The Hug(s) That Saved My Day #hugging #connection

Image by Sophia from Pixabay

I was having a tough day. A really tough day. It was one of those days when the weight of life compounds into the crushing feeling of overwhelm. Aside from my pets, I was alone, and I didn’t want to be alone. I needed support. I needed to feel seen and heard. And, it turns out, most of all, I needed a hug.

I didn’t know how much I needed a hug until my friend Becca came through the door after responding to my text message asking if she was available for a walk. I told her I was having a tough day, and as good friends do, she read between the lines. She got into her car and came over. She walked through the door, navigated around the eager dogs, and pulled me into an embrace. We never went on that walk, instead we sat on my porch and she held presence for me in the way I needed her to, and for as long as I needed her. And, before she left, she pulled me into another hug.

I have a complicated history with hugs, some of which I have written about before. But it took those hugs, and the hugs that followed after from my children and husband, that made me realize how vital loving embrace is.

For some of us who have known conditional, abusive, and complicated love, in all its myriad forms, the right type of hug is not always easy to come by or receive. The wrong kind of hugs can feel like we are being violated instead of nurtured, and no hugs at all can make us feel unwanted. We are complicated beings with our own complicated sets of histories and emotions, and the seemingly simple act of hugging can be filled with nuances that are not easily defined or understood. It’s taken me almost fifty years on this planet to realize how vital the right type of hug is for my wellbeing, as well has how necessary it is for me to let others know this.

I spent a lot of time yesterday and last night thinking about my past and my relationships that have involved hugging in all its myriad forms. I thought about what I had never felt in my mother’s hugs, and how long it has been since she has embraced me. I thought of the violating feel of my stepfather’s hugs, and how when I had reunited with my birthfather as an adult I had finally felt the father hug I had been longing for. And I thought about all the hugs, those love-filled hugs, that I had experienced and was missing. I thought of Sue and Rachel, who both gave the best mother-love hugs one could ask for, and what a loss it has been in my life to have had them pass, less than two weeks apart, two years go. I thought of my grandmother’s loving touch, and the hugs of my dear friend Carol who has lived too far away for over a decade. And I thought of type of hugs I was missing from my adolescent children and my husband, and how much the complicated language of hugs had infiltrated our family life.

I’m still thinking about hugs, and how much I believe the right type of hugs can change a life, and maybe even the world. This simple act that is not simple at all. I have since spoken to my husband and children about hugs and told them how much I am missing theirs. I have opened myself into asking, and in the process am realizing how important that asking is, sometimes, to the act of receiving. And, although I have received my required doses of hugs in this moment, I know I will need more. And so will the people in my life.

We have a painted chalkboard on our kitchen wall where we post the day’s events, and this morning I moved the schedule around a bit to make space for something I believe to be even more important. I created a space for the request for an embrace by chalking the words, “Who needs a hug?” Underneath, I wrote the word “Mom.”

I hope that I, in turn, can be available for anyone who needs the right kind of hug in their life, in their moment of need. And, I hope if I don’t know they need that hug, they will ask me for it.

If I Could Have Tea with Fellow Bloggers…#blogging #friendship

Image by Åsa K from Pixabay

Have you ever thought about what it might be like to meet the writers behind the blogs you read? What would you talk about over, let’s say, a cup of tea? This thought occurred to me while I was reading through this morning’s blog posts that come through my email feed. I happened to be pursuing a post by Jaye Marie and found myself thinking about how lovely it would be to sit with her over a cup of tea and talk about bonsai. I’ve never tried growing a bonsai, but I find the idea fascinating. Bonsais fill me with wonder. They make me think of magic and fairies. Of creating an almost impossible beauty inside a troubled world.

And from there I got to thinking about how much I enjoy the words and shared blogging lives from the writers I follow. When I open their posts, it’s like opening a personal letter from a friend. Some of these friends I have been lucky to meet. And some of those encounters have literally transformed my life. Like meeting the late Sue Vincent.

Most of the writers, though, I merely know through our blog and the comments we share at the end of our posts. But, this doesn’t make their presence in my life any less meaningful. After musing about having tea with Jaye and talking about the art of bonsai, I got to thinking about what else I would enjoy talking about with my fellow bloggers.

