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. 

 

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.

 

The nearly free birth of Forest (part 2)

The facet of freebirthing that was most compelling to me was not being “checked” to see how dilated I was, or being told when to push, or any other externalized reference points along the Journey of Laboring.  Instead, the birthing woman is totally undisturbed and able to experience from the INside-out.  (I’m imagining that some readers will find this perspective audacious.  Like “WHAT??? YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY KNOW HOW TO GIVE BIRTH WITHOUT A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO AND WHEN.”)

Well guess what?  You CAN.

Except here’s where I lost connection with my inner authority:

Expectations…. I imagined that the second baby would be easier.  It was taking waaaay too long.  I was in waaaaaaay too much pain.  When would I feel the fucking urge to PUSH???

Night had swallowed day, candles danced wiggly, golden light about the dim ambiance of my pink bedroom.  I finally felt a mild urge to push.  I guess I texted my doula friend Karen in California… and asked her…. something.  She video called me on fb messenger.  As Grace would have it, she was about to give a chiropractic adjustment to three mamas (two of which I had known for over a decade).  Suddenly I was being supported by FOUR women from across the world.

Mostly this was soothing and helpful.  But in retrospect, the call lingered beyond its expiration date.  I lost touch with the inner authority that had been the coveted treasure of my freebirthing quest.  I was lost in the wilderness of pain… Vulnerable and reaching outside for salvation.

The call sprawled on for over an hour.  Contractions.  Pushing.  Lioness roars.

I asked Karen if breaking my own bag of waters (which was still intact) would accelarate the process (I had heard this in other birth stories…) She said go for it. When I reached inside, I could feel the bulging bag… At first I was tentative about breaking it with my nails. But after three or four tries, it burst. Gusssssssh….

Nothing changed, save the manky bedspread, which was now cold and wet.

I felt inside to see if Forest’s head was at the door yet. I felt SOMEthing…. But it was not very “head-ish”… It felt like two squishy peaks, with a valley in between. WHAAAAAT??? Not a foot. Not a head. Too small for a butt…. Was there REALLY a normal baby-shaped person inside me??? Or just some random, alien scraps, all smashed together….

When my waters broke, Karen said “He’ll be out in two pushes.”

My inner authority flew out the window and I placed the weight of my salvation in this statement. Time bled on…. My concern mounted as my endurance dwindled.

Now, please allow me to pause and comment.

My writing style is especially feminine. Rooted in and informed by feeeeeling. Decorated with poetic metaphors. Striking, abstract imagery. Frivolous, philosophical meanderings. Bursts of unapologetic raw-ness…

And then there is Athena Grace writing about BIRTH.  Exponentially feminine. I notice a voice inside who is critical of my “failure” to walk a straight line of “chronology”. Well, I am going to grab my ovaries and overtly affirm– FUCK THAT SHIT. I am a WOMAN.  I have a woman’s (heartful) mind, and I am sharing my Woman’s Voice. I never really identified as a “feminist”… because I’m not into raging against the machine. But it turns out that at heart, I AM. The world held hostage by our severely crippled systems NEEDS women’s’ voices to resound boldly through the Collective, heal the heart of ALL, and purify the waters.

This story is a wild, bucking spiral montage of images, mOMents, feelings… and of course a juicy climax (or three). By the Power Vested in Me, I declare that this is RIGHT and BEAUTIFUL and perfectly natural. Not to negate straight lines. I reserve the right to ride those tamed beasts as I please.

At the start of this account I forgot to mention that as during my labor with Serena, it was increasingly impossible to pee. I was hoping this condition would not recur with Forest. Frown.  I had to squat or sit on the toilet for a million years of discomfort before a pathetic trickle would dribble out. Not being able to release deterred me from drinking too much. I was hot and sweaty. I needed fluid. I drank sips and tangoed with the terror of bursting my bladder.

I also forgot to mention an essential, terrible (and retrospectively comical) thing about Giordano’s role during my labor. If I had a nickel for every time the man asked me “WHY”…. I’d be one rich bitch.  MEN— Listen. When a laboring woman makes a request, DO NOT ask her WHY.  Fucking never. Each time he did, I told him this. But obviously, it didn’t go IN. Because his WHYs fired off like a machine gun, driving holes in my peace and sanity.  WOMEN— if your man asks you WHY while you are laboring, send him to me and I will personally rip his over-active head off. And for anyone who finds themself asking “WHY not ask WHY?…”

I’ll tell you.

BECAUSE. It engages a part of the brain that should NOT be active while a woman is in such an intense, intuitive, altered state.

And NOW, back to our riveting story.

