growinghumans


The Lighthouse
February 26, 2017, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There are many different types of people, of souls, out there. Everyone treats their hearts and the hearts of others differently, but I am from the coast and I always liken things to waves and ships and storms.

But, there are also some people out there who are lighthouses. These people are content–that is the best word and far from a slight–they are content in being kept. A lighthouse usually only ever has one solitary keeper. When that keeper dies, another moves in and takes his place. There is always a keeper. There is no interim where the lighthouse is expected to do anything on their own. They wait and then they are kept. And this makes them content.

All they are expected do to, with the help of their keeper, is to shine their light out for others; to help others find their own ways, keep them safe, protect them from being dashed against rocks. These people, these structures, they stand on their cliffs or piers and shine their light out sometimes just searching for someone to save. What good is a lighthouse if it cannot shine light for someone else? Without that, they are just a silent, one room tower, showered in sea salt on a daily basis.

But as there are some people who are these proud and content beings, there are also those who are the ships. Ships cannot always tell where they are going and sometimes even with the help of a light, they still find themselves being dashed against Plymouth rock, their insides constantly being shattered.

But, they keep sojourning into their hearts, searching for new lands and still landing on the same damn rock each time.

At the end of the day, though, they always find themselves in America

and that is a feeling a lighthouse will never know–the thrill of crossing that choppy sea that they watch day after day with reservation and fear and instead barreling head first towards something they don’t know anything about.

Both sorts of people, both sorts of hearts and souls are well needed in this life.

We need responsible people who are willing to place their needs before others to keep them safe. We need people who will be a beacon to others around them; “Come here”, they will say. “Lay your problems at my staircase and follow my light.”

But, we need those brave and reckless souls that take to the sea with no compass, too. We need to know that there are people out there who live completely and happily on exhilaration and following the stars for navigation and then finally the land-ho’s.

A person may find  at some point in their life that they have been resigned to one or another–usually the lighthouses. I am a lighthouse. I have been a lighthouse.

But here is the secret, dear readers.

Boats and lighthouses are made of the same stuff–wood and nails and love. You can be both, my friends. You can remake yourself as many times as you need to.

You can be reckless and exciting and you can also be that beacon to everyone around you, but remember to turn off that light sometimes and take to sea yourself.

Find your America.

Find your very own new lands and then turn that light back on and guide others to follow you across those same uncertain seas.

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Thing About Tulips
February 19, 2017, 1:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here’s the thing about tulips–

When you first get them, they’re all closed up, two little lips, set firmly in a line across a face. You can’t tell how many there are, even. That is, until you start trimming the stems and arranging them in the vase. What you thought may have been a dozen turns into two dozen and then you have thirty tulips sitting in your vase. It’s hard to arrange them because as you take them out of their wrapping, they arch forward–or I guess backward, depending on where you’re standing. They droop in an elegant way, though. You can’t be too mad about it.

You arrange your thirty bowing tulips, fill the vase up with luke-warm water and stand back and smile. Because that’s the thing with tulips: they make you smile. They are bright colors, they have long stems like the long neck of a lady you can’t help looking at.

(Has anyone seen Under the Tuscan Sun? The English woman who rubs baby ducks on her face and eats all of the gelato? It’s that woman. That’s the woman you can’t stop looking at with the long, arched neck of a tulip.)

You walk away from them, eventually. Maybe you go to bed. But that’s the thing about tulips: when you wake up they will look changed; not in a drastic or dramatic way. But they will be a little more open, a little more upright. Not so open that you can see their centers but enough to tell you that you have done something right–given the right kind of water, arranged them correctly, smiled at them enough. You will gently rearrange them in their new state, making sure the yellow ones –your favorite– are prominently showcased in front of the dark and light pink ballerinas sharing their space.

