't care for trivialities.  I don't cotton to a huggy, kissy kind of emailish, girlfriendy type of love. I need to know the people I carry with me into this last 50 years (God willing) of my life are the ones who will listen to my stories over and over again and wipe the shit off my ass-ignation when I've crossed yet another line. These people need to get me and most importantly, they need to know I get them. I've got them. I will hold them and wipe off their ass-ignations as well.

I have met or rekindled some relationships with true angels recently, and I have been awakened to the power of selfless love, sacrifice and bravery.

Robyn - meeting you in our girl's kindergarten class - how could I possibly have known you would reveal yourself to me in a time of my greatest need. You are the epitome of the belief that Australians are the nicest people on earth. Oprah said it, so it must be true and I love you - you are a divine Goddess.

Megan - strong, tough bitch, survivor, Amish in all the right ways, not Amish in all the right ways, loving and supportive. You are family and I am proud to be with you as we gather up our strength and conquer our worlds. Never lose touch with your power. Harness it and face your challenges head on but don't ever forget, I will always be here for you, as long as you let me borrow your cool jewelry.

Lacey - amazing mom, truly.  The best I have ever seen.  You let your brilliant son go off and sit with the big kids because that is where he finds his truth; yet you, like so many really good mothers, never lose sight of him. He is a challenge, just as I have experienced with my own but your calm balances him. You have risen to the top baby girl.  Stay the course. I love your man and your boys.  You have done well, your dad is proud of you too.  I can see his spirit in both of those boys.

Nick - So much to overcome but equal parts brilliant mind and loving heart to drive you through. Keep your eye or perhaps both eyes on the life you want. You are perfectly formed and made to be exactly who you are by God's own hands. So young still but so mature.  My kids all told me you reminded them of their dad's fiance's younger brother who is gay.  They don't know Ryan is gay.  Their dad would never allow them to know that. So essentially, their opinion was formed based on pure universal intuition. What that tells me is - fuck the conservative right wing, anti-gay, mostly closeted homosexual naysayers.  If kids can see it, then it is real. But you and I knew that already as does your dad.  You are loved.

Debbie - you are in my mind's eye, the utmost of the Divine Goddesses along with Betty Sue and yes, even your mom, my beloved Aunt Sarah.  I know there is bickering and a feeling that you are the one left to handle everything but I witnessed that legacy being passed down to you.  I remember your mom showing up to visit Granny every night on her way home from work. Then I remember you driving your mom to work every day and coming with her to visit Granny every night. Adding to that burden, I recall you picking me up and driving me to work at the age of 14, exposing me to the corporate environment and ensuring your employer I could run the front desk and handle the mail.  God, how I loved that summer. YOU made it all happen, you gave me the confidence at such a young age to know I could handle anything.

You have to face it, you are the one who stepped up to take responsibility when it was handed to you but you also have to remember, when it comes to those you cannot help, you need to let go. Calls from family who have gotten themselves into trouble are not your responsibility.  Don't feel as if it all falls on you because you must replace your mom. You can choose to tough love those people who may be taking advantage. Doing things that go against your judgment will make you bitter.  Helping people who struggle with addictions will only keep them addicted.  Be happy my beautiful cousin. You have done more than anyone else in our family can claim.  You have raised two children who will not go down those paths to destruction.  YOU did that. My mom always used to tell me how proud she was of you to raise your kids the way you did.

And trust me when I say, she never said that about anyone else, not even herself.

You are my hero. Yes, we have both made some bad choices in our lives, with respect to love and relationships but we seem to keep the ultimate prize in mind - that of the well being of our children.  So please be happy for all you have. Be grateful for Megan and Jeremy's goodness for that is the ultimate true test of a mom.  You have raised good people who will go on to raise good people. If you do nothing else in your life, that is enough for have broken a chain that was wrapped around your neck at birth and you have set free a new regime that will effect generation upon generation to come. As I said, my hero.

I hope you can visualize your burdens and blessings the same. My mom loved you and had a special place in her heart for you.  I obviously loved you, following you around in my childhood and cherishing every moment with you. Now I love Megan and Jeremy and I see my kids growing up to love them too. Megan opened her home to us and taught us to have conversation instead of TV.

And your son, who is preparing to welcome his first child, thought enough of us to sneak some money into my purse so I could spend a little more on the kids while in Oklahoma.  I found it, asked Megan about it, cried, made Megan cry but then believed her when she hugged me and told me how much all of you love all of us.

When I took the kids to Celebration Station, I told them this was money Jeremy gave us because he loves us, you all love us. It is hard for me to accept handouts.  I know that is why Jeremy secretly placed it in my purse, for my stubborn pride would have prevented accepting it.  He and Shelbi have a baby coming for goodness sakes. I can't believe I used to change that boy's diapers.

It is true in that the subtleties of love speak the loudest.

This is my truth. I know who I love. I know who loves me (us). And that is all I need.

To Amanda, Meghan, Cerese, Terese, Penny, Kim, Katt and countless others I wasn't able to see on this trip, please know I love you.

Standing at the top of the universe makes it so much easier to see. I love my Burt (Bird) and precious few others for it is not quantity but quality that makes up the Dance of the Divine.

And for those of you who have known me more than ten years and continue to dance in my circle, God bless you for I know my expectations are well beyond any reasonable divine expectation.  And for those I have driven away, please know this is not about you.  It is my truth and mine alone. But we shall dance nonetheless.

Shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your bootie, shake your bootie.

So much more to say about my trip back to Oklahoma City last week but for now, shaking by bootie seems to be an appropriate end.