I didn’t feel that I was progressing. (I WAS… but not in an outwardly measurable way, like I WANTED to be…)  Karen said if Forest wasn’t out in another half an hour, I “should” go to the hospital.  Eeeeeeeeeek. This would be a major MESS. It was after eleven pm. Would they cut me open? Give me a hodge-podge of horrific interventions? Give my baby antibiotics and injections? Burn me at the stake for birthing outside The System? There was nothing bright about this proposed path.

Except the survival of my child and myself.

Giordano became anxious. Ugh. Just what I needed. He did NOT want to go to the hospital…. Which was actually a surprise to me. I thought he would be the first to subscribe to conventional protocols.  But at this point, he was scared of all the same shit as me. Only more so… because dude tends to expect the worst. But actually, I was impressed by his ability to stay grounded and “calm-ish”… given where the current was carrying us.  In the end, he didn’t lose it.

Through brutal contractions and involuntary baring down, I made a phone call to Manuela, who was holding energetic space for us… and told her that I thought we should go to the hospital. She said “Be wise.”

I forgot this part, but apparently I had also texted Benedetta– “HELP”, at some point.  (She reminded me of this a few days ago, and I had a good laugh about it.) She said she awoke to my text and freaked out. She had become a contact point for a slew of people who were eager to be updated about our progress and wellbeing. She said she called me. I vaguely recall trying to speak to her through excruciating contractions and pushing. Haha. It sure is funny now!

Then I pulled on my beloved, well-worn Berkeley Police sweatpants and a WHITE TANK TOP (what was I thinking???) and attempted to walk. I had to stop every couple steps and breathe and puuuuush.

I HAD TO.

How in Fuck’s holy name would I survive a twenty minute car ride???

 

The Poetry of Darkness

My inner perfectionist is ALL UP IN MY BUSINESS as I sit here contemplating what to write about.  I want to write something genius and get drenched in positive attention and validation, because these days, I mostly feel like a mediocre nobody.  If only I could show up here in Athena Graceland like a blazing comet that takes your breath away….  THEN I’d be worth the love and belonging I crave.

 

Ahhhhh feels so good to name that.  It was like taking a giant poop.  It’s the shit that lurks, unacknowledged in the shadows that can really “crush the ball”.  (My favorite Italian phrase.  Referring to testicles, naturally.)  It’s amazing how much stirring of the shadow is occurring in here lately.   I oft wonder “was this stuff always running me from the bowels of my psyche, and I just couldn’t make contact with it?”  This is my hypothesis…

 

Which makes it damn exciting that I am starting to be able to have some real, snuggly intimacy with it.  I guess.  If I give myself permission to digest, release, transcend.  Permission.  It sounds so easy.  But walking through it is like swimming through honey.  Except not nearly as sweet.  Maybe shit flavored honey…

 

I guess I could start by saying really fucking nice things to myself on a regular basis.  The kinds of things that would be glaringly obvious to say to ANYBODY I love and care for, when they are struggling.  The kinds of things I want YOU to say to me upon reading these words.  The kinds of things you HAVE been saying to me.  And for a few sacred mOMents, everything feels ok.

 

Like “Athena, you DON’T always have to be producing something in order to be valuable.  YOU are enough.  If only you could see the exquisite artistry of your BEing as you move through your days.  Even when you feel depressed and hopeless, your magic is contagious and inspiring.”

 

Yep, made myself cry.

 

Been feeling like a mediocre mom a lot lately.  Up until recently, at least I felt like I was succeeding at that.  Serena tells me how much she loooooooves me…. too many times a day too count.  Inside I’m like, “Really???  Even though lose my patience and shout at you too much???”  So much for “conscious parenting”….

 

I think I’m doing better than I give myself credit for.  It just hurts my heart so bad when I yell at this beautiful, perfect being who is my daughter.  (Tears silently spill down my face as I expose this intimate dimension of myself.  Maybe not “brilliant” writing… but honest.  Which is courageous.  Maybe lots of moms secretly feel like shmucks, but don’t want to admit it…)

 

Exhaaaale.  I just don’t know how to navigate the frequent moments when Serena yells and screams and rebels “for no reason”.  I’m sure in HER world, there IS a reason.  Even if she cannot name it.  She’s probably mirroring my emotional intensity.  Maybe this is glaringly obvious from your kush seat in the overstuffed armchair…. She’s also a scorpio.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant when she was growing inside me.  But it’s no joke, people.  Scorpion energy is emotional masturbation.  So indulgent and intense.

 

But I digress.  Sometimes (often lately), I feel like I just can’t handle my girl’s said intensity and unwavering push-back.  I wonder if it would be different if I was adequately reSourced.  I don’t have fuckin’ ANYBODY who shows up to take Serena out for the afternoon and give me a break.  Not even my husband.  (He’s too busy bacon hunting.)  I chose such a fucking hard Path.  Dianne says to keep going and never give up.