By the end of the day, the water is all but drained. That’s the thing about tulips: they are very thirsty. They aren’t like your common Walmart bouquet where you can trim those stems as much as you want but those cheap artificially colored daisies are not going to drink that water and they are going to die as soon as they would have if you had not even bothered with water. Tulips appreciate the time, the effort. They pay it back with their beauty that will still make you smile even on the second, third, eighth day.

Soon after, they will open completely and you will see the secret they have been keeping so tightly locked inside of them. The thing with tulips is: they all look different in their centers. Dark pinks have dark purple circles, the light pinks have white, and the yellow still remains a mystery…they have remained shut still. Some people are like that, though. Some are open and want to show you all of them and some still need some time, a bit more water, a bit more smiling.

Some day, a shockingly long time after the other colors had opened, the yellows finally give it up. Isn’t that the thing with tulips? They know their own beauty and some are stubborn about it purely for the dramatics of waiting. But oh, when the yellow ones open it will feel like spring has finally, finally arrived. Their little black circles peer up at you like a darkness we all hide deep inside, shut in tight. But it’s okay, yellow tulips. We get it. It takes time and we are just so happy to be with you.

Eventually though, they will start to droop again and no amount of water can make them perk back up; petals start to fall and you sense the end of a relationship that you didn’t even know you were having with each individual bloom. You will pull out the ones who have only a few sparse petals left, throw them in the garbage bin; put them out of their misery. The bouquet grows smaller and smaller and you should probably just dump the whole thing but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Those yellow ones are still alive. They are still there and they worked so hard to open for you– why would you cut them off before their time?

That’s the thing about tulips: they feel a lot like the inside of your mind.



The Little Urchin Girl
February 9, 2017, 1:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Let me tell you a story, dear reader.

Once upon a time there was a town; a dusty old town that was falling apart. The houses needed new roofs, the inns were lice infested, the library barely held any books.

All of the men of the town, everyday, would meet in the center of the town, by the fountain that had long gone dry.

They would argue for hours. They would blame one another for the dilapidated state of their town. Some days it would get violent, there would be shoving, pushing, punching. Every evening they would drag their bruised egos back to their sad little houses and dream about how they might come up with ideas at tomorrow’s meeting.

One very non-eventful morning, one very ordinary morning, the men were at it again. One was suggesting they just leave the town how it was and move on to find a new place to live. Other’s seemed to tentatively warm to this idea. “Yes”, they said. “Let’s set this place on fire and start all over again.”

It was then, it was in this very insignificant moment, that a small voice tried to cut through the loud buzz of men making plans. “Excuse me,” the small voice said. No one even turned their head. No one even seemed to hear the voice. A second attempt, men being pushed aside until it sounded much louder and in the center of the conglomerate, “EXCUSE ME”, the small voice tried again.

This time it worked. The men stopped talking and looked around at one another to see  who had made such a racket. Then, their eyes cast down to where a very small girl was standing. There was nothing remarkable about her. Her cheeks were rosy, her hands were dirty, and her dress was torn and a size too small. Silence fell over the group for a few moments. No one introduced themselves, no one asked her to introduce herself.

Seeing that pleasantries were not going to be a luxury for her, this small girl cleared her throat and said in an unwavering voice, “But won’t you eventually ruin the new town the same way you ruined this one?”

Silence. Dead silence.

The men looked at one another. Obviously this thought had not crossed anyone’s mind.

But, surely such a revelation couldn’t come from a small, dirty girl and not one of the prestigious and respected men of the mob.

They all, silently, decided to pretend they hadn’t heard her. Conversation picked back up, perhaps a bit louder to make a point to the little urchin left standing in the dust kicked up from the shuffling feet.

Setting her jaw very square and very strongly, she climbed up onto the top of the fountain, gripping on to the vines that sprang from it now, instead of clean water. She carefully balanced herself, and enjoyed the view for a moment.

These men, this clump of clods, looked like a group of pigeons or hens, wandering around aimlessly, pecking here and there, and making an awful racket of it.

