A Light-hearted Cancer Confessional

Ok, now that I’ve let off the first layer of existential-literary steam… what do I have to say?  

There are so many things I long to tell you….

Like what a terrible word “cancer” seems to be.  I don’t like telling people “I have cancer”, because I think in most minds, people interpret that as “I am storming Death’s Door”.  And really, that is NOT the idea that I’m hot on planting in the minds of the masses.  But maybe cancer came to visit me so that I could help clear its Name.  Maybe cancer is ready to be collectively imbued with more empowered impressions.  Like “my check engine light just flashed on, and I’m gonna have a good look under the hood”.  (Unfortunately, I did not invent that cleverness, the oncological nutritionist I am working with used that analogy in her video this morning.  But it’s good, huh?)  

So yes, they confirmed tumors in my lungs.  Four.  The largest was 3cm.  But I am imagining them SHRINKING.  

I don’t believe that I have a death sentence.  I believe that I am lucky enough to have the searing motivation to do a complete overhaul of my life and wellbeing.  And I am willing.  I am supported beyond my wildest dreams.  

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!…. to the droves of people, both who know me and who do not know me personally, but have heard my story and showered me in money, prayers and love… Thank you for letting my life and the lives of my children matter so deeply to you.  The truth is that it has not mattered to me as much as it does NOW.  Since my teens, I have entertained suicidal notions, because IT’S HARD DOWN HERE.  But number one, MY KIDS NEED ME.  And number two, I *MUST* become KNOWN as a writer whose words touch the hearts and minds of the masses, and liberate the unsightly though wholly lovable humanity we all share.

But I don’t want to waste my whole free hour talking about dumb old cancer.  Ooops, sorry cancer, you’re my new best friend!  Maybe even my torrid Lover.  You will unleash unprecedented wisdom that is now ripening within my soul and I will humbly decant it for ALL.

But for now, I need to tell you what it was like to go into the hospital in unbearable pain, my stomach a tight balloon.  I had NO idea what was in store for me.  Thank GOD.  After a panoply of tests, a semi-circle of surgeons informed me that my colon was completely blocked and they were going to remove a huge chunk of it and then reattach it, so that it was sticking out the side of my belly and I would henceforth poop into a bag.  At least for a few months until I healed enough for them to reunite it with my butthole.

This was THE MOST shocking moment of my life.  

In fact as I tell you about it, my pulse is rising and it’s hard to breathe.  But I want to tell you!  Guess what I did after they dropped that bomb on me….

I asked if I could call Giordano.  

I needed some kind of reality check because the ground had just dropped out from under me.

Surprisingly, he was a bit reassuring (that’s usually not his forte) and he told me to go ahead and surrender to their protocol.  (I had doubts about this!  I still believed that there must be a mistake…)

So they strapped me to a long, hard table, doped me up and sliced me apart.  When I came to again, my body was literally thrashing like a wild animal, against my restraints.  Slowly, I was able to see out of my own eyes again and my understanding washed back in in little spurts.  I thought I must be dreaming.  The circumstances were way too obscure to believe in.  Nurses busied themselves around me, but none provided the emotional support I was desperate for.  They told me (in Italian) to sleep.  This seemed ludicrous.  But then I guess the morphine kicked in.

When I awoke again, it was to a new life.

And here’s the most outrageous detail… the moment I first saw my colon peeping out at me from the left side of my belly.  Are there even any words for such a moment???  Being wide awake… and seeing your insides on the outside.  I guess I was terrified.  This terror slowly dissipated… at an impressive rate.  And now I feel pretty damn cool about my colon sticking out.  It’s a really exquisite organ… deeep red and full of shy, succulent folds.  It doesn’t have a lot of sensation.  It bleeds easily when I clean it.  Does that creep you out?  Yeah, our mortality is such a discombobulating topic.  These vulnerable bodies.  Tender armor of legions of angelic warriors come to realize themSelves amidst a crushingly rugged backdrop.  

Speaking of mortality, I need to confide in you what it’s like to face mine.  That’s no frivolous small talk, eh?  Have you ever sat still in the center of THAT one?  

During the days, my energy is high.  I am eating such a clean and nutritious diet at this point, that I feel amazing.  I am also riding on a luminous magic carpet of prayers and spiritual protection, which is palpable and precious.  I am busy with my children, appointments, research, making the most of delicious nibbles of down-time…

And then comes night.  In the solitary, silent darkness, my own shadows and hidden fears slither in and dance mockingly about me.  I wake frequently in the night.  I feel strange, foreign pangs in my lungs.  I hear my children breathing beside me in the bed.  There is nowhere to run.  I wonder if I will die.  I reach for God and feel Nothing.  Only me.  Forest stirs occasionally and calls out “Mama, Mama…” in his sleep and I tell God that I MUST STAY WITH HIM.  And with Serena.  God I am ENTIRELY WILLING to do what I must to save my precious life.  

It’s really such a Gift.  To fondle this forbidden, mostly forsaken edge of life.  With courage and curiosity.  With tremulous flinching desperation.  It will only make me more Real.  More tender.  More awake to what I AM.  

Groping for The Rock

Remember when I didn’t have kids and all I knew to do with this unwieldy life was pour it onto the page?  Every day the question I awoke to is “which cafe do I want to write in today?”  I wrote because it was all I knew to do.  Nothing else made sense.  I felt lost and purposeless.  So I made a baby.  And then another one.  And they unhinged their baby jaw and devoured my life. 

Just for the record, I felt a bit of “pre-game jitters” about my long-awaited Return to Athena Graceland.  Back in those aforementioned “good olde days”, I had to reach super deep into my ass to find stuff to write about, because my practice was so profuse and I said it “ALL” a thousand times over.  But now there is an insurmountable backlog~ an emergency surgery in which 40 centimeters of my colon, including a malignant tumor was removed, an episode of physical violence on the part of my darling husband, which culminated in me and the kids moving out of his house, a meeting with an oncologist who announced that a spot in my lung showed up on my CT scan which could be more cancer, or just a benign irregularity… another CT scan… waiting… 

I don’t even want to talk about that stuff.  While it is significant, it is also water under my epic, tremulous bridge.  Today is impregnated with it’s own remarkable heft of innermost feelings, thoughts, aspirations…

God it feels heavenly to be reunited with my literary Throne.  This is the only dimension of my world where I truly feel to be Queen.  Here my inner authority flows like rain gutters after a monsoon.  There is no question.  I feel what I feel.  I claim my thoughts, my longings, my struggle, my passion.  The rest of my life is a nebulous smear.  A tragic falling short.  

Last night I awoke every two hours… preoccupied because Giordano didn’t reply to my texts after 10am.  I feel ashamed that I care so much.  But since I’ve moved out, he’s barely showed up.  I’ve been a single mom of two.  (I pretty much felt like one before… but… this is a whole new level.)  I had a hope that our separation could be a catalyst for deeper intimacy, intentionality, clear communication, healing…. Everything I have been starving for since I’ve been with him.  But things have actually unfolded to the contrary.  He has drifted like a rudderless boat, out into the dark, churning, boundless sea.  It takes him hours, if not days to reply to my texts, he doesn’t answer his phone… and meanwhile, I am left to care for the children.  Oh, and every once in a while he casts a fistfull of beautiful though empty sentiments in my direction… just to keep me hooked.  

I am hooked now.  Waiting for my phone to sing the solo chime that could be words from Him.  Why can’t I just let go?  I am grieving the death of what could have been… a loving, happy, united family.  Grieving the loss of an often magical sex life.  Grieving that I left my home and came across the world to “give love a chance”… and now I am locked here… with two children and no man to share love and life with.  

It all sounds so tragic.  And pathetic.  And it doesn’t really cut to the depth of my experience.  It is always my aim to dig deeeep.  To mine the plethora of hidden jewels in the material of my life.  But I must confess that I’ve never been in such a vast, shark-laden “deep end” as this.  The truth is that I feel completely lost.  Hopeless.  Defeated.  

Words are failing me.  

Because there is more.  

