The Death of my Ma

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Something I love about this human adventure, is that no matter how many times I have zipped myself into a glorified meat suit, it always occurs as a novelty.  Riveting and shocking and mysterious.  I mean… you’d think I’d be pretty hum-drum about birth and death by now… given that this old soul has been around the damn block enough times to turn to melty butter like the tigers of our beloved, banned children’s book of yesteryore, Little Black Sambo.  I know it’s taboo to talk about Little Black Sambo, circa 2017.  I guess it was a racist book.  But the five year old me had no idea.  She was simply captivated by Little Black Sambo’s hero’s journey– being stalked by tigers and finally rising victorious by tying their tails together, so that they ran circles around the tree he took refuge in, until they smeared into perfectly churned butter.  Which he and his parents (Black Mumbo and Black Jumbo) slathered on their epic, towering stacks of pancakes.

Alas, the death of my mother still comes as a shock.  Even as I type these words, I feel quiet tremors of incredulity that she will not discover this post in her inbox and drink it with her soft, radiant, soul-filled eyeballs.  Her inbox will slowly overflow with unrequited communications, collecting virtual dust until the End of Time.  Dear Sumitra has left the building.  This is as damn near as “at a loss for words” as I’ve ever been.  But as a writer, this tragic wordlessness doesn’t really fly…  So I’m going to raise my sword to the holy heavens and charge onward.  Just sayin’… there’s a lot of pauses and humble deep-dives into silence and stillness over here as I excavate my raw thoughts and feelings on the subject of my mother’s recent exit.

It came as a sudden, crafty plot-twist.  Sure, she had cancer… but Dr. Campbell assured her that it was “the most curable form of cancer”, and that with a piddly six months of chemo therapy, she’d be cancer free for the rest of her life, ready and able to resume all of her previously appointed duties, namely caring for her small and radiant granddaughter.  She almost made it to the halfway point of her treatments.  Then suddenly, she could barely breathe.  She went to the emergency room and they admitted her to ICU, ran a thousand tests and diagnosed her with pneumonia.  After more than a week of heavy antibiotics, she showed no signs of improvement.  More chest x-rays revealed that her lungs were destroyed beyond repair.  Dr. Campbell confessed that it was due to an ingredient in the chemotherapy.  I got a highly disturbing call from the hospital on wednesday, March 15 (my Ma always enjoyed telling me to “beware of the Ides of March), just before 7am, in which a male nurse with some sort of heavy asian accent relayed a cryptic message culminating with the news that my Ma wished to be “made comfortable”.

Made comfortable.  Who knew that those two words could be so laden with razor blades and arsenic.  Jesus.  My heart dropped into my toes, my breath stopped, my stomach twisted up.

But I’m not here to regale all of the concrete facts and stiff, linear logistics.  It’s the enchanting, dim twilight of in-between spaces that matter to me. Gentle impressions and coy whispers from the Beyond within my own hidden reaches.

Once it was determined that God was calling her hOMe, she was all in!  God dammit, she was so young… Sixty-nine.  And a half.  But she was done.  I guess years are only one unit of measurement  of a human life.  The one which is most universally accepted… but in terms of love given and received, extraordinary children born, raised and released into the wilds of a civilized, first world, capitalist culture… in terms of pouring herself forth into myriad eclectic jobs and housing situations…. Friendships devotionally tended… leaves passionately raked… spiritual progress made… lattes savored, chocolate croissants ravaged…. There are endless units of measurement that would indicate a life mission fulfilled.  Except being there to watch her precious granddaughter blossom.  Insert shattered heart icon here.

Deep breath.

I was afraid that her sudden absence would be like my beloved Dan’s– an abrupt departure, with no trace.  For the past five years, I’ve grappled unsuccessfully to communicate with Dan… resolving again and again that this dense capricorn is simply not adept at communicating with etherial realms.  But thank GOD, it’s different with my own mother.  My body is made from hers.  Our hearts are like The Blob.  Spliced units of the same goopy mass of divinity.  I mean, I guess all of our hearts are that… since our deepest truth beyond form is Unity…. But this raw unity is way more exaggerated between mother and daughter.

Loss is the obvious dimension of the death of one’s mother.  Like duh.  But who talks about the profound and holy gains of Her departure?  I’m sure SOMEbody must… but it certainly isn’t a mainstream conversation, as I believe it should be.  If I had a nickel for every time someone numbly regurgitated the socially appropriate words, “I’m sorry for your loss”… No offense if you are one of them.  I know that death is awkward, and not something most of us face head on.  But you could just as easily say to me, “I’m so happy for your gain!”  Or, “Congratulations on your sudden, warp-speed soul evolution!”

My ma left me with a shattered heart.  Well… maybe not quite shattered.  But certainly more than garden-variety “broken”.  At least some Grand Canyon cracks in numerous, significant places.  Enough such that the busted dam of Oceanic Love is screaming through the invisible center of me.  I have officially taken my seat amongst the cream of the ecstatic, God-drunk poets.

She died at just after ten am on Saint Patrick’s Day.  My brother Daniel, Serena and I had all spent the night in the hospital with her.  She was deluged with high doses of morphine, breathing desperately all night.  Morning came, and it was hard to determine when she’d let go.  I had plain old life to attend to, I went to her side, put my hand on her still-warm, beating heart.  I could feel the tremendous effort of her lungs, desperately sucking in air.  I spoke from my heart, “Be free” and “You did amazing” and “I love you.  Always”.  I let go of attachment to being there when she actually left her body for good.  I scooped up my tiny goddess and headed for the parking lot.  Just as I was about to drive away into the crisp, bright, spring morning, Daniel called in tears and said, “Come back up here.”  She had left minutes after we departed.  I’ve since heard that this is a common phenomena.