Clearing her throat again, she thought for a moment what to say; she knew they had to be important words. Loud and powerful words that she would have to dig from deep down inside of her. Words from a girl who, even at such a young age, had grown tired of depending on this group of pigeons, this mob of men.

“You can fix it!”, she cried.

One or two of the men looked up at her, pausing a moment and then turning back to their conversations.

“I SAID YOU CAN FIX IT.”, she tried again, so loud that she almost lost her balance.

One of the more rotund men shot a look at her, brow furrowed. “Silence, girl.” The emphasis was on the word “girl” but all she heard was the command for silence.

She crouched down for a moment on her perch and baffled at the concept. How can anyone be silent? How can anyone even command that of a person? That’s like telling someone to stop breathing, stop scratching an itch, stop thinking and wishing and planning. She was enraged, inspired, indignant and proud all at the same time.

She jumped down from that fountain, back onto the ground in the midst of the men. She tried again and again to get their attention. She yelled, shrieked, jumped up and down. “SILENCE” was the only acknowledgement she got, over and over and over again.

Nevertheless, she persisted. She placed two fingers between her lips and let loose a shrill of a whistle.

The men, alarmed, stopped and looked at her again.  Before they had a chance to turn back, to ignore or dismiss her and bellow “SILENCE”, she tried again.

“You can fix this. This is your town. You just need leaders. You need to assign jobs. You need to make men responsible for work and then allow them pride when they do a job well done.”, she said, maybe a bit too quickly–afraid to be silenced yet again. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was done speaking.

The men –suddenly the group didn’t seem so large, so ominous–blinked at her, jaws on the dusty ground. Then, quietly from the back of the group, a pigeon uttered, “It could work”.

How could this be?  They didn’t know how this small little thing…a child, a girl…could have saved their town within minutes.

One of the men stepped forward, taking off his hat and kneeling down before her so they were eye to eye, spoke loudly, for all to hear, “What is your name, child?”

The girl’s lips parted into a smile, showing teeth that were missing, but promised to appear some day. A perfect smile. A future.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she said proudly, looking around at all of the men who had ignored and dismissed her.

“And I will not be silenced.”

 



Love lifts us up where we belong
February 7, 2017, 1:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It can happen at any time, when you least expect it. You will be folding laundry, watching Netflix alone in your bed, trying to get it together enough to find something to feed your kid for dinner, not even thinking about feeding yourself.

For me tonight, it happened in the steps it took from the bottom of our stairs to the refrigerator. Tiny Human was curled up on the couch, folded but neglected laundry all around her, giving her some sort of security that her own mother refuses to engage in. I asked her what she wanted for dinner–the fridge full of ready to go meals that her father had prepared all weekend in anticipation of his wife feeding their six year old daughter cereal for dinner. She picked one of her lunchables. I wasn’t sure if this was allowed. I wasn’t sure if they were just for lunches. I decided I didn’t care and let her do it anyway.

As I was pouring her milk, she came up behind me and wrapped her impossibly long arms around me, at the very top of my rib cage. I turned around and leaned into the hug, barely having to bend down to return the embrace. Her grip tightened around my shoulders and I felt her legs bend and prepare to leap. I braced myself for the launch and caught her in my arms as she wrapped her impossibly long legs around my waist. I stumbled back for a moment but soon we were standing in the middle of the kitchen; wrapped around one another. She was heavy; I wondered how heavy she was now (we don’t own a scale). Her legs kept slipping from my waist down to my knees.  I felt the rest of her slipping, too, but I held my grip firm.

She still smelled the same way she did when they handed her to me for the first time in my hospital room. I remember being baffled by the smell; she smelled like me. I have no idea how I knew this because no one really knows how they smell, but in that moment with my newborn in my arms and in that moment with my 6 year old in my arms, she smelled like me, a biological reminder that I am, in fact, her mother.