Dawn Minot’s post this morning about living life as an introvert struck a familiar cord in me. I found myself thinking about what it might be like to sit beside Dawn on that rock by the water and talk about Life with a capital “L.”

As I progressed through my emails, Anita’s post about Nova Scotia caught my eye. Anita, who travels the world and captures the beauty of place in her photographs and words. Yes, I decided, I would quite like to sit with Anita some day and talk about travel and the magic of place.

And then I found a post by another person I have had the pleasure of meeting. When I opened it, Steve’s lovely photos framed a lovely poem. The post, a reminder of another blogging friend I have talked with over tea. One of the subjects being the art of photography.

Soon, I began to consider myself rather lucky to have these “letters” to open every morning. I think perhaps, I’ll continue to reflect, and share, from time-to-time, as I open up my posts, on what it might be like to have tea with the person who wrote the words.

Why do Good Books (and Films) go “Bad?” #amwriting #ethics

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

We are, here in the USA, residing in the aftermath of another horrific mass shooting at a school. It has become a normalized discomfort. A discomfort that does not have to exist, but yet, here we are, again.

I’m not going to blog about the need for gun control and legislation, because it’s a fact that we keep repeating without doing anything about. I keep voting and signing petitions, I keep practicing and teaching yoga. I keep trying to do my part to change what feels like the unchangeable. But, it’s never enough. There is always more to be done. The simple and obvious start is to enact those laws we refuse to enact as a nation. I do not hold a position of public office, I’m merely a voter, but I’m also a citizen who engages with and creates entertainment in the form of books (which, one day, I’d love to see recreated on screen).

Last night, I wrapped up my engagement with the Blood & Bones series on Netflix by watching the final two episodes. And, just as I did after seeing the series You through to its latest episode, I found myself wondering why I had allowed myself to endure it. I am a sucker for seeing things through. I rarely put a book aside, no matter how much it pains me to finish it, and I often do the same with films. But, I’m done with You and I’m done with Blood & Bones. Why? Because even though the writing and creative execution is, at times, beautiful and even brilliant, I have decided not to torture myself any longer waiting for the good to prevail over the bad. And, let’s be clear, there’s a whole lot of bad in both of these series.

We wonder why we are obsessed with violence in this country, but we cannot seem to break the cycle. Rarely do we see fantasy series created without an over-abundance of violence and we keep churning out thrillers filled with murder and horror that push the edges of extreme in the name of entertainment.

When will we decide we’ve had enough? When will we decide that maybe, just maybe, we benefit more by spreading the good we are capable of, over the bad?

After waking up at 2am this morning from dreams laced with the violence from the last two episodes of Blood and Bones, I renewed my vow to do my part as a creative to spread the good over the bad. Violence is not a prerequisite for fantasy, nor is it for drama. We do not need blood and gore to keep the page turning, or the viewers locked to a screen. We need a good story. And, dare I say, a story about good. Conflict need not turn to violence, and when it does, it behooves us to ask why? Why are we writing it? Why are we reading it? Why are we watching it?

I know when I engage with it on the screen or in a book, I am always waiting for the bad to turn back to the good. But, as we see in the series mentioned above, it never stays good for long these days. We have normalized violence, and we can’t be too surprised that we are seeing it normalized in our schools. If we want change, we must be the change.

And so, I’ve decided to put aside those two series and focus on creative that brings me hope and joy, which is also how I engage with writing. If it doesn’t educate me through historic violence, I see little need for engagement. I know through personal experience with writing fantasy and adventure books, that violence need not dominate the prose. It need not be a means to keep the viewer locked to a page or a screen with a rush of destructive adrenaline. Why torture ourselves with the bad when we always have the choice to bring forth the good?

Despite the Snow it is Pretty Outside: The View from My Windows #longwinter

The Current View from My Yoga Studio Windows Overlooking the Patio

I really should have written, “because of the snow,” because it is the blizzard we received yesterday that has made the landscape majestically beautiful. But, spring officially arrives in less than one week here in New England, and the bulbs that had emerged their bold stalks of green out of the waking Earth in my front garden are now covered in several feet of heavy, wet snow.