Her mouth was wide open, her eyes closed.  Her body void of light and life.  What an incredible sight to see my Mama’s empty husk.

I asked her before she left… even before I knew the time was so fucking soon… if she’d please share with me some of her Divine Revelations as she re-emerged into Light-Unbounded.  I can’t remember her response…. but even so, she honored my request.  I felt my crown chakra splayed wide, as though I had splattered across the sky, the entire day of her departure.  And even into the next day.  It was as if I died too.

I did die.   I am still dying.  Raw and skinless.  Churning moosh in a fragile cocoon.

Soon it will be Easter, and I will RISE.

There is more… More revelation, more grief, more transmutation of pain, alchemy of soul, IN-sight.

But this is enough for today.  Serena will soon stir… and my Dear Brother and I have much work ahead of us, sorting through our Mama’s worldly belongings.  Yes, it’s really true– you CAN’T take it with you.  Wink.

Embracing the Endless Desert

Any guesses as to how many luscious, indulgent words my fingers will be privileged to pump out before my Luminous Shrimp cries out from the bedroom and sucks me into the roaring machine of single motherhood?  My guess is not enough to scratch the itch or feel outrageously coherent.  I have seemingly abandoned my post here in Athena Graceland, because Serena has been on an early-waking-bender.  For weeks now.  And the lone shred of something for “myself” has blinked out like a kamikaze star.  Sigh.  The heat is ON.  And the longer I go without writing, the less I know what to even say.  I mean… what does one say when they are being broken down???

Well in THIS moment, it seems almost obvious… One describes the process of being broken down.  Such that it becomes poetry and salvation and wholeness.  Such that when one looks backward at the wilderness of her Unfolding, she might have a deeper understanding of Divinity and Perfection, Healing and Grace and Destiny.

But God… There is so much.  And it feels like chinese water torture to imagine going play by play, ounce for ounce.  So where does that leave me?  In the epicenter of my heart, I s’pose.

I have not had any communication with Ed (Serena’s dada, and the married man I have fought for for four years now) for days.  Today I am pretty damn sure I have given up the fight.  For real.  I know that I am a classic case of the girl who cried wolf, when it comes to the topic of “breaking through” with Ed… And I don’t expect you to believe me.  But I will testify that we have never gone more than a few hours without communicating at least a little bit.  Except for once a few years ago…. and that time, it was painful and dramatic.  But this time, I feel relieved and more whole… Like finally, my life doesn’t feel like it’s got a flat tire or a sinkhole.  I’m not syphoning my life-force into this fantasy world that detracts from the immediate and glorious world I marinate in.  I never imagined this day would come.  Detaching from Ed seemed beyond impossible.  And actually, I guess it IS, since we have a child together.  I guess it’s not ED I’ve detached from… but from the fantasy of someday playing house with him.

Letting go of that rotten fantasy, I land with a sobering thud in the reality that I am an over-stretched and stressed single mama.  Yes, I have been that the whole time…. But I refused to fully admit it.  Part of me was fiercely clutching this other frustratingly intangible life.  No longer.  Now I am here.  Shmoozing with all of my nearest and dearest– Loneliness, Exhaustion, Longing, Confusion, Regret and my all time favorite– DISAPPOINTMENT.  Yeah me and disappointment can’t seem to get enough of each other.

The surface “me” wishes things were different.  And I mean almost EVERYthing.  But the deeper me is actually relieved, because I can’t even get a grip on my identity, and I know it’s because I am dissolving.  And how can one EVER hope to know their Infinite-God-Self, if they are all twisted up around the shards and husks of something less.  Social conditioning and past experiences and self-imposed limitations.  “On paper” (or on the screen, to be more accurate), it looks pretty glamorous– the Opportunity to know my Self…. But in real time, it has been barren and excruciating.  Lonely and hopeless.  Like Jesus wandering the desert for forty days and forty nights.  Except from Athena Graceland, forty days and forty nights seems like a recreational cake-walk.  Over here, it’s more like a paltry stone’s throw from Forever.  I long for some PG-13 man-love.  Just a strong and beautiful and clear soul to hold me and rub my shoulders and smell my hair and cook me dinner and delight in my (dwindling) radiance.  But then I wonder if inviting that in would actually be like tying my own shoelaces together and making me trip all over myself, when what I really need to do is MOVE FORWARD.  I’m afraid that even the most simple and pure intentioned connection could quickly turn complex and haunted.  Because I’m someone who can’t NOT go deep.  And relationships are complex and twisty and jagged… because they arouse our deepest vulnerabilities.

Well there’s a lot I want.  And then there’s my rigorous moment to moment existence.  And the two don’t seem to have too much overlap, so who cares?

I care.

But even still, all I can do is breathe and do my best to hold my own heart as the Infinite Treasure and “do what it takes to feed the children”.