There is the I AM beaming just beyond those feelings.  There MUST be an Intelligence driving this savage confluence of circumstances.  

Walking down our pitted gravel road at the snail’s pace that having two one and a half year olds in tow entails, Benedetta asked me what brings me joy… and I was surprised to note how genuinely stumped I was.  I have swerved so far from the rushing neon pink river of my passions.  Though after some hot and heavy excavating, I realized I love reading books these days.  Imbibing words imbued with various shades of genius is decadence for my mind.  I encounter sentences laden with such heavy wisdom, truth and beauty that my bells reverberate through the invisible corridors of Infinity.  And I’m not just being poetic.  Listen.  You will hear them mingling flirtatiously with the thunderous, rolling, primal OM.  

Now I’m reading Byron Katie, “Who Would You Be Without Your Story”.  If you are not familiar with Byron Katie, she went through a sprawling Dark Night of the Soul and came out on the other side awake, and imbued with this inquiry technique called “The Work”.  The Work assists anyone seeking true freedom by examining the thoughts that cause stress; revealing that disease never comes from outside, as it appears to… but from within our very own minds.  ALWAYS. 

This is quite a horse pill for me to swallow because I just looooove the blame game.  I looooove to be a victim and a pathetic damsel in distress.  Sucky but true.

At least I used to love it….

But the fire is getting too hot and I can’t tolerate the suffering… so I am considering trying something else.

One of the fundamental pillars of her Work is getting right with what IS.  Ohhhh all those notions that it SHOULD BE DIFFERENT.  Turns out they are the Devil.  

Through witnessing her intensive dialogues with people who have attended her international workshops, I am repeatedly seeing how I create my own bondage by believing my thoughts.  And superimposing my skewed agenda on top of Reality.  I see that I am faaar from unconditionally loving.  My behaviors are manipulative, conditional and self interested.  

I want Giordano to make me feel less lonely.  Happier.  Loved.

And mostly he doesn’t.  

And my response is cruelty.  Disapproval.  Judgement up the wazoo.  

In the piece that I was reading today, Byron Katie said that the whole world “out there” is “for me”.  It’s all conspiring to bring me Home.  To my Self.

I want that so bad.  To dive deeper than the kaleidoscopic swirl of externalized perspectives that inundate me.  To find that Home which is the Rock that Jesus spoke of.  These shifting sands are kicking my self-righteous,  small-minded ass.  

My need is screaming.  My search is dizzying.  My life is benevolently falling apart.  My Self patiently awaits my Home Coming.

An Unedited Flood and Landslide

I can feel my fingertips throwing off mad sparks.  Colors that don’t even exist in this humdrum dimension. Ohhhh it feels sooooo good to type.  It’s the best sex.  I was gonna say better than sex, but that would be unnecessarily divisive.  

 

Giordano took the kids to visit his mama up the hill and I’m ALONE.  My five favorite letters, in that specific combination, I want to climb inside them and writhe around inappropriately.  I know, I know, it’s not the letters, it’s their meaning.  But I love letters and words and strings of words so much.  I love the potential power they possess.  Maybe they are empty unto themselves?  Or maybe not.  Maybe it is the electric charge that shoots through me and plumps them up with holy value.

 

Fuck, I don’t want to waste my sizable crumbs of ALONE ness pontificating on the alphabet!  Although a crumb of a crumb was fun.  Onwards and upwards.

 

There’s too much to say.  I’m afraid I’m going to tear as it exits me.  Relax and breathe, Athena.  

 

Lately I have been having recurring flashes of the vision quest I did when I was like 28.  It was four days on the hill, inside a little rectangle marked by mugwort.  No food, no water.  

 

Have you ever thristed?  

 

I mean like REALLY thirsted….

 

It’s the most excruciating sensation.  Probably some kind of dying.  Which apparently I suck at, because I came down off the hill after two days and just chilled at basecamp.  Like a little native american style vacay.  

 

I guess I keep flashing on that memory because I AM THIRSTING again.  Except this time it’s not for literal water, and there is no hill to climb down, and no water at the base.

 

I can not get my head around why in fuck’s hella holy name I would choose such a crushing path.  In my stronger moments, I believe in a higher purpose for all this suffering.  When I’m in it, I wrastle the damn thing like a gator and lose every time.  I am imagining that you don’t understand, because in a few ways my life looks quite privileged.  Like having healthy, rad children and a devoted husband and exquisite land.  AND A DREAM WRITING JOB, which I am aiming to tell you about, but who knows where this wild current will take me.

 

But maaaaaan.  I’m starving for so many nutrients.  Let it be written that it is ANYTHING BUT NATURAL to raise children via the exhausted old nuclear way.  It’s the devil incarnate.  So barren.  Where are my witches?  Where are my bitches???  

 

Yes, it’s NOT just a cliche, it DOES take a village to raise a child.  And NO, relationships with men are NOT satisfying to the soul.  Well… at least not with my man.  But I hear so many women complain that their men are… ummm… idiots?  Hahaha.  Well… let’s just say, “not able to meet them at full capacity”.  Men have their place.  But it’s a the bar. Haha.  I crack myself up.  And if you don’t get it, too bad, cuz I only have a few hallowed minutes, not enough time to explain my subtle and complex wit.

 

But yeah, I think suicidal thoughts a butt ton these days.  And then I quickly realize that I’m waaaay too spiritual to take my precious life and I would never abandon my adorable kids even though I often hate them these days.  Yeah.  That’s not the kind of shit you say out loud.  Unless you’re Athena Grace.  Unless you are condemned to a brutal prison sentence which involves NEVER HAVING ANY PERSONAL SPACE except right now.  Then you would hate your kids too.  All their whining and demands and unrelenting neediness.  

 

But I will love them when they come home, because I am immersing in a heavenly realm, banging, yes BANGING these words out upon this screen, incense drifting in sweet swirls as I lay on my belly on my bed, engulfed in a sea of pale pink ALONE ness.  The window is wide open and it’s cold for June thirteenth.  Storm clouds are gathering, preparing to dump violent showers upon us.  Acacia leaves whisper elite secrets and the birds testify affirmative. 

 

So basically, what I need you to know is that I DID NOT KNOW WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF INTO WHEN I MADE A BABY WITH A MARRIED MAN.  I’m sure I’ve told you this part before, but when I told my Ma I was pregnant, she didn’t speak to me for like three days and now I know why.  

 

This path is crushing.  And what was I thinking when I married the volatile italian man and concurrently made a baby with him???  I must be a quintessential idiot.  I have kicked myself too many times for this string of questionable choices that has put me in an inescapable death grip life.  

 

Just for the record, Giordano is doing great.  Except when he flies off the handle.  But I decided to love him in spite of his “spells”… rather than waiting for them to stop.  Because they might not.  Shrug.  He’s really refining beautifully.  To his credit.  And.  He works all the time, and eats his food like a starving hound, and doesn’t have the best capacity for presence.

 

But his face looks lighter.  And I love the way it lights up when he smiles, and the little dances he does and then looks slightly embarrassed.  I love his sharp, musky smell and falling asleep in his arms.  (I joke that sleeping is the best part of our relationship.  And sadly, it often feels that way.)  I love his love of nature and his deathly charming broken english.  I can’t get enough of that.

 

So anyway, lemme tell you about my new writing gig.  I had a session with an energy healer a couple months ago, and I asked about work.  Writing.  She said a bunch of stuff, but most of it’s none of your business.  Wink.  No, just kidding, I only want to tell you that which will forward my riveting story.  Which is that she said it looked like writing about PARENTING would be in alignment for me. I practically puked.  I’m already so sick of that topic.  I can’t imagine flushing my creative time down the toilet in such a manner.  

 

Maybe I’m being dramatic.  But I did feel an aversion and I told her so.  Inside, I thought, I want to write about SEX.  

 

Too bad I’m not having any.  Haha.  How can I write about something that’s not even alive for me?  Actually, in the name of accuracy, we have sex about once every two weeks.  It’s usually hard to get started, due to how many withholds and complex shadow emotions I feel in relation to Giordano.  How frustrated and disappointed I often am.  How much MORE I want from him.  Especially in the way of raw, full throttled, unadulterated, penetrating PRESENCE.  