When I still lift her up in this manner with people around–family, friends, people in Target–there are always remarks about how she is getting too big for me to lift like that. No, I always say. I will lift her up and hold her to me until her feet no longer leave the floor when I try to lift her. I don’t care how heavy she gets, or how weak I become. I will always pick up my child because, one day, I will put her down and never pick her back up ever again.

The magic broke and she slid down my body like an avalanche. Standing straight up against me, her head has reached my chest already. There’s only a short few feet left before we are eye to eye, with puberty no where in sight. My amazon girl.

She brings her dinner to the table and I stand there, willing myself to sit with her, talk about her day, go through some of those flash cards her father has made for her. It all feels so foreign to me. It all seems forced at this point still.

I remember when I brought her home, I would put her in the swing and sit across from her, curled up on the couch and just watch her. I had no idea with to do with her. I felt nothing. I knew she was a baby–my baby–and that she must be cared for, which I managed, but the bond between her and I was and always has been a strange thing.

She calms me. She will crawl into the bed–I am always in this damn bed–and she will curl up against my stomach like how I carried her for one millions months. She holds my hand if I cry. If I lock myself in the bathroom, when I finally emerge, there is usually a picture or a card on the floor waiting for me with a happy face and whatever sight words she could string together to make a sentence that day.

I talk a big talk.

I tell people that it’s okay to open up to your children about your mental disorder. I tell people that children have a right to know what is wrong with their parents, they have a right to know about the different sorts of emotions out there and that sometimes you get so many in your head that you simply can’t take it and you have to ask for help.

It looks brilliant on paper.

I used to, maybe even until last year, see my relationship with my Tiny Human as symbiotic. I would take care of her and she would take care of me and it would go on and on and never change. But there’s a rift. I am ashamed to ask for my 6 year old daughters help with problems that I should be able to handle myself. She walks around in sad moods for days and refuses to tell me what the matter is. I sit in this bed, clawing at myself for possibly already messing up this perfect little person who was brought into such an uncertain and hesitant world. She has to be the happy in my life. And she usually is, but those days where I cannot reach her, all I think about is that I SHOULD BE ABLE TO REACH HER….and then I think wow maybe people think that about me…that I should be reachable. I have been. I went a long stretch of being reachable and able to talk about what I had gone through for that year and a half nightmare of a time. But when I get into this bed, with the curtain drawn and pillows hiding me from reality, there’s nothing even left here to reach.

Sometimes Tiny Human is sent in, as some sort of bomb specialist. Cut the red wire, Tiny Human. Not the green. She always cuts the red and is able to extract me safely away from the crime scene.

 

But how is that suppose to feel? How can I possibly feel like a good  mother at the end of these days? I sit at the top of my stairs and watch her watch her evening TV shows. I should go down and sit next to her, but I am afraid that the chasm would still feel equally large and I could not bear that right at that moment. That moment, this moment, all the moments. I need to get a hold of myself. Calling myself a bad mother solves nothing because guess what, at the end of the day I AM STILL HER MOTHER. Good or bad, doesn’t make a difference. If I don’t do anything and just watch her evolve at a distance, like a museum exhibit, those are years I will never get back. But I will still be her mother.

(Try harder, people will say. Go for walks with her. Do puzzles. Do a craft. These are the same people that think going for a walk, doing puzzles, or doing a craft will cure my depression. Easily dismissed.)

So, people who half jokingly say that I am too small to lift my quickly growing not so Tiny Human, I am going to pick her up, an hold her to me and and rock back and forth with her chubby little cheek up against mine until my arms are sore. This I can do. This is what comes natural.

Mothers– perhaps mothers like me who feel like they belong on the island of misfit parents, pick yourself up from that floor. Give your kid the damn lunchable because it’s better than cereal. Slowly get closer and closer to your child before you find yourself next to them on the couch without the help of Klonipin.

And pick that child up.

Rock your baby. Rock your baby and know that all over the world women are doing the same thing. You know why? Because you cannot fail at it. In that moment where you are holding them as close as you can get without them getting back into your womb, you are not a bad mother.