Thank GOD for my friends.  Even though I am navigating such profoundly uncomfortable terrain these days (as many of us are, I must acknowledge… and I pray that sharing MY journey will offer healing to yours.  That my Ultimate Faith may illuminate your own.  That my honesty and willingness will inspire you to face yourself with kindness, curiosity and humor.), I cherish my morning walks with Teri and her little Phoenix.  The healing, honest and spiritually nutritious exchange of voice memos with QuynhyMama.  The ever-irreverent, easy and no-holds-barred, spiritual gangsta sisterhood with Anitra.  The “Cheers-esque communion with the warm-hearted staff at Mother Truckers– the tiny and amazing grocery store a hop and a skip down the road from Ananda.  The hallowed daily check-ins and gift of Listening bestowed my my dear Mother.  God bless her!  Even as she navigates the brambly forest of Cancer and ChimoTherapy, she is still my rock.

Serena is awake.

But I’m satisfied with this cut of sharing.  And I aspire to a more steady linguistic outpouring of this Wild and Enchanted Journey through God’s very creative and ruthless Imagination.

Bless you, for we are all in this together.  And I’m certain you are rockin it over there!

Happiness Flew In… And then…

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I left the door wide open, and my beloved visitor finally flew away.  I knew it was inevitable.  Even if I bolted the door, this quiet, pervasive happiness would have slipped as liquid gold, through the bars of my pretty little cage at Her leisure and whim.  You can’t capture an electrically fresh, bud-bursting spring day in a jar.  But I was amazed and delighted at how long She chose to stay and warm me from deep within.  I should have recorded the days with little tick marks on the wall adjacent to the end of the couch that has a gaping (mostly figurative) indentation from where the heavyweight tag team of my butt and gravity work it over, day upon day.  (I should really consider changing it up and sitting on the other side of the couch, or at the table or on the floor so that I am less of a buzzed zombie… maybe when spring comes.) (Zoiks!, I’m not even through the first paragraph, and I have uttered the forbidden word “should” TWICE!… Honestly, I like to say “should” even more, since it has gone so far out of fashion.  It’s the rebel in me.  Otherwise, what is the alternative?  You just spend way too much time and energy groping about inside, like some new-age dork, to find shiner, more socially acceptable words to say the same damn thing– like– “It would be potentially life-affirming and transformationally potent to whisk my little ass on a romantic getaway to the other end of the couch.”  I mean, sure it’s fun to talk that way.  But sometimes I just wanna get the raw, plain idea out and move on with life.)

And now back to happiness.  And lack thereof.  Actually, I’m not lacking happiness this morning.  But maaaan– the flavor of those days upon days (I think it must have been about a week straight) was soooo delicious.  It was seemingly unconditional… I imagine, the unimpeded flavor of my soul.  It was bright and ecstatically tremulous… a wide open canvas upon which God painted the colorful masterpiece of my days.  And then I got a sore throat and the rain came back and Serena refused her afternoon nap, instead opting to play with the burner nobs on the stove while repeating “no, no, no” and making solid eye contact with me as I chopped delicata squash and collard greens for our soup.  I’m not unhappy now…. But I don’t feel invincible and larger than Life, like I did for that scrumptious honey-moon-lit week.

A highly alluring byproduct of said happiness, is that I had literally NO expectations of Ed (the perpetually unshakable Married-Baby-Daddy-Love-of-my-Life, for those of you new to Athena Graceland), but instead was an unconditional outpouring of generosity, support, appreciation and romance.  Haha, that must have been a nice little heart-spa vacation for him!  I felt so damn whole in this happiness…. that I really didn’t give a hoot about the terms and conditions of my existence.  I just wanted to give love.  I’m pretty sure this inner climate is the natural state of the soul.  I’m pretty sure that I peered through a sacred window into an impending inevitability.  I’m pretty sure this is what we are all stalking, beneath the glitzy veneer of every ambition and hope and choice.  This glorious wholeness.  A profound, profuse generosity sourced by an unending, overflowing sense of fullness.  An unconditional inner brightness that shines on Everything.

Lucky me.  I saw it.  I tasted it.  It is real.  Or at least it WAS.  And now I am on the brink of sick and I wish I could stay in bed and sad Hemingway all day.  Speaking of bed, I just had a flash of a dream from last night.  It involved me trying to get into the swimming pool (to swim succulent laps), but being obstructed by circumstances.  I’ve had a few of these lately.  Which is not surprising.  Because that’s my life.  The swimming pool is a place where I am free, whole, happy, nourished.  I want to swim sooooo bad.  So good?  But…. I am incessantly tethered to my most beloved fourteen month old daughter.  Which is pure grace.  But fuck.  I want to swim.

And speaking of water… now the rain is smashing down from a saturated, pre-dawn sky and singing me a dramatic serenade.  Suddenly all those notions of happiness and other-than-happiness and moments besides right now seem like a foreign language in which I have lost fluency.  Not to mention the heavenly bite of paleo banana bread slathered in chunky peanut butter and salty, grass fed butter that is currently dissolving in my profusely salivating mouth.  This sudden uprising of undeniable nowness doesn’t leave room for much else.  But I must press ON with this gay parade of mind and meaning.  Because writing is my passion.  I simply must squeeze the juice from the simplicity of ISness, and drizzle it into the stiff shot of complexity that is a human life and mind and heart…. stir… and serve you up a cocktail sure to jolt you into a heightened state of God-drunk presence.

Gosh, Serena has been sleeping for twelve hours now… which means that she is due to wake up any second.  I really wanna get these words out into the naked, sprawling corridors of the internet, where a handful of shimmering others might read, enjoy and benefit from them.