 

I digress.  Once I get into it, it feels AMAZING and I feel so glad that I married someone I love having sex with, even if it’s so hard to get there due to everything.  I also need you to know that I bought a day planner for 2020 and my friend Dara was like why do you need a day planner, you aren’t up to anything.  But I had lofty aspirations pre new year.  And now, the only thing I pencil in is a detailed account of my rare (and precious) sexual occasions!  I had to tell you because it’s one of those needless details that gives life it’s poetically evocative depth of field.  

 

Anyway, I always keep my finger on Nicole Daedone’s pulse.  She was the founder of OneTaste, mother of OM (Orgasmic meditation, which I swear by, and practice as often as humanly possible.  Which unfortunately isn’t the 4x a day that I wish it was.)  People project a whole array of shit onto Nicole.  From Angel to Demon.  But in my Seeing, she is on a potent and admirable Path of Mastery, and I always keep her close, because I am too.  In my own way.  And I like to stay attuned to those who remind me what I’m made of.

 

She was showing up in my dreams a bunch.  Intuitive dreams, from which I awake deeply impressed.  One thing led to another, but I don’t have time or desire for a play by play.  One day, she reached out to me and basically offered me a job editing a series of her old blogs.  Flattening the 3D elements and making them into magical, timeless prayers.  

 

I get to climb inside her mind and transcendent erotic encounters… while Forest sleeps and suckles my breast.  And unfortunately Serena watches too many cartoons in the living room.  I hate that.  But she likes it.

 

Anyway how do you like THAT???  I wanted to write about sex even though I am in a period of forced abstinence and I could NEVER source material as potent as Nicole’s anyway.  She is of another realm.  But by the Grace of a hella awesome God, I do have the sublimedivine gift to do her words some serious justice.  Ahhhh the moments that I spend “working”… are the truest moments in my soul.  It is Union in the classical sense.  I am so absorbed, I disappear.  Fully engaged.  Used.  Challenged.  Turned on.  This is what I’m made for.  

 

Noteworthy that I am so wholly satisfied doing writing work that is not “mine”.  I don’t crave the recognition that I thought I did.  I love writing my own life… and yet, these days, it is so dry and brittle and rugged.  I would sicken myself to write it all down.  I love disappearing into Nicole’s bold, illuminated genius. It’s the quintessential journey that IS the destination.  I never want it to end.  

 

It probably will.

 

And I guess this blog should too, because it’s time to make sweet potato fries and hamburger patties and garden fresh salad.

 

I hope that I have provided you everything from illumination to liberation to amusement.

 

I love you.

My Precious Paragraph ;)

I want to do some yoga before Forest wakes up and “crushes the ball” because my body feels like she’s seventy years old (which is way better than feeling a hundred!), but then Chandra asked me if I wrote my paragraph yesterday (I told her I was endeavoring to write a paragraph every day, just to keep my writer self on life support) and I said no.  I’ve got all these wild paragraphs lashing my insides as I go about my crushingly mundane days and it makes me very mean.

 

I’m tired of being mean.  

 

The other day, Serena had a call with one of her teachers from the ananda school.  Just to stay connected during our global pandemic holiday. Ultimately I believe it’s all orchestrated by God’s hella intelligent hand… but for some deranged cosmic motivation, Serena got assigned to speak with the teacher she likes the least- because she purports that he never paid attention to her at school.  Marco. Both of our recent video chats consisted of her standing in front of the phone like a stone. No, actually on the first call she started to open up and share her world, but he derailed her with his “agenda” (singing a song). That was the end of that. She turned to stone.  

 

The second call, I was already irritated, because the morning was sunny and by eleven am I was exhausted by obsessive tidying up and desperate to get outside.  But I wanted to be in integrity so we waited for the damn call. I felt so frustrated with mute Serena. “Do you want to share your favorite book with me?” Nothing.  This game went on for like ten minutes, culminating with a song- “all the world is my friend”. When we hung up, I was livid. I laid into her for being so unwilling to participate.  (I wish I didn’t…)  

 

Apparently part of my tirade included the phrase “colossal bullshit”, because she tossed it back to me later.  I was like “where on earth did you come up with THAT???”  

 

She said, “From you.”

 

I was impressed. 

 

“Colossal bullshit” has become one of our inside jokes.  It never ceases to lighten my mood.  

 

Yesterday was Easter.  Giordano worked. He said he was only going to work a “half day” and then “stay with the family”. But it didn’t turn out that way. He pruned olive trees, mowed grass, burned branches, cut wood. Basically what I’m driving at is that I hate him.

 

Serena and I attempted to color eggs the day before.  It was my first stab at it, and measured against my expectations (frown) I failed.  Since I’m not allowed “fare speza” (grocery shop) with children (due to corona virus restrictions), and Giordano was way too busy to make a run to the store, I asked Benedetta to buy us white eggs and dye.  She brought us six white eggs and some vegetable based red and blue dye. She said I could use turmeric for yellow. (I was expecting some old skool food coloring in plastic dropper bottles.) I googled how to dye easter eggs and it said boiling water, white vinegar and dye.  The red sorta worked. And the yellow. Not the blue. I kept adding more powdered dye and vinegar, thinking it would make the colors leach into the eggs more, but it didn’t. It only ate away at the egg shells. Frown. In a relatively bearable tsunami of frustration, I dumped the impotent cup of blue dye down the sink, spitting some lamentations about flushing money down the toilet.  (I wince imagining what despicable impressions I am making on Serena.)

 

Forest is now in my lap, btw.  It’s a little after six am. Giordano is already out working in the olive trees.  So I’d better cut to what I really want to say.  

 

I hid the chicken eggs, along with some little organic milk chocolate eggs with hazelnut filling, wrapped in lusciously evocative neon green foil in our yard before Serena woke up.  Upon reflection, this is a BIG WIN for me. Too often, I am a fanciful dreamer who lacks execution. But I birthed this mo-fo. Mostly alone. Wow. I’m my own hella proud mother.

 

Serena hunted for them while I made lunch. Giordano’s mama (whom Serena ADORES) helped her.  I was not sure if she’d be able to find them because despite her slicing, ageless intelligence, sometimes I am struck by her rudamentary four-year-old-ness.  I watched from the kitchen windows, impressed by her capacity to find. I could feel her delight from afar and it flooded me with that thing we all chase and rarely stop to receive.  

 

Thanks to quarantine, we got to have a family lunch with G’s mom and dad.  Until about six months ago mama and papa were completely out of communication. It thrills me to witness the family tapestry mending.  I feel partially responsible for this small miracle. Also Forest is a massive catalyst. Babies are made to heal and unite families.

 

Anyway, lunch was sweet.  Except that Giordano didn’t pay a speck of attention to me.  I told him later (while spitting fire) that if we made a video of the lunch, innocent viewers would not even realize we were married, much less acquaintances.  Except that we shared a baby…

 

Half way into our picnic, I made an embittered comment… like “Hey, I’m here,” to which he retorted that I must be jealous of Forest, whom he was holding and fawning over.  (I had shoved Forest into his hands because he was invading my lunch experience, as he mostly does– trying to grab my fork and play the drum on my plate… Giordano had already inhaled his first plate of food and was now running his mouth off in italian, his eyes wild and distant.)  

 

I really hate him.  

 

If I was in the mood to be wholesome and objective, I’d say our relationship is better than ever before.  But I’d rather express straight from my guts. He has not taken a single day off during quarantine. Oh wait, he was home a few days during the snow week.  He did indoor work. That was sort of nice.  

 

I’m pretty sure I also love him… because even though it feels impossible to get fed by our relationship, when I express my perpetual ache, I see him impacted and determined to improve.  This touches me. And yet we mostly abide in this holding pattern~ him living in fearful anticipation of The Future and consumed in relentless doing. Me vacillating between vulnerable need and callous indifference.  