 

I’ve always been a spiritual PollyAnna at heart.  My Ma used to passionately wish that this was her last incarnation on earth.  She was OVER IT.   And I’d feel so damn good about myself, replying that I would come back here as many times as I was needed.  But I guess the ingredients I needed to thrust me into “Camp Over IT” were motherhood and a painfully difficult marriage.  Oh, and a seeming lack of ability to plug into higher Purpose.  That’s really the one that slaughters me.

 

Mom, I get it.

 

Did I ever tell you that when I told my mom I was pregnant with Serena, she stopped talking to me for like three days?  Seriously.  And we were living together in her sweet little one-room loft apartment.  It was INTENSE.  I didn’t get it.  But now I imagine that she foresaw the terrain ahead, and was grieving for me.

 

She WAS seeing through the filter of her own struggles, of course.  And probably I will triumph at some point.  Probably some day I will heal my precious inner child, get my writing off the ground and enjoy a more autonomous, focused and gratifying existence.

 

I guess I can lay the groundwork now.  By being sublimely kind to myself no matter what.  And appreciating the Grace of everything that Life is laying at my feet.

 

I’m grateful that it’s summer.  I might be conflagrating in soul-angst… but I’m no dummy!  I am still able to luxuriate in frequent near-nakedness.  I am still deeply moved by the ambiance of overflowing birdsong that pours upon the warm, bright world each day.  The disarming, supple softness of Serena’s three year old skin.  And the way everything is play for her.  Gorgeous trees dripping with glistening, red cherries, of which we are free to eat as many as we please.  A husband who often falls short… but is a die-hard who stands the fuck up after he falls, and sincerely does his best to learn and grow and evolve.

 

A husband who loves his unborn son more than I do at this point.  Giordano’s love for Forest is palpable.  Sometimes I’m scared that Forest will be too much like Giordano…  Sometimes I feel like Forest is the steel-jawed trap that keeps me bound to a life I hate.

 

OMG.  A monk and a nun exiting the grocery store, pushing a full shopping cart!!!!  One of those monks that looks like Friar Tuck.  And a nun who resembles…. Whoopie Goldberg.  Haha, just kidding.

 

Anyway, I’m looking forward to holding my son in my arms.  It’s still hard for me to believe that a baby is going to come out of me.  Even though I’m giant and exhausted and insanely emotional.  It was like this with Serena too.  But I imagined that the second one would be different, given that I’ve done it before.  Nope.  Still unfathomable to me that in about four weeks, I will have a SON.  A tiny human will emerge through my vagina and depend on me for EVERYTHING.  Whoa.  And he will be oozing with the fresh scent of Heaven.

 

Okay, I guess this is the part where I just breathe.  Dunno what else to do now.  Oh, except to keep being earth-shatteringly sweet to myself.

 

From my heart,

Athena Grace

 

Sunlight and Sweet Relief

Mmmm somebody at the table next to me is wearing aftershave.  As a kid, I used to relish watching my dad shave before work (swing shift in the casino!).  He’d squirt a shamelessly generous poof of Barasol beard buster shaving cream into his hand, spread it about his five o’clock shadow and go to town with his blue bic razor.  Fast and focused.  I’m sure he could have performed this ritual in the dark.  Then he’d rinse, dry and pat his tender, virgin cheeks with enchanting, blue splash of Aqua Velva.  To my seven year old self, this was the scent of a man.

 

Smell.  So powerful.  A memory orbiting a distant moon, suddenly fallen like a smoldering comet in my nostalgic lap.

 

I’m happy today.  And profusely hoping that I can ride this wave all the way to shore.  Wishing said shore was days away.  One of my earth angels, Dianne, said that with sunlight and a heart that says yes, I am a force to be reckoned with.  I feel that today.

 

I feel that filled with this happiness, I can do ANYTHING.  I feel wealthy and bold and creative.

 

Even though I barely slept.  Sleep is not my forte lately.  Most nights, I fall asleep with Serena in her bed… wake an hour later, pee (at this point, I spend half my life peeing) and then snuggle like a soft, squishy animal into bed with Giordano.  At which point, I rest into the weight of my struggle and the suppressed force of my Desires.  He is exhausted and quickly becomes a virtuoso performance of gentle snores.  I lay in his arms, envious of his ability to relax and release, calling out to an unresponsive God to fucking help me.

 

How’s THAT for glamorous?

 

Quite frankly, in this moment it DOES seem a bit glamorous.  Angels in heaven don’t have such privilege and pleasure.  WE get to swill grit and darkness by the cup-full.  WE get to embody a spectral depth of poetry that cannot be fabricated or feigned.  Of course I can only say this because my Merciful Lord hath lifted me to “the surface” for a generous hit of sunlight and existential relief.  From here, the depth of my Journey looks stunning.