Oh, Spring, where are you? Why the long leave before your return? We are pining for you. Our skin, thirsts for the sun. Our feet, aching for the feel of dirt and grass. We have become grounded, or should I say ungrounded, in winter.

I have been bringing stainless steel tablespoons to my yoga classes so that my students can ground their bodies. It has been too long since our bare feet have felt the magnetic pull of of Mother’s Earth, welcoming us back into her body. So, we have to rely upon artificial means. The magnetic properties of metal to align our bodies’ polarity.

I am not complaining, but really I am. The snow is beautiful, and for skiers, like my son who has hit the slopes with his buddies on this school declared snow day, this blizzard has brought a gift of a free day to adventure, once again, beside Winter.

But, I am eager for spring. I am eager to see the return of buds filling with life. The swell of brooks and ponds teeming with tadpoles…and I have been waiting (not so patiently) to forgage for spring fungi. Oh, if I am honest, I have not been so diligent about embracing Winter’s gifts. The repose it offers. The churning of life in the process of building. My middle-grade manuscript sequels sit mostly untouched in their separate documents, surrounded by the aura of excuses. Instead of the writer’s muse, I feel the tug of Persephone’s hand pulling me out of these darkened days.

“Come back to the light!”

Ah, but it is indeed brighter outside, a brightness now magnified by the white masses of moisture now slayed across the branches of trees and pilled into forever drifts beside the walkways. Oh, have no fear, we will find you, Spring. We will find you someday…soon?

Reconnecting the Strands of DNA #connection #origins #ancestry

Dubrovnik Croatia. Image by Ivan Ivankovic from Pixabay

Lately, my thoughts about connection have turned to roots. In particular, the roots of ancestry. This is where grief is now pointing me, and I find my eyes eager to fill with the loss of separation when I think of where I have come from. I used to believe it didn’t matter. Later, I believed that perhaps the longing I felt inside of me came from past lives. I think, in part, it does, but that is not the longing that pulls the sorrow from my lids these days. It is the longing to find my roots in this life.

At the end of summer, I will turn 50. Instead of a party, I have chosen to travel. For many week I have contemplated where, even though the longing pulls me to Croatia. Beside me, I can see the ghost of my paternal grandmother nodding her head. Come home, she whispers, Come home to your origins. She is wearing a black dress, as though she is mourning with me, but I get the sense through her smile that this mourning can become a rebirth.

When I search for flights and places to stay, the old gnarled fingers of doubt take hold of joy and start shaking their habits at me. It is too expensive. Be practical. It is too long of a journey.

But, it is my choice to decide to shed the habits of lack that have been with me since birth. It is my choice to rebirth a different belief.

When I think about this return to origins, I think of how I used to believe these origins were never mine to claim. A foolish thought, perhaps, but the circumstances of my life have always told me otherwise. Not ever feeling as though I truly belonged to an extended family, even though I had three sides that I could, in some way claim, has taken a toll on my sense of connection. It has pulled up my roots and left me feeling a thirst that drains my eyes.

It has taken me some time to realize why I no long feel the urgent pull to escape to the ancient lands of Albion to find this connection I am longing for. It is not that the wild places of magic do not call to me still, but they are not the missing pieces I need to reassemble at this time. I need to, I am realizing at this half-century point of my life, rebuild the structure of my DNA. I need to weave the strands back into unity. I need to fall in love with my origins, and realize my origins have never truly abandoned me.

Come home, we are waiting for your return.

So for now, this is a post that waits to be continued. I am not going to question why my paternal side of origin is the one calling for home the loudest right now, because it feels right. It feels like a coming home.

Born into Loss #grief

Years ago, I walked into the office of a healer, and before she placed her hands on me she looked into my eyes and asked, “Why are you so sad?”

I recall being offended. I had not felt sadness that day, but rather excitement for this new experience I was about to try. But she was right. Sadness lives inside of me. It always has. This sadness, I am realizing, more and more, is something I need to address rather than ignore. Grief made a home inside of my cell before birth. Some of us are born into loss before we realize we have lost anything. And, so I need to begin at the beginning. I need to begin at the origin of cells finding union before separation.