 

My body has lost all trace of turn-on.  My guess is that this is due to a combination of living in perpetual exhaustion,  being emotionally untouched by my husband and having sub zero time to be with myself- exercise, muse and express my profound, psychedelically persuaded inner dimensions.

 

Often these days, I feel cripplingly bitter about becoming a mother.  I had no idea it would be like this. So desolate. If you are considering having kids, don’t do it in the nuclear model.  It’s the most unnatural thing a human can do. Well, except maybe capitalism. But it’s all a big, unsightly modern tangle I guess.  Anyway, having Serena was my calling, hands down. But I feel enraged for the excruciating path that I am walking.  

 

I wish you could see Forest.  He’s currently gazing at my nipple with adoration and fascination.  Touching it surprisingly gently with his index finger. Oh wait, now he’s whining and writhing in my lap.  But I’m not done.

 

I want to tell you that the cherry trees are in full, explosive blossom.  It’s April thirteenth. I’ve been eagerly awaiting springtime since the trees started releasing their leaves in late September and the breath of evening began to chill my summer-lovin’ bones.  Spring is in full effect and despite the layers of rage, desperation, loneliness and excruciating frustration, I am madly in love with this season. In love with the ecstatic choirs of birds and the feeling of the sun’s rays beaming from within my own skin.

 

I keep coming back to the affirmation that all of this is an essential step on my path of awakening.   I didn’t take any wrong turns, really. It sure seems like this in too many moments. But I am where I belong and it is a sublime (though gritty) privilege to be embodied, to be ground into holy dust and to radiate light for all.

 

Athena’s Mildly Ecstatic Resurrection

Whoa.  It’s been almost two months since I cavorted about the holy page of Athena Graceland.  WTF??? Nobody told me that having TWO children is exponentially consuming… But that’s no excuse.  There really IS no excuse for neglecting one’s soul-fire. 

 

Short of being dead.

 

Honestly, I was growing tired of my own shrill voice of suffering.  Like riding a trike that desperately needs some grease. Too much existential grief… is like living on a steady diet of flaming desserts.  They stop tasting great and even the leaping ethereal blue flames become last year’s fashion.  

 

So I spent my “Holy Days” deep-diving in my soul and my guts.  Purging and getting my feng-shui on. You know… doing “inner work”; facing my shadow.  The energy felt very conducive to such uncomfortable yet soul-full endeavours. THAT was my flavour of holiday cheer.  Haha. Not so cheerful, but I keep myself “God Company”…

 

It’s hard to measure inner work… but I have a feeling I made some progress.  I feel lighter, brighter and more available to the slobbering jaws of raw joy and transcendent contentment.  

 

So that’s how my Jesus Season rolled.  Then came the New Year. 2020… talk about HYPE.  I always get super seduced by the glittery promise of a fresh start… but THIS ONE… was unprecedented.  You know… all the “twenty-twenty vision” talk. Plus, if you roll with the New-Age crowd (as I do) (Once upon a time, I felt ashamed of the myriad new age bones in this body.  I felt too “off the ground”… so I started going by my sword-plunging middle name, “Athena”, rather than light and airy “Dawn”. I piled rocks in my undies to help me stay on the ground, and over the years, like magic, integration hath occurred-eth.  Now that I actually leave footprints when I walk, I feel freeee to be as fuckin’ New Agey as I please, without a speck of shame.)

 

Where was I?  The New Age Crowd.  You know, the Queens and Kings of Ascension.  THEY talk of “collapsing timelines” and taking radical leaps of consciousness.  This talk (and the ensuing direct experience) really gets my juices flowin’. I DO taste overt notes of proof in my golden chalice of puddin.  Massive shifts.

 

But here on the dense old Earth Plane, even such phenomena as “massive shifts” have a way of occurring as understated.  I’m still just plain old me, living plain old life… Haha. I make myself laugh… cuz there’s not much plain about this questionable acid trip rocket ship journey we are on… 

 

…and yet it also IS the most ordinary thing ever…

 

What???  You say you want “tangibles”???  Ok, I’ll give you tangibles!!!

 

I became increasingly desperate to get Serena into the Ananda School.  Having her home with me every day was eating me alive. Every time we went on a walk, she would DEMAND that I told her the story of one of her favorite movies.  This included NEMO, MOANA or ANNIE (not much in the way of variety, eh?…). If I had a hundred thousand dollars for every time I told said stories… I’d be a gazillionaire by now.  I started to loathe the sound of my own voice. My overworked spirit ached to simply sip the music of trees and wind dancing. But Serena is a pitbull when she wants something. So this was our bargain:  I got to be outside and move my body… but at the cost of being a source of incessant blabbering.

 

At some point, I decided that I would use a battering ram if I had to… to bust through the door and get her into that school.  And with enough prayer and pestering and allies both physical and non, the door opened. I met with the director. She informed me that no scholarships were available (financial s-t-r-e-t-c-h), and that Serena would not be able to carpool with teachers who live near us, as had been previously suggested.  I left the meeting crying.  


Haha, so much for battering rams!  You see, the school is a thirty-five minute drive from our house… along tunnel infused motorways, driving on which scared the ragged pants off me.  Not to mention TWO HOURS in the car with Forest each day. It felt like tooo much. But my shining white knight of Gualdo Tadino, Sir Giordano, insisted that we take the leap despite the unsettling cost and exorbitant drive.  He embodied the solid, directive masculine that I long for, but rarely have received (I intentionally put that in the past, because I am open to this shifting). It felt soooooo gooooood.  

 

In fact, I fell in love with him.  Serena is not even his daughter… and yet he stood for the BEST for her (unlike her own impotent father, but I won’t get into that).  Seriously people, this school is amazing and so is my husband for supporting it. It’s founded on the principles of Education For Life (EFL), which support children to develop as whole, integrated beings, instilling in them a life-long love of learning and cultivating tools to be happy, purposeful, connected and awake humans.  

 

Or something like that…. Ask me again in a year.  Parents are required to participate in an online class on the principles of “EFL”, so that we are on the same page at home as they are at school.  

 

Serena is in her third week now.  Our lives are outrageously improved.  Psychologically, I dwelt in mild terror at the thought of the drive… but in practice, it is mostly delicious.  Meditative. Peaceful. Outside of time. Serena looooves to listen to the Annie Movie Soundtrack. When she is not in the car, I enjoy the soulful stimulation of elevating podcasts.  As long as Forest is not crying (which sometimes happens), the drive is a soothing respite in my day.  

 

The school itself is nestled at the edge of a wide, jade colored river, along which is a dirt path that stretches for miles (or kilometers as it is told over here…).  I can’t even tell you how fucking fantastic this is. Italy is a wet country… the rain spills in violent, juicy outbursts of elemental drama. There are springs up the wazoo… but as far as rivers and lakes go… one must drive for quite a ways to pay homage to such luscious liquid lands.  My soul has felt parched and starved since I’ve been here in these sprawling, hilly farmlands bordered by stalwart lines of jagged, modest mountain ranges.  

 

I HAVE FOUND MY WATER.

 

Forest and I walk along the river most days before we pick Serena up.  The birds sing harmonies with the wet, rushing music of the river. The trees and greenery are plentiful.  Life abounds.

 

When this opportunity arose, Giordano penetrated my teary self pity with the notion that when a door opens, one must walk through it, even if the “Hows” are not all clear yet.  He said (something to the effect of) the universe rewards us for moving with faith and courage.

 

Indeed.  I quickly manifested work writing newsletters for a luminary woman friend, who offers nutrition consulting and fertility coaching for women.   I love writing for her and she pays me well. I am able to do it with Forest crushing me the ball, which is my whole sweet life these days. (He doesn’t even nap alone!)  I feel powerful and abundant.  

 

Oh, and then, a week ago, I TURNED FORTY.  That really could be a whole nother blog… or at least a loaded paragraph.  But this is enough for now. Just wanted to drop you the longest winded postcard ever written!

