It has been a ride so far for me this new year, full of magic and change, frought with detours and hiccups. Thank you Santa, Universe, Full Moon for the countless opportunities to practice acceptance and compassion. Even when they look like a lump of coal.
My year started tenderly- before the new year actually, as I arrived back in Iowa Christmas Day on the heels of my mom having major surgery. I found her home in bed, hurting and frustrated, with my dad taking up the nearly-as-crappy spot: he-who-watches-the-hurting-and-frustrated. There were sweet and warm and normal moments, before the weather postponed my flight back to Cali for three days- on the same day I went down with fever and my mom went back to the hospital. I spent my New Years in bed ringing in a pity party for one, kicking off my big annual existential crisis. But the weather eventually cleared just fine, in every sense, and got me home warm in my Big Sur nest soon enough. Mom has had a rougher go, after four more trips in and out of the hospital with every imaginable complication. The surgery was deemed a success, but it’s been hard to feel that way, since she hasn’t felt good since.
She was as low as I’ve heard her today when I talked to her. I wanted to offer support and instead gave advice. I felt helpless so I gave advice to make myself feel better, and the advice I gave her was to quit thinking about what she should be giving for two seconds and focus on receiving the support she needs. Irony’s always a close companion to advice. Love you Mom. Thank you mirror.
I have to say this giving and receiving business is tricky – the balance between both is so delicate and essential. The part of me that needs to be reminded is listening to the me that talks about this all the time when I teach. One of my favorite things to bring awareness to in group singing is that it’s an intense practice of giving and receiving simultaneously. You let your own voice fly while at the same time taking in a room full of sound. I think we can only be as fulfilled in our experience and in our relationships as we have the capacity to do both of these in our lives. Giving is a full loop. Everyone who has ever felt the bottom drop out after giving a meaningful gift to someone who didn’t appreciate it knows this. So does anyone who’s found relief writing a letter that’s never sent. Receiving is a gift, and the biggest beneficiary of our giving is usually ourselves.
This Christmas I wanted to give presents to myself and family with a little more depth and consideration than I would with my wallet at the mall. I was also feeling the poignancy that comes amidst challenge and suffering, that always seems to make the gifts feel more precious. So I stayed up all Christmas night writing four poems. For my brother, sister-in-law, mom and dad, respectively. I meditated on each of them before I wrote – felt what I perceived of their essence, and of our relationship. Then came the business of distilling what I felt into words. It took all night. Writing has always been effortful for me by the way – there’s no tumbling out in some graceful array – it’s a searching and wrestling and wrangling till I feel the click.
After talking to Mom again today I’m remembering what I wrote for her, our family warrior. Of the four poems this one took the most wrangling. How to distill the complexities of this bond between mother and daughter? The greatest mirrors and teachers to each other, with all the love and crazy that comes with it.
You and I
With one stroke of the brush
She painted a wave of the ocean
And the page was no longer empty
The wave longed for company.
Paint me a whale!
Give me a boat or shore or sky!
And the artist said
You are enough.
We are complete.
We are the painter and the painted.
I cannot know how my maker sees this water-
I feel her brush and the space around me on the page.
I cannot know how my ocean longs-
I trust I have done enough.
We are wide angled portals
One and apart
Creator and created-
Like two stars in orbit, we are bound