It was never a secret that I was an unwanted pregnancy. My parents were too young and unprepared to have a family. Yet, first my sister was born, and then I. Sometimes, I find myself wondering what words and emotions my body molded into being as my cells became tissues, organs, and bones. A human molded into form without the tightly woven threads of love to support her came into the world as a girl named “truth.”

Rejection did not take the form of abortion, but of unwanted birth. And in those days before sonograms warned us of sexual organs, I was expected to be a boy. But love found me in a complicated way, and I was not given up. Instead, I was wrapped tightly inside the wants of my mother, who never seemed to understand that I had wants of my own.

And so I made her my everything, as all babies do who have the privilege of a mother-bond. I followed her through the leavings that became losses as grief began to make an uncomfortable home in my growing body.

The first leaving left everyone I knew behind except my mother and sister when I was two-years-old. That was the spring and summer we went into hiding with the Hare Krishnas. I never knew what it was like to wear PTSD in the body until four decades later when I was in a mantra class for yoga teacher certification. That day, while practicing the “Guru Mantra,” the traumas of the two-year-old girl living inside of me cried for release as my body shook and my mind swirled into the past.

“Why are you so sad?”

The words haunt me with their call for recognition, and so I follow their story and watch a two-year-old girl leave behind her father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I watch her struggle to unravel the structure of DNA until her genes float unmoored inside of her wondering where they came from. Wondering why there is nothing to tether them home. And, I see her longing grow into a wave that she swallows over and over again until she can no longer swallow it because it has become her.

Grief is the manifestation of lost love, and I now realize how much it has become a part of my cells. It is the ripping apart of connection. A boat unmoored from its anchor, floating alone on the sea. Yet it is a human condition, and not a metaphor.

And, so I return to the two-year-old girl and watch her cling to her mother and the tangle of her wants. I watch her follow the only bond she feels she can cling to as they travel across the country to form a new extended family. Here she finds friendships. Some of which become the untethered loss named grief. Here she also finds new grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, yet their love is complicated, conditional, and not woven tightly with the strands of DNA.

But it is this DNA that complicates their union. Her mother has chosen to love a man that is her cousin’s son. The cousin is her father’s nephew, but they are of the close age that they lived together as unhappy brothers for many years. I have been brought into a family that is not wholly welcoming because of the strains that can be imposed upon DNA. It is a tethering without want.

Yet, love finds me. I grow to love my stepfather who has made himself the sun in our small system of orbiting planets. I dutifully cross out the name of origin that belongs to my father, and learn to separate the strands of DNA inside of me without realizing those strands are beginning to tie knots of ache inside of my belly.

And I learn to love my new cousins that come into being, and their grandparents. Even the one who has a hard time looking at my face, as well as the faces of my mother and sister. I call them my own. All of them. I have a new father. I have a new large, extended family through which I share birthdays, holidays and the long weekend of Labor Day on a tiny island in Maine. But I will lose all of those connections. Another choice made by my mother.

“Why are you so sad?” The words tangle with my grandmother’s “Why did she give you up? Why did she choose him over you, and your sister, and her grandchildren?”

Because she made him our sun.

But I tried to stay in his orbit. Oh, how I tried, even when I watched unhealthy patterns that I experienced as a child take form in the grandparent-grandchild connection. I tried until I could try no more, but long before I let the orbit, my mother decided to disconnect from the family she married into, and so, by this law of attraction I have with her, so did I.

When I left the orbit, my mother stayed.

I have come to realize that reconnection after separation of these genetic bonds we carry inside of us in the form of family is like trying to reattach a limb with nerve damage. But I am trying. The loss of my mother, stepfather, and step-family has come with a re-connection with my birthfather, and some of my paternal cousins, aunts, and uncles. The love we share has deep roots, yet its unearthing exposes the grief of all the losses. All those birthdays, holidays, and celebrations not shared. All the words never uttered, the hugs never felt.

But, how grateful I am to have this reweaving.