 

With leaping, expansive love and X-treme humanness from Graceland…. ❤  Athena 

Destiny’s Harsh Hand…

It’s been a month since I’ve decanted myself here in Athena Graceland.  It’s five fourteen am. I feel afraid to write because an impressive posse of shadows are running amuck inside me, and I feel like barfing all over this pristine white space.  I feel extra vulnerable lately, like I’ve lost my skin. I’m not in the mood to be judged, or offered your shiny three cents… I almost hid out in my journal instead…

 

But then I realized that this chapter in my unfolding consciousness is essential, and if I don’t publish it here, the story of my Life will contain an insurmountable, irreconcilable gap.  I can’t live with that.

 

Writing and Orgasm.  I can see how they are two faces of the same wild goddess.  Both are eating away at my insides these days as I wander the dark labyrinth of early motherhood in a foreign country with a husband who I only see in the thick witching hours.  With both of these essential expressions of my innermost self imprisoned within me, I am jagged and dangerous. Tiny, winged demons proliferate within the folds of my calloused heart and tense body.  They wait on my tongue to leap out and attack when I speak.  

 

I shouldn’t write that!  So BAD to use my sacred gift of language to declare such warped nonsense.  Sigh. Maybe I should allow my crackling fingers to invoke purity and elevated consciousness.  But then my honesty will be suffocated by the blanket of contrived positivity… and for what? I trust myself to find my way out of this dark maze, through the power of literary alchemy.  One honest though artistically persuaded word at a time. Follow the electric rainbow brick road…

 

Actually, allow me to take a moment and announce a fantastic and certain revelation:

 

It WILL still be there when I get back!!!  Ohhhhh yesss….. 

 

Upon deeper contemplation, I have mined the inevitablity of this.  I AM that I AM. I might be walking a strange and haunted road… a road that I do not understand, and am having difficulty metabolizing… A road that requires layer upon layer of compassion and forgiveness and surrender.  But the psychedelic flame in me will never extinguish. This flame… is the “IT” that I cherish.  

 

Whoa, I just had a flash of a dream from before I awoke.  My home was not really mine… somebody moved in, and brought all their stuff, including a little dog.  I felt angry and resentful. I went into my living room and it was FULL of christmas trees and other holy-day decor.  Someone had slipped in when I was not home, and adorned it. It was lovely… and yet I felt violated. Somehow all this makes complete sense inside me…

 

Yesterday was the first sunny day in… some semblance of forever.  The greyness has been stroking my soul in washes of dull hopelessness.  Serena awoke with fever. But there was no way I could stay inside with this seductive lucidity beaming just beyond my dirty, aged windows… 

 

So I resurrected the stroller that has been folded up and aslumber in front of our house since late spring, when my belly was big and it became too difficult to breathe as I climbed the sort of busy country road beyond my driveway.  When I opened the stroller, it was a teeming jungle of bugs, spiders and even a colony of maggoty looking creatures. But I was unstoppable. I shooed them all away, fastened Serena in, Forest in the ergo, and pushed my impressive load up the broken, mildly trafficy road.  

 

I said “buon giorno” to all the yappy dogs on the route with a high-pitched, chipper, sweet voice.  This quieted them quickly. I realized that dogs, like people, have strange ways of asking for love sometimes.

 

Serena was unusually quiet, which was nice, because mostly when we take walks, she demands that I tell her the same stories over and over again… For the longest time it was the Three Little Pigs.  But these days it is a melange of Finding Nemo, Annie and most recently Moana. (I just bought her the dvd of Moana, because as far as Disney movies go, it is the only one I can tolerate watching too many times to count.)

 

Once I got off the main road, my thoughts softened and ran lightly about the distant, colour-stained rolling hills, leapt about in crisp piles of earthed autumn leaves.  I drank the cool, clean air, became impregnated with bright empty space.

 

It’s always a challenge for me to make friends with Autumn… even though she is a knock-out.  She rouses my unconscious fear of death… Yet her evocative, poetic majesty is undeniable. Breath-giving.  Massive oak trees brushing their brown and yellow leafy crowns against a pristine wash of blue infinity. The Voice Inside whispered to attune to the formless space between…  I breathed it deep, asking for guidance.

 

Why does it mostly seem so difficult to see… this Path that is never not right before my eyes and in my very bones…?  Doors that won’t open, no matter how hard I hurl my desperate body against them… and meanwhile I’m slowish-quick slip-sliding up a twisty hill that could be construed as a goddamn mountain.

 

But I want different.  I am aching for a break from this Italy life.  This married life. Married to a sincere, caring man, from whom I am unable to receive the sustaining nutrients of intimacy.  After sixteen months, the relational deficiencies are starting to weaken me. I need to tap out long enough to replenish. Wrap this tremulous, sweating body of chiseled spiritual muscles in sensuous silk and sip electric pink gatorade held to my lips by a proud, encouraging coach.  Let the heaving in my chest subside as electrolytes whizz and sing through my stillness.  


California…. Give me your elusive, mythic hand.  Pull me close to your ocean, desert, forested, urban, mountainous body.  Let me luxuriate in your free libraries, abounding with BOOKS IN ENGLISH, let me drink from your endless stream of effervescent kombucha, feed me sumptuous nibbles of your raw chocolate laced with maca and reishi mushrooms… Drench me in friendship, deep, soulful conversations, quality time and support.  

 

If me and Serena had visas, and Forest a passport, I would be on a plane yesterday.  But life has filled my pants with boulders and it is hard to move, which I know is part of the Divine Plan… but still I want to spit on it.  I am weary and worn.

 

Giordano is growing.  I don’t need to leave him.  And yet, I am starving. I need to feed myself.  Loving him is like living on spaghetti and pizza.  After a while, this body needs some damn vegetables.  

 

There is so much more to say… the dawning sky is grey… but the wild rainbow flame within blazes now that I have poured myself forth upon the page.  May it light my way through this dark, craggy wilderness which Destiny’s harsh hand is leading me.  

Will It Still Be There When I Get Back?

Back in my experimental drug days (which incidentally spanned across an entire decade), I took ecstasy alone once.  I was quasi living with a weird and sweet old hippy dude, in a room that used to be a “grow room”. The walls were covered with shiny, silver mylar sheets, upon which I was free to paint and write and express myself freely.  I remember a moment in the midst of my heavenly corporeal rushing, where the sky figuratively opened and luminous revelation rained upon me. I grabbed a black sharpie and furiously scrawled it into existence on the wall:

 

“Will it still be there when I get back?”

 

Post trip, I revisited the colorful lotus flowers and butterflies and strands of words that had flown through me… and for the life of me, I could not recall what the hell “it” was, or where I imagined I would be circling back to.

 

And yet… there was something about this relatively cheap and fleeting revelation that has caused it to stay with me for the nearly two decades since its dawning.

 

Now we ride the wild spiral of time to the mOMent fondly known as “today”.  Athena Grace, mostly alone in the foreign, wondrous land of Italy, with two small and miraculous Graces of her own.  Serena’s school recently closed in the mornings, because it was too “outside the box” for the conservative folks of Gualdo Tadino, who are apparently content inside their safe, comfy boxes of public education.  Hence the colorful and fiercely devoted sisters of “Wonderland” did not have enough children for it to be worth their while to say open in the mornings.

 

We asked Giordano’s mama to be with Serena two mornings a week (not much, but definitely better than nuttin), while we figured out another solution.  Raphaella is “a magician”, as Giordano once coined his mama’s Gift with children… They build magical 2D and 3D worlds out of paper and colored markers and leggos of various sizes, in which Serena’s dollies and plastic animals, dinosaurs and insects lavishly inhabit… three hours of pure absorbtion in lavish fantasy scapes.  (Plus 100% Italian immersion.) Serena is in heaven.

 

Just as we were settling into a nutritive rhythm, came the voracious, slobbering beast called “The Olive Harvest”, who has once again consumed every last drop of my already hella absent husband’s time and energy.  And his mama too.  