But allow me to splash first in the deep, vast waters of microcosmic awareness first.  Ribboned into this swirl of recent happiness, there has been a felt sense of deep peace.  I still feel it, like a full moon reflecting on a softly rippling, nocturnal lake.  I believe these gifts of happiness and peace are a contribution to The World.  I am not an “activist” in the classical sense of the word… nor do I aspire to be one.  But I am pretty sure that the energies that move through me uplift the collective.  Through untrained eyes, my passive stance of raising a tender, bright goddess in the woods, while doing humble, labor intensive jobs and investing in a sprawling bouquet of heart-full relationships might seem like a steaming heap of whoopdie-do.  But it’s NOT.  It’s a lavish slather of uplifting love up in the one heart we all share beneath the wondrous adventure of otherness in which we dance.  Listen– I’m all for Otherness.  A celebratory recognition of Oneness does not impede or negate the glorious play of duality that we are all exploring now.

I’m simply reminding myself and YOU that our lives and especially our LOVE, no matter how seemingly inconsequential and humble, MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  So won’t you please join me, and gaily fling open that cage door at the edge of your identity…. take delight in all of the intricate and fascinating winged visitors who fly in and out at their whim and leisure in the name of Destiny, in the name of Grace…

In the name of Heaven dawning withIN.

Skull Splitting Revelation!

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Athena was born from Zeus’s head.  Everyone knows that.  But what everyone DOESN’T know, is what is born from Athena’s head!  Would you like to know?  Well then keep reading.  This is IT.  When I close my eyes, I’m seeing richly colored, dripping, psychedelic roses spiraling in fractals… but I’m not sure how these energy patterns will translate into a sophisticated patè of language.  All I know is that I haven’t written in ages, because my laptop keyboard stopped typing Rs.  Then it began to refuse giving up Ts, Ys, Us, Is and Os.  If I wasn’t already so broken down by having a baby with a married man with whom I am hopelessly in love and raising her totally by myself, and meanwhile having my own dear mother get cancer, I probably would have been destroyed by the loss of my keyboard.  No, not because of the inability to update my Facebook status!  Because I am a writer, and somehow it hasn’t been the same to cry out into the desolate throes of my (100% post-consumer recycled) notebook.

But my beloved and merciful friend Chandra gifted me a spare keyboard that was just sitting around her house mackin on Kentucky Fried Chicken and hacking advanced sudokus, while secretly lusting to be USED by genius fingers.  And now, here we are.  A match made in Graceland, which in fact IS Heaven’s most beloved annex.  And since we’re on the subject of Chandra, I’ll sing out that she is an answer to a prayer.  And NOT because she gave me her damn keyboard.  Although that was an answered prayer too.  She’s the nutrient dense, stick to your ribs kind of friend, which I’ve been sorely in the market for since God Almighty stationed me out here in the woods with all the detached (and wildly kind) renunciates.  I needed an outrageous friend who has equal parts reverence and irreverence.

I think someday I’ll start a writing school.  And shred the notion of stringent adherence to Topic Sentences and Main Ideas and all the dumb shit they ground into my tightly sealed skull, before by God’s Amazing Grace, it split open and spilled in linguistic rivers onto the endless pages of Athena Graceland.  Sure, it’s grand to have organized thoughts.  To be able to reach out and semi-softly meet the mind of the reader (yes, YOU), and shepherd you to exalted Somewhere.  But… most often that’s NOT how minds work.  Obsessive organization doesn’t reconcile the pulsing myriad dimensions that beckon and burn to be churned by willing eyes and minds.  Maybe I’ll tighten my reigns when I take the plunge into “Profesional-ISM”, and write articles for “respectable publications”.  I’ll make my mind so trim and tidy and presentable.  And people will think I’m so very civilized and they’ll fork over civilized amounts of money so that I can join a country club and take up tennis and Jacuzzi.

But in the mean time, this, folks is the raw, feisty wilderness.  And if you enroll at the Athena Graceland Academy of Writing, you too can claim the flaming authority of your own essential voice and say it with an unapologetically loose and liberated tongue.

I might as well mention that I’m finally reading a book by Hemingway.  I thought since I take occasional delight in poking fun at the notion of “Hemingway Simple” here in Athena Graceland, I ought to know what the hell “Hemingway Simple” actually was.  I’m reading The Sun Also Rises.  And honestly, I find “Hemingway Simple” quite complicated.  And compelling.  I’ve made it to page ninety one, and while I am struck by his masterful ability to move a story forward at a rapid, rhythmic clip, hooking my mind with every glistening string of words and punctuation marks, I will say that I am having to scrape the crusty edges of my seriously limited interest in inhabiting a literary microcosm of tragically casual drunks who talk circles and squiggles around their heartfelt and honest experience.  I’ve spent my whole adult life cultivating the capacity to articulate and embody my emotional intelligence, and often kept company with those who also value and aspire to such integrated presence.  It’s gently frustrating to be held voluntarily captive inside the ancient, sturdy pages of a book full of privileged, careless (though certainly not “care free”) drunks.  I guess that’s the essence of the 1920s.  I s’pose it’s good to keep company with different types… plus I am exploring my passion-drenched craft.  My Ma beseeched me not to strive to become like Hemingway, but to stay true to my integral voice.  Her bright acknowledgment warmed me.  But I’d still like to learn from his flavor of Mastery and become better.  I ALWAYS want to become better.