 

I AM so thankful for my people.  If I died in this moment, my heart would explode like a huge cream-filled balloon and your BEingness would shatter and refract as rainbow sunlight in every direction throughout all space.  I’m feeling you all.  Seeing your faces, hearing your unique music curl like incense smoke throughout my Infinity Within.  In the eyes of my ego, I am so imperfect… but in my love for you, I am limitless, pure and perfect.

 

I was suffering because Giordano has been WORKING.  He leaves early in the morning, and returns home at bedtime.  During the day, he sends me loving little audio messages.  Nothing fancy.  He’s not a poet.  Nor excessively feminine.  But his heart is sincere.  This makes me miss him and want more….

 

We planned a sunday trip to the “seaside” (adorably, that’s what he calls “the beach”)  and sweetly anticipated it all week.  I can’t recall a single time since I’ve been in Italy, where we’ve done something together and had a harmonious, nourishing, pleasurable experience… mostly it’s hard to connect, I feel lonely, we fight…

 

But still, I brought my Beginner’s Mind on Sunday.  When the rubber met the road, he was “nervous” (and mean as a biproduct).  And I was like, “Really???  We’ve been anticipating this beautiful day all week, and now THIS is the best you’ve got???”

 

But apparently it was….

 

As is often the case, he didn’t respond when I talked.  He interrupted me.  He complained and ruminated on things not of the Present.  He drank a small bottle of white wine with lunch, like he does on most of his few days off… as if this were a legitimate escape from the burden of his overactive mind.

 

Little by little over the course of the day, my heart closed.  Despite this, I strove to enjoy Serena’s refreshing, innocent company, let the sunlight and warmth recharge me, release my burdens to the salty, undulating sea.  I sort of succeeded… in a decapitated fashion.

 

But LISTEN.  I am NOT telling you all this to defame my husband.  I understand him pretty well… These days, he is living beneath an intensity of pressure that would break most mortals.  Considering this, he’s actually been pretty damn nice.  He’s breaking through some deeep-assed patterns of anger and cruelty.  Doesn’t mean I’m loving it… but my respect for him grows.  This is a big part of what makes me stay.  That, and his love for our unborn sun.  He loves our baby (and Serena) too much for me to leave without giving him a chance.  Though the notion of leaving is an unrelenting devil on my shoulder, who taunts and seduces me until I am stumble drunk on his hollow promises of happiness in distant lands.

 

Last night, we nestled into bed pregnant with The Unspoken.  Instead of passing out, he stayed with me.  Slowly we unraveled some profoundly unwieldy knots.  He impressed me with his capacity to receive my harsh honesty, and stay open.  I wish he was more consistent in this domain.  But perhaps, with practice he will be.  Because he didn’t used to be this good.

 

We talked until we were empty and united.  Then he asked if he could lick my…. Uh-huh.  I have been feeling so sexually shut down these days.  Depression and lack of trust is not exactly an aphrodisiac, as it turns out.  But what did I have to lose???

 

He rocked it.  In general, he has good technique… yet mostly, I feel like HE’S not loving it.  He’s just being courteous.  I’m all for courtesy… but there IS something to be said for The Zone.   The alchemical expanse where giver and receiver melt and meld into one sprawling puddle of pleasure.

 

I’m not gonna give you all the details of my sex life.

 

That’s not my point.  My point is that I don’t believe I should hide the full spectrum honesty of my existence out of shame and cultural conditioning.  Sex should be normalized and healthy and spoken of at LEAST as freely as struggles and fighting.  And another point is that talking shit out is rad.  I mean like super rad… but it can only get a couple so far.  The rest must be said with wordless lips, with touch and lust and passionate, embodied love.  I dare you to argue.

 

I awoke early this morning, and the freshly hatched day was a-flood with sunlight and the exotic, diverse songs of birds.  It also happens to be Giordano’s birthday.  My body was still brimming with pleasure.  I got up and made us coffee, brought it back to bed, and we tandemly geeked on our phones.  (As much as I despise it, my phone is a portal to so many loving connections.  Sigh.)  Oh, modern day romance… not too romantic.  But the Moral of the Story, is that I felt happy.  And leisurely.  Serena slept until 8am.  And I found myself laughing at the “problems” that usually plague me and sink my blessed ship.

 

Then I wrote it all down, and feel Brilliant.

 

May this wash of sweet relief sustain me for…

Days…

Or perhaps lifetimes.

 

Thank you for your LOVE.

Thank you for your Courage.

Thank you for Believing in me.

Thank you for BEing.

 

Love,

Athena

 

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