 

Yes, I know that I “should” loooove olive season, because she yields such unparalleled exquisitry.  Spicy, bright green liquid love to drizzle freely upon everything edible. But she chews my already consumed husband up and spits him out into my bed smelling of alcohol and weed in the wee hours of the night, and then beckons him again as the first light smears the sky.

 

And I…

 

Wake each day, replete with a jungle of wild emotions roaring and tearing at me from the inside.  Immense, unbearable longing. My wild, creative Self, desperate to live and express. My body, heart and mind, begging for stimulation, intimacy and holding.  And yet, my days are all weighted with the incessant necessity of domesticity and precious dependants.  

 

I live inside the question of “what if”… what if I just let go into this all-consuming river of rigor that is full-time mothering.  And housekeeping. (The grocery store is my second home) But I want to be so much MORE than just a mother. The wild woman, the (BEST SELLING) writer, the sex priestess, the yogi, the friend, the hermit, the unabashed trail-blazing leader, the ecstatic dancer…. OUR LADY OF GOD-DRUNK GRACE.

 

And so each day is a silent fight.  All those hidden “Me-s”, unwilling to to be steam-rolled by the daily G-R-I-N-D.  And God, is it a grind. I am turning to shimmering, galactic dust. But I won’t let go and be decimated in the jaws of this mundane machine of motherhood.  Because…. If I DO….

 

WILL IT STILL BE THERE WHEN I GET BACK?????????

 

Will I forget how to write and fuck and gallop and dream?  Writing it out, it seems impossible and even ridiculous… To take the Athena Grace out of Athena Grace…. 

 

Surrender.

 

I realize surrender has its own life, intelligence and will.  It’s not like I can just say, “And now for my next wondrous trick, I shall offer my entire self to the psychedelic, dancing flames of my all-consuming Now Moment.  Ladies and Gentlemen, watch in wonder as I dissolve in the oceanic ecstasy of pure, self-less BEing.”  

 

My days ebb and flow with holding on and letting go.  They are exquisite in their own way. I will look back on this chapter with a pervading flood of fondness and gratitude.  The privilege, the holy gift of quality time with my innocent, fully present, creatively ablaze kids. So many moms miss this… because the River of Life sucks them into other compelling currents.  

 

I can already see the woman that Serena is, outside of time.  And I know that time will catch up to the soul-full maturity she exudes.  Her childhood is a marvel. A miracle that leaves me blinking with wonder to behold.  How can such an ancient soul manifest with such lucid innocence? My own childhood is vivified; alive once more inside me.  

 

And Forest.  Even though the rigors of a baby ache and break my body… there is nothing as precious and tender as being charged with a pure, new babe.  Not yet lost and tangled in worlds of words. He speaks with his wide awake eyes, his wide mouthed smiles and his cries. I am drunk, kissing his squishy, bulldog cheeks, drinking his milky breath deep into my lungs.  

 

God I hope….

 

IT will still be there.

 

But the “I” who gets back will surely not be the one who embarked on this Journey.  

 

This must be the ultimate Cosmic Joke. 

 

The Nearly Free Birth of Forest: EPILOGUE

The river of life flows on… and the more time that rushes past, the more surreal my lived stories become.  Sorta like grapes to wine. And now is the moment when I decant some of July’s finest vintage for you…

 

You have yet to discover why Forest’s birth was “nearly” free.  The birth itself was free… but over here in Italy, I was enraged to discover that aside from the air I breathe and the spring water that flows like wine from Bacchus’s blessed font, NOTHING is truly free.  

 

After Forest emerged, Giordano became preoccupied (to an obsessive degree) with getting him “registered” as a viable human… you know, the whole birth certificate business.  I appreciate that Hubba-Hubby was so on top of it… But he has a rancid tendency to expect the worst and bring fear and anxiety to affairs that could just as easily unfold with peace, harmony and grace.  

 

Giordano went to the “Commune” of our enchanting city, Gualdo Tadino, to discover what we needed to do to register our boy.  They told him a “witness” of the birth was required in order to verify that Forest was truly our baby. The witness is usually either a midwife at home births, or a doctor at the hospital.  Neither of us qualified as a valid witness. Vafanculo! (Me and Serena’s new favorite Italian exclamation. It literally means go fuck your self (in the ass). It’s fun to say with an over dramatized Italian intonation!)  Who invents this smelly bullshit? Yeah, I stole my baby… but I’m lactating, I have an empty, saggy belly and my yoni is streaming bloody lochia. I’m getting pissed just writing about it. The memories are definitely coming into focus again…

 

Giordano got quite worked up by this news.  The peeps at the Commune had never dealt with a scenario like ours before (Italians are too tribal-minded to choose anything as radical as Freebirth), so their information was awash with nebulosity.  They had no solid source of reference for the information they provided. But they told us we had TEN DAYS to submit our documents (including said witness verification).  

 

Navigating this situation was like grasping at mist.  Giordano’s anxiety mounted as breaths, hours and days passed.  I chose to trust. Giving birth had ripped me wide open. I was raw.  Feeling and digesting my husband’s anxiety and fear felt like a fucking curse.  I just wanted to rest and heal (and take necessary steps… but sans the element of toxic, emotionally charged, fear-based drama).  Not to mention that I had very little help postpartum. (Giordano’s mama brought over a few lunches for the first couple days, when I could barely walk without feeling like my yoni was on fire and about to fall on the floor when I stood up.  Which I did waaaay to often.)

 

So on day three of Forest’s glorious earthside journey, our family of four set out on a quest for the Holy Grail- a witness who would verify that Forest was ours.  Giordano is a creature of instinct. Mostly I find this sexy, but also sometimes a bit alienating, because he doesn’t make decisions or take action until the last moment… and then he does what he feels.  (It’s hard to make plans with him or feel included. But his instincts are keen like a wild animal.) So we were driving down the road out of town as he grappled inside for the “sense” of where to go first.  Talk about a thrillride.  

 

And remember, I am ripped open to the heavens, I can barely walk and am pouring with bloody afterbirth fluid called “lochia”.  Oh, and I was wearing my last pad!…

 

In a timely lightning flash, he resolved to head to a pediatrician in the next town over, who was recommended to us by friends with small children.  Supposedly she was relaxed about “normal” (not so normal if you ask me) protocols such as vaccinations. We were tense as we drove. He got lost. We were late.  We fought. I reminded myself to breathe deep and relax the relentless tension in my belly, chest, neck and shoulders. Ugh.  

 

We finally made it.  We stepped out into the thick July heat, clothes clinging to our sweaty bodies.  I walked ahead of my superbly anxious husband and fumbled in broken Italian to discover where to go.  

 

The pediatrician was a decent woman.  She asked us basic questions (in Italian), such as his full name, the date and time of his birth and his weight.  Then she told me to take his diaper off so she could weigh him. It was all pretty benign and doable. Until she took him and put him on her table to “examine” him.  To her credit, she was gentle. But to me her protocols were superfluous and stressful for one so new. She tested his reflexes, tossing him around to see if he reacted when he fell backwards.  Poor little guy. Of course he reacted. He cried. Hard. My raw heart bled and I filled with fire. She told us that Forest was slightly jaundiced. Duh. He was a bit yellow. She wrote out a prescription for him for vitamin D, which I tossed in the recycling at home.  Didn’t anyone tell her that my body custom blends his breast milk according to what his body tells me it needs based on the information passed in his saliva?

 

She wrote us a paper verifying that little Mister Grace had received “care”.  This was to make us look like “sane, respectable parents” through the eyes of The System”.  

 

Next stop was the “Consultorio”, which is where I was receiving “prenatal care” (Not really “care” at all… more like a group of well-intentioned ignoramuses who pretended to know more about my body and my baby than I did, were way too trigger happy to ultrasound me without asking my consent, took my blood monthly, told me I was at risk for toxoplasmosis, didn’t listen to me when I told them exactly when I ovulated and instead spent way too much time at EVERY visit calculating and recalculating my due date based on the first day of my last period with a little cardboard wheel.), until about half way through my pregnancy when I got bold, listened inside and permitted myself to stop going and instead TRUST and truly CARE for myself and Forest.