And praise the Luminous Lord for this unexpected opening into further territory of my recent thought scapes.  Yesterday morning, my mind was ravenous for a spiritually satisfying snack, so I dug deep into the bowels of the brimming notebook in which I immortalized Matt Kahn’s profound, sanctified genius, back in November.  He said that passion is NOT contingent upon doing your dream job or any other explicit external conditions.  Like, I can be as impassioned as I do my cooking and cleaning jobs (grimace) as I would be if I were a famous writer.  Now THAT is some psychedelic shit.  He said passion is the ability to meet each day as a brand new lifetime.

If you’ve ever lived with a one year old, you know that as soon as you clean up the toys they gratuitously splashed all about the living room floor, they swoop in like a Tasmanian Devil to reestablish a state of despicable chaos.  The ULTIMATE zen koan of my current existence is HOW in the Lord’s hella Good name do I pick up Serena’s collection of miniature Bearenstein Bears books for the zillionth time in a day… WITH PASSION???

This is the Mystery of my Existence.  And the Key to the elusive yet obvious door of my Enlightenment.  Can “enlightenment” be possessed?  “My Enlightenment”?  Probably the stiff, robed traditionalists among us would poo-poo that notion.  But at the risk of sounding ignorant and ego-bound, I’m going to vote for measure FY.  Fuck yes.  I can blissfully posess a humble little slice of real-estate in this rightfully glorified state.  And I will wave it with gay ostentacity (Yes, I made up that word!  At the Athena Graceland Academy of Writing, we encourage such brash authority.  As long as it clearly portrays the world tumbling forth from your mind.  Think about it– this is how all language came to be.  SOMEONE took the self-appointed liberty of authority… and all the drunk and slumber-glazed sheep followed along, mindlessly munching cud.) in your blinking, slack-jawed face on the inevitable, reality-splicing day when I embody passion as I put those damn books back in their outrageously shiny, pink pouch.

Did I get carried away?  Totally.  But it was fun.  And I want to live with unhinged, unreasonable and perfectly shameless passion.  Matt Kahn also said “what if THIS (the life you are in, as opposed to the life you oft wish you were in) is what I want and I just don’t know it?”  The more I contemplate this, the more I am certain that this is the Life I want.  Dings, bruises, cleaning jobs and sprawling string of disappointments and heartbreaks included.  It’s pretty great.  I could write a whole blog, if not an odyssey on this topic… I will.  And it will crack you open to the ultimate realization of the sublime perfection of your raw Existence.   But for now, I’ll leave it at this:

Yes, the Life I have IS the Life I want.

How’s THAT for skull splitting revelation?!

To Tell You the Truth…

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Do you wanna know something honest?  I think I let my frustration speak too often with Serena.  Moments of tension and restricted breath, gratuitously spoken with smoke and sparks.  The F-word flies free as a flag at a baseball stadium perched at the edge of the world.  And every time I hear myself express from this agitated state, there is a voice in my head that says, “Athena, you’re gonna be mighty ashamed when SHE starts speaking like this in public domains.”  Yeah.  I’m not proud.  But you know what I AM proud of?  Writing something that makes me squirm.  Risk=Energy=Compelling.  Because let’s be honest– we are ALL a bit crusty and tattered around the edges (but mostly mooshy in the middle).  And it’s thrilling and terrifying to get naked… in a world brimming with people too oft invested in “presenting ourselves”.

But I didn’t bring this up so that I could spin out in philosophical generalities…  I was simply inspired to tell the unflattering truth.  Another dimension of this confession, is that a dominant part of me doesn’t even aspire to be wholesome and clean.  This aspiration seems more like social conditioning than a true read on my internal compass.  Not that I want to be frivolously filthy, either.  I want to be relaxed in my range of expression (while continuing to cultivate patience and a genuinely pure heart).   I don’t want Serena to hear a swear word and fall to her tiny, perfect knees, imagining that the apocalypse is upon us.  Aversion has it’s own malignant sphere of influence.  Still, I could be better.  But it’s a lot to have ZERO breaks from the incessant rigors of parenting.  Listen to me– NOBODY takes my baby off my hands for a goddamn hour (let alone a minute) so that I can go for a sweaty, cardio “prance” (my lax version of jogging), or sink in to a satisfying yoga practice, free from being climbed on, whined at, beseeched for boobie…  It SEEMS like most mothers get SOME relief, SOMEtimes…. Even once a week seems monumental from over here in Athena Graceland.

Sigh.  But I love being with her.  Sometimes my fuse just gets remarkably short and I become a reckless sailor.  Now I’m going to tell you something fabulous about me.  I wonder if it’s actually more risky to speak highly of oneself, than to shine the floodlight on one’s faults.  Self-love might actually be the greatest taboo of all, in a society built on insecurity and perpetual consumption.

For as short as my said fuse can be, I bounce back in a lightening flash.  I am quick to apologize, and quicker to say “I love you.”  My girl will have not a shed of doubt as to how loved, right and good she is.  And if she is anything like her mother, Serena will have no qualms about admitting her mistakes and shortcomings, and compassionately making another choice.  Boo hoo.  She’s awake.  Talk to you tomorrow.