I have learned, through grief, to love from afar, even those I have lost forever, because I know forever loss does not exist. In each loss that has led in a death of the body, I have found the reunion of the soul-connection. Each of these soul reunions have felt blessed as they do not carry with them the burdens of hurt. They carry only the light of love.

“Grief” in spoken words by Alethea Kehas, video credit attributed to Danilo Riba of Pixabay

A Life Erased #familydysfunction #conditionallove

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

I wonder if there is anyone who does not contemplate erasure, even if they have never experienced it first hand. When I was a young child growing up in an atheist household, I’d often find myself frozen in a self-imposed terror while thinking about nonexistence when I should have been sleeping. It’s probably safe to say that the concept of nonexistence has driven many lives towards various forms of religions, spiritual quests, and existential crises. After one has experienced existence, the notion of nonexistence becomes a little hard to stomach.

This is not a post about erasure after we die. It is about erasure while we live. It is a story about my personal experience with erasure.

Yesterday, through a Google search, I discovered that my step-grandmother had passed away at the end of last May, at nearly the exact same time my maternal grandmother died. No one told me about her passing. In fact, if you read her obituary, I don’t even exist as a part of her life.

My memory, though, tells a different story. A story of a little girl and her older sister flown across the country to be integrated into a family that wasn’t theirs. A family that struggled, some parts more successfully than others, to accept them. And one of the more successful people with that acceptance was my step-grandmother. She, in my memory, tried the hardest to accept my sister and me as her own, at least for many years. And, my memory tells the story of a girl who loved her step-grandmother and longed to be loved in return. I think I was, at least for awhile.

I once wrote a poem about this complicated love. The poem was about a little girl and her step-grandmother mixing together the ingredients of zucchini bread on a kitchen counter. I couldn’t, though, get it right, as much as I tried to revise and rework it. Which seems fitting, I suppose.

My mind has not erased this memory, even if my muse cannot recreate it. My body remembers the rhythm of the shredding of squash against a grater, the stir of the wooden spoon inside a metal bowl, and the dusty perfume of cinnamon filling my nose. I still use my step-grandmother’s recipe for zucchini bread. I even corrected my mother’s intentional error in the recipe book she gave me years ago, crossing out my maternal grandmother’s name and writing in my step-grandmother’s. Making bread with my step-grandmother is one of my happier memories with her. A memory I have chosen not to erase.

And there are more. The days when she took us on the “fun” instead of the “educational” outings that came with required essay writing. Those rare days when my step-grandmother, my sister, and I would ski through the snowy woods of the White Mountains, or slide with gleeful abandon down the water tubes at Weir’s Beach. My tongue still recalls the sweet pleasure of butter crunch ice cream at the end of a hot summer’s day…

And, that inner child inside of me still wants to be beloved.

Yet, she has been erased. Again. Erased from a life because she didn’t fit herself into it in the way that was expected. A product of conditional love. Still, I refuse to believe my step-grandmother and I didn’t share a love for one another. I refuse to erase the proof that lives inside of my cells. And so I will allow myself to feel this complicated grief, and try as best as I am able, to process its messy, uncomfortable form.

The last time I saw my step-grandmother was approximately 17 years ago, even though we lived, for most of those years, just 15 minutes away by car. I didn’t see her because that was my mother’s wish. Yet, my mother was not erased from my step-grandmother’s obituary. Instead, my mother erased her own daughters.

In the years before my maternal grandmother passed away, she would often talk about my mother and wonder why she had chosen my stepfather over her daughters and grandchildren. I could never answer that question because it was not mine to answer. All I could tell her was that it hurt me. It has hurt a lot of people in many different ways.

Everyone bears their own unique story, but love is the light that threads through all life. Instead of erasing the darkness, it illuminates its shadows and allows us to see them more clearly. I’d like to believe the nudge I have felt over these past several months to Google my step-grandmother was from the thread of love that comes from her. She, after all, didn’t choose to erase me. And, I have not forgotten her.

Itching For Unity and a Poem about Coming Home #connection #nature #poetry

A place of close connection in Iceland.