 

Since I don’t speak Italian, Girdano did all the talking.  Even though it “crushed him the ball” (another of my favorite Italian expressions!) to have all the responsibility for communicating, he was very poised.  I could not understand all that was being said, but there was a lot of fear energy coming from the characters at the consultorio. Meanwhile, I had bled through my last pad back at the pediatrician’s office, and replaced it with paper towels, which had slipped out of my stained panties at some point.  I felt a warm rush of liquid. Cradling my newborn, I headed for the large roll of paper towels in our exam room, went behind a white shoji screen and put a fresh wad in my undies. I felt like a renegade cowgirl.

 

The peeps at the consultorio sent us to the nearest hospital, twenty minutes away.  It was lunch time. The heat was opressive. Giordano told me that I would probably need to be “examined”.  This ENRAGED me. I spent the whole ride spitting fire. Giordano handled this really well and did his best to allow me space to express my feelings, while keeping us on track.  He was not happy about the way things were going either, but apparently this is what needed to be done.

 

At the hospital, we were sent to the maternity ward, where we were greeted by two warm and helpful women.  Serena and I sat on a loveseat in their office while Giordano spoke extensively with them. They knew his father and commented that they were not surprised that HE would choose such a radical course.  Apparently it runs in the family…. 

 

After about twenty minutes of talking and waiting and talking and waiting, he explained the situation to me.  They were hesitant to “take responsibility” for our out-of-the-box birth. They deliberated amongst themselves how to handle our delicate situation.  They wanted to help us… and cover their own asses. They sent us to a small, chilly, fluorescent-lit waiting room down the hall. Serena was wiggly but well behaved.  Forest slept in his carseat. I breathed. My hunger swelled. It must have been two or three o’clock. Giordano and Serena went foraging at the cafe downstairs. He ate a hamburger and brought me back some organic coconut chips and raw cashews.  Perfect.  

 

Around the time we were done munching, they came in and said they would sign for us… but first I would need to be examined.  Holy hell. We were led down the hall to the exam room. The nurse said I had to go in alone. There were FOUR italian speaking women inside who gazed scrutinously upon me.  I felt cornered. They asked me a few questions in Italian, which I mostly understood and was able to answer. Then they told me to take my pants and undies off and get on the table.  Fuck. They told me to scoot forward. My body screamed NOOOO. But I felt like I had no choice, if I wanted to get the damn piece of paper and the ensuing birth certificate.  

 

The sourest woman of the bunch stuck her fingers in my vagina.  Without consent. Without even a warning. Without a damn shred of sensitivity.  She concurrently palpated my lower belly. I felt violated. I yelped and pulled away.  I didn’t know whether to cry or kill. Then they lathered my belly in blue goop and gave me a fucking ultrasound.  I don’t trust ultrasounds. I did NOT want that. As far as I’m concerned, they are only appropriate in extreme circumstances.  When they were finished, they didn’t even offer me a damn paper towel to clean myself off.  

 

But they gave us the fucking paper.  

 

They told me to come back in forty days for another fucking check-up.  Yeah fucking right.

 

By the time we got home, it was early evening.  I was exhausted.  

 

I was not able to speak with anybody throughout this process, so I don’t know for sure that all of this REALLY had to happen.  Maybe there was a way to avoid this violating experience… but if there was, it was not revealed.  

 

I chose to freebirth, because I wanted to bring Forest into the world on MY terms.  I wanted to stay at home, in peace. I wanted sovereignty of my body, my baby, my choices.  I did not realize that this was not an option in this archaic, medieval, Palpally-persuaded, boot-shaped paradise otherwise known as Italy.  

Transcendence on the loose!

Honestly, I started to get sick of the linguistic moans of my own tortured soul.  A year of blogs strewn with grief and “second world problems”. (Is there such a thing as second world?  I don’t feel like I’m part of the first world, over here in the medieval farmlands of Italia, with hot water heated by the wood stove during winter and a twenty-year-old, patchwork Fiat… But our toilets DO flush… so it can’t be the third world…)

 

I feared I was a broken record, bemoaning all my woes in electric pink typeface, as tears streamed down my thirty-nine year old cheeks.  But soft beams of light are now bleeding from the not-too-distant end of my dark-assed tunnel, and they whisper promise of being gloriously blinding one day.  

 

When I first landed in Italy, my friend Miriam (who has lived in this intense region herself) said I had found “my people”.  Inside I thought, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME???” These intense loudmouths, who prefer shouting over each other to good old fashioned sharing and listening… But a year and a baby in, I wonder if she might be right.  Maybe I am a loudmouth lunatic at heart. Haha.

 

My Italian still has a long way to go, but I can understand enough to get the jist of 69% of conversations…  And I’m starting to feel damn fond of the passionate, giving hearts of these people. I can’t even get through a trip to the grocery store without being barraged by heart-full glances, words and acts of service (Yesterday and old couple gave me front-cuts and then paid for my water and cashews before I even knew what was happening!).  I can show up at anybody’s house at any time and be received with fervent hospitality and enthusiasm: snacks, tea, toys for Serena, casual conversation and smooches on both cheeks. 

 

In California, I usually radiated an aura of friendliness that reflected back on me in most settings… but still… there is a very unique and delicious collective signature over here.  America still reeks of that deep-seated, Declaration of Independence, “each man for himself” vibe. Get ahead, muther fuckers. But Italy is full of die-hard, family oriented children of the earth.  Often, I’m the only one under seventy at the spring where I collect water. Cars parked on the side of the road, “their people” foraging blackberries, wild asparagus and soon, my favorite– CHESTNUTS!!

 

Yesterday evening, me and my cute little family went to a celtic harp concert at the Saraswati House- a renowned school of Indian music, nestled deep in the green, furry hills above our home.  Giordano’s dad has studied and taught there since the stone age or something. He is a master of bansuri flute. Celtic harp isn’t exactly “Indian”… but somehow this exquisitely talented earth angel made her way onto the roster.  

 

I have a serious “thing” for harp music.  Always have. Maybe it evokes visceral memories of Where I Come From.  

 

I stopped chasing transcendence at least a decade ago… because I only exhausted myself in the fruitless pursuit of the elusive I AM that I AM.  No matter what I did and didn’t do, I never could touch or taste this elusive “IT”. Since then, I’ve had a few unsuspecting brushes with this hallowed magic carpet of timeless contentment, whence I am swept into the palatial Presence of The Infinite.  

 

Last night was one such stroke of auspiciousness: Nestled on a mattress against the wall of a hippy-ish room- the floor covered in oriental rugs and cushions facing a low stage. Profoundly imperfect and devoted husband to my left, wriggling but silent almost-four-year-old soulmate daughter to my right, fresh, eternity-drenched baby boy in my lap.  Transfixed by quick agile fingers plucking evocative, golden melodies out of thin air. I was hypnotized by the unbroken motion of a marvelous tree who offered up her lusciously green leaves to the wildness of the wind through a rectangle of window within my view. Tears stung my shy eyes as the complex strings of my very own heart were masterfully struck.  The fantasy-stained revelation of every moment already lived, yet to be met… washed out in the understated perfection of this eternal, fleeting NOW.  

 

As I recount this precious, revelatory scene, I wonder what of THIS “eternal, fleeting NOW”?  Is it less transcendent and special? Am I less content and realized? Nah… This is a damn delicious slice of hallowed Existence too.  Dangerously groovy beats streaming into my ears, Forest a-slumber in his carseat at my feet, clinking plates and muted conversations casting a backdrop of ambiance as I dive deep into Athena Graceland and offer relics of my consciousness in the name of Creation, Revelation,  self-pleasure, cosmic posterity… The poetry of Existence as sung by this awe-struck, God-drunk One.

