Sweet love of mine

What a dream I had,

pressed in organdy,

clothed in crinoline

of smoky burgundy,

softer than the rain,

Was what I started singing last night after taking my youngest to the craft store so she could make a card to thank her favorite coffee shop for their ever-present kindness.

What a dream I had, sung in a mother’s tongue who in her child has witnessed the slow-emerging of a battle for the soul. Anxiety, depression, hospitalization, having shaken us out of safety when I wasn’t at all prepared going into motherhood that there might be times when they’d try to slip away. That there’d be times they’d drop into a hopelessness unconditional love couldn’t reach; where unprotected from the awful realness of the world—animal cruelty on YouTube; family darkness—the tender people could become delicate houses capable of toppling.

I didn’t know any of that. So sung the lyrics softly as if inside a home so delicate I dared not breathe.

But that was hours and a night ago.

And after the sun and sky woke, I raked the soggy leaves of a different season, and when my youngest returned from delivering her card, fast-forwarded into the more recent years.

For I did not know those things about motherhood; that into life can arise such pain. But as she told me about giving them her card—crossing her anxiety and depression to deliver it—I realized the darkness of a human life doesn’t get to be more true than the light that life can rise into.

Because as the tender people who wanted to give up bear acts of Love risen from wounds, dreams softer than the rain become rowdy celebrations, and we scream in the joy of growing bigger than the space we were given.

And as beautiful as softness is, screaming to the world about oh sweet child of mine holds power more becoming my new truth, and so floating with the tender people no longer just experiencing the world as they are creating it, I yelled lyrics in triumph about the beauty of the art project that is themselves.

[I wrote most of this sitting at Alchemy Coffee, the very coffee shop her thank you note— see pic— was written about; and while I was there, an older gentleman, a regular, was chatting with the barista about the music that was playing—The Doors—which I was also writing about and he said he saw The Doors at Lagoon (an amusement park) when they played there and that his first date was to see The Rolling Stones at Lagoon in 1966. History swirls all around]

Forever tuning

pic 1: Me at the Salt Flats in 1991 when Chris and I drove across the country in our move from Maryland back to Davis, California. At this point, Salt Lake City was a foreign land to me— obviously I had no idea I’d eventually live here—but we pulled over and took some pictures because it felt like a mirage in a desert since while your feet touch the ground you can look out over certain stretches and it appears you’re standing on the mirror image of another world.
Pic 2: late 1990, me during a trip to see Chris in Washington, DC when I still lived in CA; I didn’t know that I’d move out with him, we’d move to CA together then I’d meet James and then James and I would move to Northern Virginia near DC together. Life.

And so it was that when I was about 13 (circa ‘82) I went to see Adelaide the psychic whose name my family had been passing around and she told me two things which stuck with me all the way through until that time (1992) I was trying to make the decision whether to break my engagement with Chris and be with James or listen to my mom and stay the course into a marriage which by now would have already ended.

The first thing Adelaide told me that day was that someday I’d be writing a book. And the second thing she told me is that one day a man with blue eyes would say goodbye to me and I’d be devastated and inconsolable.

As such a fortune might beget, I wondered about that blue-eyed boy for many years, mesmerized by a love so deep I’d excruciate at its loss, believing that perhaps Adelaide spoke in deep metaphor or that the goodbye could be averted somehow.  So when one month out from marrying Chris in the foothills of Gold Country (CA), I saw vibrantly-blue-eyed James at a bus stop–the night after dreaming I was swimming with a blue-eyed man–I retrieved James’ dropped Blue Book, and thus awakened from the slumber which had shielded me from realizing uber-cerebral Chris was for a “me” that didn’t exist anymore, and that Adelaide’s blue eyed man could be this very one.

And of course I had to find out.

The year was 1992, 3.75 years after I left for college, 3 after my parents divorce; 2.75 after the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the family home and I dropped out of college, 2.5 since I’d broken up with my (beloved) boyfriend Steve, 2 since I’d gotten rid of everything I owned to shack up with Chris and his roommates in Maryland, and .75 after Chris and I had moved back to Davis, CA to settle in so I could finish my degree.

He supported us, I had my dogs, my guinea pig, my cat, and the potential to abandon years worth of “too much”. Yet there I was.

I honestly do not feel I can adequately express how frightened I was during that time. I wouldn’t be able to explain what it feels like to go through days of being petrified, shaking in the adrenaline of having to face the choice, unable to eat, defying the mom you’ve never crossed. I could not condense a lifetime of the self-doubt involved with being a “pleaser” into the arc of a single event, where one choice is accepting the truth of yourself but spurring others’ disgust, hurt, your own personal hardship, and from which the other is accepting a life of external ease–making everyone else happy–while you slowly suffocate.

My body shook, my mouth was dry. It was an altered state in which I was reaching every vulnerability until they quivered and begged for mercy.

And, in the end, I married that blue-eyed boy (1996) then saw him leave myself and our two daughters (2007) while we grieved with what I thought was feeling that would never end. But it did.

Events unfold for us what we are.

We bear moments of going against the tide, scared, shaking in uncertainty only to see those same moments becoming portraits of ourselves standing alone in our power amidst a crumbling facade. For that Adelaide called into my mind the door to such grief and I opened it anyways for the potential of love writes of many unspoken truths.

Because James left. life is scales, humans playing experiences, fear and dry mouth one day becoming whispers of resilience to our selves another. And so we rise up and fall down and ride roughness into song, slowly catching the breath of the music just like a world of forever-tuning instruments.

Benny

Dear Benny,

I cannot explain my species.

Can’t encapsulate for you their darkness; have no idea why your entry into this world saw you endure cruelty to where even now that you’re safe, with a new family, you panicked when you saw me—shaking, cowering, running—like you have no hope.

I cannot help with this. I cannot do that for you.

For that there is cruelty calls us to a pain within which we might always sit yet never understand.

But, Benny, there’s something.

For that it is from the same heart which quaked from trauma—fleeing from me in instinctual fear; eyes huge, shaking, growling—that a path could be illuminated to seeing your furry mouth licking my fingers in affection bares the secrecy of our magical world.

Because I can’t tell you the answer to cruelty. Because I don’t know.

But I can tell you about the sunrise. About how the water dances in the air when the star arrives near the mountains. I can tell you about greeting the day to a baby breathing beside you that still smells of heaven, and about songs and words that heal scars, waking broken hearts into new days.

I can tell you about the great darkness from which somehow you find a stronger self, and about the dawn of a day in which you discover that the most beautiful thing in your life is actually you.

And I can tell you about the magic of gentleness and the healing that lives inside showing up for a tender world, and about the tears I shed when you licked my hand, as I rose up to a hope that our world was already better.

For the breath of love anoints us both when we rise to the call to be there for one another.

So, Benny, keep fighting the good fight and I promise you, so will I.

All my best, always.

Amy

(As a just-born puppy, Benny spent a year with his mama, locked in a yard outside even over a frigid Idaho winter and I didn’t know him except for a few days [they were moving to Idaho permanently when they got back from their trip] but the difference in him by the end of the week was palpable and on our last visit, I really did tell him to keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together).