I guess it was kinda good that she woke up… cuz I had the whole day yesterday to observe myself and notice the ratio of impatience to bottomless generosity and nourishing presence.   Though not all days are created equal.  The moment I’m most ashamed of yesterday was when she was having her pre-night-night-time sink bath.  I think she was over tired, since she missed he afternoozie (nap, not tea!).  She kept throwing her “toys” (red plastic tablespoon, cup, rubber ducky) onto the floor, causing gratuitous wetness, and I asked her repeatedly to stop, explaining that I didn’t want water all over the floor.  So THEN, she proceeds to intentionally fling her arm and splash water on the floor!  BRAT!  I ask her to stop.  Nope.  Instead, she does it again.  Making solid, rebellious eye contact all the while.  Wow.  My thermostat soars and bursts.  This is not acceptable.  I grab her squishy little arm and squeeze it.  Hard.  Holding her fierce, brown-eyed gaze, I tell her to STOP.  She pauses.  Before splashing MORE water on the floor.  This repeats a few times before I realize she is just tired and is really telling me she’s done.  Time for some naked pillow diving, honey scented oil on her too-perfect skin, diaper, snowman jammies, and boobie-to-sleep.

It felt horrible to squeeze her little arm.

But mostly I’d nominate myself for Mother of the Millennia.  I give her tons of room to explore the world.  I continuously aspire to see through her eyes of perpetually fresh wonder.  I speak to her as a highly capable and intelligent being.  I listen to her deeply.  I tell her how exquisitely beautiful she is.   Oh, and this one feels especially crucial– I don’t make her behave a certain way in social situations.  I hate it when parents force their kids to respond with the right script… just so they “look good” and avoid awkward moments and uncomfortable feelings.  Yuck.  I pick her up and dance around like a God-drunk earth angel.  I take her outside and let her sit on the earth as much as possible.  (That’s her favorite!)  I encourage her to explore.  I read to her a ton.  I feed her high quality, nutritious food.  And on and on blah, blah, blah.

It really DOES go on and on.  I’m great.  And I’m human.  And sometimes my fuse gets teensy.  Just like my mom’s did.  Back then I thought she was so mean!  Her jaw would clench and she’d say, “God dammit Dawn!” as I cowered.  But here’s what I didn’t know back then– she was way more than just my mother.  She had a whole world of emotions and hopes and dreams and needs and a mountainous heap of responsibilities… in addition to the simple though incessant invitation to be present and loving with her precious little Dawnie-cakes.

People say that you come to understand and forgive your own mother at ever-deepening levels as you walk the path of motherhood yourself.  Yep.  It’s true.  It’s like doubling back and delving into the veins of your very own being and  Life again from an even richer vantage point.  Surfing and mining your own blood and stories from a wiser, more compassionate, loving and clear vantage point.  It is ancestral healing backward and forward.  Building a bridge of Love to a better world for ALL.  I know this is why I am here.

I could be better.  And I WILL be.  As I continue to love my own innocent heart through all that Life is and isn’t.  As I learn and grow and relax into this miraculous, blessed path that unfolds through, as and beyond me.  And I might say a few too many fucks along the way.

Dreaming of Orcas in Winter

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Pushing off the shore… moving into the vast expanse of my mind, heart, Life.  I tingle.  I want to be extraordinary.  And in an instant, this desire turns to pressure and collapses in on itself.  Instead I’ll just be me.  Honest.  Curious.  Optimistic.  Ever enchanted by the weird, wild ordinariness of being a human being in a world of endlessly creative, disguised divinity.

That’s the macro.  The climate of my inner life on this deep, dark, quiet morning.  I just stopped to pick a booger.  It was sticky and I rolled it into a little ball and flicked it across my living room.  It took a few tries to launch it.  I’m embarrassed to admit that.  But the naked truth is that I am a booger picker, and you might as well know.  That’s the micro.

My Ma has cancer.  That’s the burning bush I beat around in my last blog.  Still waiting for the said bush to speak Gospel to me.  But pretty sure it will.  In the mean time, I’ve had two and a half weeks to digest this information.  And trust me, I’ve been all over the map.  I think my favorite emotion has been self-pity.  Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that too… since SHE is the one suffering.  But that’s the bizarre thing about “otherness”… someone right beside you can be undone in pain, and you really have no idea… allured instead by the glow of my own mediocre struggle.  Frown.

My Ma says she’s not “in pain”, per se… just exquisitely uncomfortable.  Mostly exhausted, and worst of all ITCHY.  Desperate to climb out of her skin.  I witness her experience from the outside, and it’s like watching her through a thick pane of glass.  My dad used to work at the MGM casino in Reno.  They kept a doped-up male lion on the family entertainment floor, and you could pay to get your photo taken with this poor, sleepy beast.  At five years old, I found this thrilling and we did.  The “secret” was a thick pane of glass between us and the Mighty One, which wasn’t perceptible in the photograph.  We had to wait a few excruciating DAYS for the photo to be processed… which pressed me into the grill of searing anticipation.  I died a few times waiting.  And then, gotta love ole Bart Horwitz (my dad)… He was supposed to go downstairs on a break and collect the picture… but he never did.  Over time, my desire for the fruit of this frivolous, exploitive adventure shriveled and returned to sacred nothing.  I learned early not to “hold my breath” when it came to my dad’s flimsy word.

Hence the frivolous origin of my metaphor of thick glass between “one” and untouchable dimensions of “otherness”.  I find it tragic.  Because I’ve been on both sides of the glass:  the one being ripped apart by loneliness, despair, some unbearable shade of pain…. Hoping to find relief in being witnessed… to no avail… And the one blinking, helpless as She Who Gave Me Life, tears miserably at her own flesh.  Oh the kaleidoscopic Mysteries of Existence….