Here in New England we have one more month of winter ahead of us. The landscape around me is mostly exposed. Our snow has arrived in spurts this year. We’ve had a few good dumps of precipitation, but mostly in the form of rain. When it snows, it lasts for maybe a week before we move into a warm spell. It’s become a disturbing cycle. A cycle indicative of the changes in our climate.

I fell asleep last night thinking about longing for a different world. A world returned to the wild, mostly. It’s a persistent itch inside of me. It’s deep, nearly too deep to satisfy. These days it almost seems impossible. And, it is a longing wrapped in guilt.

I find myself struggling with the desire to leave the house and the place I have called home for 15 years. To break away from the confines of developed normalcy to run to the wild places on Earth. To find home again, in the land.

It is not the same to walk into the woods here. It wears too many footprints. The weight of the past feels mostly too heavy. We are haunted by the ghosts of the past here in this land stolen with force and bloodshed. Now, I look outside and see the imprints of competitions. The striving for more. To be better. To be the best.

I see a blind race to nowhere.

Perhaps I will feel differently, when the green takes over again, softening the bones of the past. Bringing renewal, for at least a few months, but right now, I seek the magic of the land in other places. I long to press my body into the wind and feel the song of Earth bringing my dormant cells back to life. The call of the Mother’s heartbeat itches until I am rubbed raw with frustration.

I wonder if this is what we all suffer from?

Yet, we continue to build and erect our walls. We fill our water with toxins and our air with forgetting. We eat the refuge of our waste as though it were nourishment, forgetting why we are here and where we came from.

We’ve created a precipice upon which we have staggered for too long. It’s become almost impossible to find balance again. To return to the wild places I long to visit, I must consume resources that damage what I seek most. Hope seems to wait outside my lifetime. The sides that divide struggle with our collective future. One embracing more destruction, the other renewal. I do not know if I will live long enough to see one or the other win, but I hold onto the hope that one day we will find that unity again and there will be no longer be an itch inside of us. No longing with conflict. That one day not even doors will keep us from feeling the pulse that drums through all life and know it as home.

A Reminder of Kindness & Revenge Reviews #writerslife

I don’t often go on Amazon to check my book reviews, in fact it’s very rare that I do. Today, though, I had some time and decided to give them a look. That’s when I discovered that a cousin of mine had her husband post a 1 star review of my memoir after she found out my grandmother left her out of her will, but not me. I’m now in the process of having the review removed, but it’s been there since July of last year. Shortly after my grandmother passed on and the will was released. Sadly, this is just one example of the retaliation my sister and I have received from angry relatives. I have never once spoken an unkind word to my cousin, and I have never met her husband.

If nothing else, this is a reminder to look inside ourselves to discover the source of our pain instead of inflicting it upon others.

I wonder if any writers out there have similar stories?

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Hidden in Childhood #poetry #childhood

I am going to share a spoken poem with you. This is a first for me. Recording my voice to share my poetry in a public way. Why did I choose this particular poem to share? It was recently published in an anthology called Hidden in Childhood, which is a collection of more than 100 poems by different authors compiled and edited by Gabriela Marie Milton.

A few days ago, I discovered that Boz Bozeman had chosen my poem, “The Girl Who Should Have Been a Boy” to read aloud during a poetry event. Thank you, Boz. I’m not sure I can express how much this impacted me. If someone else can speak my words, I realized, so can I. If you’d like to hear my recording, you can listen to it here:

If you are curious how the poem came about, I will give you a brief history. To put it succinctly, I was supposed to be a boy. My birthfather made this clear before I was born, and my mother shared it with me often when I was a child as an example of his rejection. When I was became a child of my stepfather’s, my being a girl became his disappointment. He did not shy away from sharing it with our family, or people we met.

Thus, I adopted the rejection of not being a boy, and never quite feeling like I could be loved by my two fathers because I was born into the body of a girl. I became convinced this was a primary reason my birthfather gave us up, and why my stepfather gave us conditional love. My sister and I spent many hours trying to pretend we were the boys he wanted, pushing toy trucks in the dirt, watching him working at his workshop…but they were not happy hours.

I imagine this poem has a more universal truth to it. Many, if not most, of us have experienced rejection for not being the way someone else, or society, would like us to be.