 

But what about the “yucky” moments that arise?  I’m getting better at savoring them. Last night after the concert, Giordano and I found ourselves in one of our blessedly frequent squabbles.  They are mostly so stupid that I quickly forget their content… they are usually to the tune of me feeling unheard, unseen, criticized, insulted, telling him as much and being met with a revolving door of attack and defense.  We are two people from distant galaxies living under one roof. We collide and clash and throw off dangerous sparks as easy as we breathe. I was doing the dishes and spitting fire. A light came on inside as it occurred to me that I could savor this flavor of relating-  the ridiculous, riveting play of me-and-him-ness. As the sleeping victim inside me awoke and undressed, I became slippery with sass, inebriated by the epiphanic rush that none of it REALLY mattered. Two bruised up children, gleefully hurling mud pies at one another, while their ever-wakeful souls spill with mirth.  And maaaaaaybe, just maybe…. I even LOVE him…

 

This past year I scratched lines into the walls of my cell, meticulously counting the days of my stay in hell, dreamt of my impending escape, struggled not to drown in the goopy swamp of self-hatred, wondered how in fuck’s ugly name this could possibly be my “Highest Destiny Manifest”, God’s Omniscient Wisdom and Love in Action…. 

 

But from my autumnal perch in “Dolce Peccato” cafe, in this happening fondly known as “Today”, it seems like what’s on the other side of all the suffering is True Freedom.  (Probably what is on the other side of all suffering…) Like a slow-flashing strobe light, I keep having glimpses of this delicious state of consciousness. I breathe deep and flood with the gentle ecstasy of self love.  

 

Forest is a miracle worker.  He has bathed our family in healing light.  Day by mundane day, I am rising (as opposed to “falling”) in love with my imperfect little life.  Shedding layers of incongruent “supposed to”s. Last winter, a woman I hold in The Highest suggested that “loving what I have” might be The Path.  This seemed like crossing an impossible ravine. No conceptualizing my way across…`

 

But my poetically persuaded homeboy Hafiz called it, way back in the fourteenth century when he said, 

“This sky where we live

Is no place to lose your wings

So love, love, love.” 

 

A bridge between hearts

On the outside, summer has melted into the cool breath of autumn.  The gods have ostentatiously announced this turn by hurling copious lightning bolts and savage booms of thunder upon the green heart of Italy, as Umbria is fondly known.  Deluges of rain drench the earth with abandon.  This transforms the suffocatingly humid air to cool, sweet delicacy.  The trees are still green.  (I am dreading their impending shedding and nakedness…)  The days are no longer unbearably hot.  Just warm and friendly.  But winter winks and whispers from not too far off.

 

On the inside though, my hellish walkabout through emotional, spiritual winter is showing signs of thawing.

 

Forest’s arrival was NOT a graceful transition.  Preparing for birth gets so much hype… but often, the postpartum period gets left to the wolves.  This is mostly how it was for me.  I made a few feeble cries for help… and received a bit of blessed support around the ragged, jagged edges… Mostly in the form of a meal here, and a meal there… But my primary experience as a sudden mother of two with a thrashed and bleeding vagina, and a ripped open heart, was a desolate one.  I do NOT recommend this experience.  If you are pregnant, or intending to become pregnant…. ASK FOR HELP.  Demand help.  Feel wildly worthy of help.  Saturate yourself in support, postpartum.

 

I could get lost in the gory details of my searing postpartum experience, but that’s not what my heart longs to share.  I survived.  My body is resilient and strong.  Now Forest is one and a half months earthside.  And spring is breathing light and warmth upon the barren scapes of my heart and soul.

 

Don’t get me wrong… Life is demanding, and my body tense from holding and nursing a baby all day, while perpetually juggling the needs, demands and whims of an almost four year old and maintaining the impossible tidiness of a not-so-small house…

 

During my pregnancy, Giordano often expressed a hope that Forest would bring us all closer and balance the dynamics of our family.  Though deep down I shared this wish with him, I still mostly cringed when he spoke it… because it seemed like way too much responsibility to load onto a nine pound human with a soft, open skull.  (He’s twelve pounds by now…)  From my vantage point in this moment, it appears that Forest’s mighty soul IS actually capable of this superhuman feat.

 

It always comes back to the timeless chicken and egg quandary… Does the inside give rise to the outer?… Or…???  But as I grope about in these invisible realms, my intuition says that what we perceive as “inner” and “outer” are but one sentient, infinite ISness.

 

I always have a figurative finger on the pulse of The Collective.  Recently, I felt an intangible shift that was beyond me and my own paltry circumstances. AND at the same time, my said paltry circumstances began to shift…

 

Witnessing the depth of love and care that Giordano has for his son made it increasingly difficult to abide in my cherished, long-standing fantasy of fleeing with my children to the familiar and now legendary land of California The Beautiful.  I still mostly did not like my husband… but this distaste began to pale in the bright luminosity of his paternal love.

 

I challenged myself to practice approving of him… even in the face of my glaring distaste for his ways.  I really CAN be a critical bitch.  Honestly, I’d hate to be on the receiving end of my curdled criticism.  Simultaneously, Giordano became less aggressive.  He began to apologize faster and touch (and actually FEEL) me more.  You could argue that this was a function of my behavioral shift… but my sense is that there was a larger energetic gale at play.

 

Theories and hypotheses aside… more lightness is dawning upon our home and family.  I still don’t luxuriate in the company of my husband… but nor do I drown in distaste and pain, as I oft did before.  Forest is a bridge between our hearts and minds, where before it was mostly impossible to pass.  With this exotic flavor of newfound affinity, anything is possible for us…

 

Concurrent with my nuptial blossoming, I experienced a delicious, pivotal moment in my relationship with Italy.  I was at the grocery store with my kids…

 

Italian people are wild about pregnant women, and even wilder about babies.  Everywhere I turn, I am serenaded by a chorus of impassioned exclamation, “AMORE!”.  Women, and even a few men, lust for a peek at the angelic face of my slumbering baby snuggled against my bosom in his wrap.

 

So there we were, civilizedly foraging for food at the aesthetically mediocre Coop, which is nestled in the archaic heart of Gualdo Tadino, being fawned over by the masses.  An almost young, blue-eyed man offered me front cuts in the intimidatingly long checkout line.  But there was another couple between me and him.  Flustered, I looked to them for a read on the situation.  I was shocked when they both smiled and waved me in front of them, as though it was sheerly autonomic.  A red carpet sprawled open beneath my astonished feet.

 

I attempted and mostly failed to share a friendly conversation with the kind man who instigated the front cuts, but despite the lack of intellectual understanding, my heart and the entire mOMent overflowed with warmth.

 

Pushing the shopping cart into the warm, sunny morning, I had the warm, fuzzy thought, “I like it here in Italy.”  Followed by the stunned realization that I had never had that thought before.  I fondled and reflected upon this new awareness for a bit… and concluded that it was probably a fleeting fluke.  After all, my emotional waves tend to be drastic and dramatic and watery.

 

To my surprise, the feeling has lasted.  I realize that I have adjusted to life over here.  For the first year, I was painfully aware of what was missing.  Foods, friends, family, comfy swings that cradle your butt at the playground, the ability to have a damn conversation….

 

But I’m starting to develop a taste for pizza… I make my own peanut butter.  I found pickles that don’t totally blow.  I brew my own water kefir.  The list goes on… but the moral of the story is that I am synching up with my new environment and life.  I am not devastated by the often silence between Giordano and I when we drive places together.  Sure, in my ideal world it would be swell to love to talk with my husband… but silence is kinda okay too… He DOES put his hand on my leg mostly always…

 

I love our land, abounding with fruits and foragables… I love how safe I feel here.  Serena can wander about freely.  (Not that she does, mostly.  She tends to cling.)  I am able to understand quite a bit of Italian, even if my speaking is butt-ass remedial…

 

Reflecting on my suffering, my dear friend Dara invited me to reflect on my original Desire/intention for coming to Italy.  I had to dig a bit to get back there… but it was FAMILY.  I ached for family.  And now I have it.  Gloriously imperfect, as Life mostly is… but nutritious and beautiful too… if I’m open to it.

 

Given the incessant imperfection of life in/as duality, may I embrace the grace that is always here.  What a shame it would be to awaken to this ever-flawed goodness as I am blinking out of this existence.

 

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