You might not give a hoot about astrology… but I do.  And since this IS Athena Graceland, after all, I’ll report that Saturn’s round, dimpled ass is sitting on my gently beaming moon right now, which creates a mood of solitary struggle.  The sort of suffocating, internal atmosphere that grinds one down to beautiful, shimmering dust.  In the name of Ultimate Revelation.  It’s *not* glamorous.  But totally necessary.  And if you don’t want to speak in cosmically persuaded tongue, that’s cool.  Let’s just say that as far as seasons of Life go, it’s a cold, dark winter over here.

But the beauty of living out such a grueling season, is that there are contrast-carving days such as yesterday, which bloom as bright, delicious hints of spring.  By some unsayable Grace, the leaden weight in my heart lifts… I unhinge from the need for my Life to be anything other than it IS.  This is fresh pressed ecstasy.  I was at peace with my Ma’s fate, whatever it may be.  Peel back the layer of clutching at permanence, and being so close to the possibility of death is exciting.  It clarifies and vivifies Life.  It seduces forth more textures of whispering Divinity, laced in Everything.  I can feel the holy, smiling warmth of “The Other Side”, as my Ma likes to refer to that easier dimension of Heaven, where Light is not tethered to such laughable density.

Gosh, I sure can get lost in the endless dimensions of my mind!  I was telling you about the ease of yesterday.  I did an hour of paid cleaning at my Ma’s group house while Serena napped in the car.  I felt free.  Life was reduced to the simplicity of scrubbing a filmy shower with the green, abrasive side of a sponge and homemade vinegar-water with tea tree and lavender oils.  My large hands squeezed into small, orange rubber gloves.  When I finished, I laid on my back on the gravely driveway as Serena continued to snooze, texting with Ed… deciding on which day he would visit.  We agreed on Moonday.  The day after Christmas.  I felt excitement swell inside.  Danger.  Like looking into the eyes of a tiger, this fragile feeling could so easily snap in the jaws of devastating disappointment.  But like the archetypal Fool, I softened, letting it all be, as I danced after the rose at the cliff’s edge.  I love Ed and I want to spend time with him.  I relinquished the urge to be in control of our relationship and “the future”.  (Which I spend a lot of time and energy attempting to manipulate in hopes of “getting comfortable” and feeling “okay”.)

Then a sliver honda crunched the gravel driveway and spit my Ma out, fresh from another doctor appointment, and less nine vials of blood.  She was high on pumpkin spice latte, which made her behave like her former self!  Full of energy and good humor.  (These days, she mostly exists in a dull state of exhaustion, molded to the shape of her beige recliner, dispensing frequent apologies for her wilted state.)  I lapped up every precious second we were blessed to share.

Lots of other stuff happened too.  (Didn’t the literary precision of that last sentence bring you to your beautiful knees?!?!)  All profoundly ordinary, yet glistening with a sassy hint of revealed divinity.  This is what happens after death.  Suddenly there is new space for Truth to beam through the veil.  No doubt this is what Leonard Cohen meant when he sang, “There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the Light gets in.”   Death upon sweet death cracks apart the ego’s defenses to the blazing Reality of Light.  Slowly, over time, in my case…and perhaps sometimes all at once.  (Yikes!)

I don’t want to deluge you in the mundane details of my awesome existence, but I can’t skip the part where Serena and I drove to the cow dairy to procure a half gallon of raw milk for my Ma… we left the car running, intending to be quick.  Three calves rested in a bed of hay, adjacent to the milk room.  The smallest one, a baby bull, stood up, spindly hind legs first, and came to the fence to say hi.  He let me scratch his neck!  Then a bigger girl came over and licked my hand with her thick, coarse tongue.  My heart turned melty as they gazed at us with their radiant, wide, brown moon eyes.  I thought I’d never wash my barnyard stained hands.

I don’t know if I’ll feel as right and free today.  Serena woke too many times last night.  Then I awoke at almost four am from a dream of orcas.  It was nighttime.  I rode a ferry and they danced elegantly in the dark water alongside the boat.  I called out to them, “I LOVE YOU!!!!”  When our boat docked, they approached and let me pet them.  I was cautious at first, in their mighty presence.  Then I relaxed into trust.  This dream exploded my crown open and flooded me with infinity and stars and a feeling of pulsing awe.

I am ready for whatever shades of Grace today bestows.

I’m Back. With a Heart Freshly Shattered.

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But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

T’is the east, and Athena Grace LMNOP is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. . . .

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

Yes my Beloveds, I, Athena Grace LMNOP am back… Mainlining Heavenly brightness to your heart and mind with renewed, impassioned, whitewater currents!!!  I didn’t mean to be away this long… but for the month of November, I spearheaded a small online group committed to writing a poem a day for the entire month (which also entailed the grace of reading each others poems). This endeavor, to which I was fiercely committed, gobbled up every single spare second of my incessantly demanding existence.  And then some.  But the good news, is that I rocked it.  And I mean smoking’ gun style.  I wasn’t sure if I could still write poetry… it had been so damn long.  But I guess a poet is just what I am… cuz when I touched pen to naked page, it just poured out like pee and poop.  An essential byproduct of living with an open, ever-curious and hungry heart.  (I dare you to demand that I share some of my latest poems here in Athena Graceland!!!)

Then came December.  Then came Athena Grace drawing in a hella deep breath.  And releasing said breath.  As it turns out, the day that will live in infamy is actually DECEMBER SECOND, not the seventh.   That was the day my blood turned to cold, white lightening.  The day that contained the precise, lucid moment when I faced the possibility of losing my Ma way sooner than I ever imagined.  

Actually, for the past few years, I have imagined losing her on a semi-regular basis, so that I never take her warm, luminous presence in my life for granted.  Despite my “impermanence exercise”, parents still occurred as immortal… probably because they are the ones who have been a constant since before the beginning…  Anyway, I give myself an A+ for savoring time with my Ma.  But that didn’t  make the semi-sudden threat of losing her any more gentle and delicious.  

Last week, she asked me not to blog about it.  I think she might have changed her mind by now… but just in case, I shall remain vague and elusive.  This *could* be considered poor form… to evade the jugular, ignore the bling-clad, neon pink elephant on the page.  But, as the self-proclaimed Picasso of the literary domain, it is my prerogative to break rules.  Especially if it is the only way that I am able to show up for my self-ascribed literary duty at this time.  So let’s explore how I can olympic figure skate around this enticing elephant in mother’s clothing, and still win the GOLD.  And when she’s ready, I have unpublished blogs waiting in the wings… so you can taste the recent rainbow of my heart as destroyed by Kali Ma herself.  

Ok, so which burning bush shall I beat around?  Do you want to hear about “Toot”?… A book I recently checked out of the library “for Serena”.  It’s about farts, and I was SO excited to read it to her the second we got home.  I could barely get the words out, I was laughing so damn hard.  She had no clue what was going on.  Or I could tell you that Serena’s new favorite food is spirulina!  Yes, it has taken the lead, over sauerkraut, beef and dill pickles!  Or that I was planning to cut down my own christmas tree.  The first tree of my adult life.  Yes, I’m thirty six and I haven’t had a christmas tree since I was a disgruntled seventeen year old, living “at home”.  Whoa.  I felt conflicted about taking the life of an innocent tree… I was gonna try to ASK the tree permission.  But I doubted my ability to talk to trees… and my heart clenched when I thought about executing this indulgent murder.  Then on sunday evening, Serena and I were out walking and stumbled upon a PERFECT tree that had already been slaughtered, and was just laying in the mud, dying a slow, tragic death.  A tenacious, modern-day pioneer woman, I hoisted her up on top of Serena’s stroller and she wafted piney perfume all the way home.  How’s THAT for amazing grace?!  For my next modest miracle, I shall pull innovative decorations out of my ass!… I could tell you that I’ve always had a mental block against Shakespeare… but reading the snippet of Romeo and Juliet at the opening of this blog has tickled my poetic sensibilities.  I can see myself diving into the oceanic depths of his literary genius and being born again.

Nah.  I’m gonna stick with the enticing meat and potatoes on my heart’s plate. I still dunno if my Ma will stay or go.  I guess we never know, even when we imagine we do.  And this, my friends is a gorgeous crucible of human existence.  But touching the possibility of life without her, I have turned back toward Ed (my married baby daddy), and am clinging with renewed fervor.  I had made such strides in letting go… I have mixed feelings about this “regression”.  There is such a stubborn fighter in me.  I have loved my fight for Ed.  I have fought hard for “The Dream of US” (That’s the perfect tittle for my book about falling hopelessly in love and making a baby with a married man as a ruthless, spiritual crucifixion!… (and Resurrection, I hope…) for four years.  And some essential and deep part of me is… fulfilled?… by engaging in this impossible battle.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been on my knees, blood and tear soaked, asking myself if I might want to consider choosing a more intelligent fight….

But… It means something to me that we have a child together.  And I *wanted* to create that “forever” bond with Ed, because our love is boundless and eternally compelling.  We are able to merge and taste a rare, pure unity.  This has kept us going in the face of our excruciating circumstances and inexcusable humanness.  Relationships oughtn’t be so disposable as they have become in our contemporary, strip mall, ravenously consuming society.  Oh Virtuous Athena… where does that leave his marriage then?  Fuck, I don’t know.  I got myself in a hopeless tangle.  If I had a shiny, gold Sacajawea dollar for every time I felt suffocated by the claustrophobic trap of my choices in Love… scrambled desperately to find the glowing Exit sign… only to discover there AIN’T one… 

The only thing even resembling an Exit sign is stopping dead in my desperate tracks, putting my hand on my heart and speaking “I LOVE YOU.”  Over and over and over and OVER again.  In the face of Life’s panoply of tragedies, colossal disappointments and triumphs alike.  This morning, as I was leafing through my precious (100% recycled!) notebook, I revisited a few potent nibbles of the notes I took when I heard Matt Kahn (my spiritual teacher) speak in Berkeley last month.  This one leapt off the page: 

“When the ego unravels, you will always feel alone.”

I became wildly jazzed…. Something fabulous might actually be occurring beneath the surface of this opulent buffet of tragedy and ache.  Like maybe I actually have a chance to realize a deeper cut of the God (Love) within me, and within ALL.  Like maybe the greatest blessing of my Existence, is that I can’t find the infernally blazing Exit sign… and that the pain can be excruciating.  That there is no one to catch me when I fall…. and instead I land with a clumsy, shattering thud, right in the stark and holy center of my Self.  Maybe it is fantastic that I can’t reassemble the broken shards of my heart and life.  

I must be saying something true, because suddenly I could cry.

It’s six fifty am.  I hear Serena stirring in the bedroom.  

Well, I’m glad to be hOMe.  I’ve missed you.   

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