Rest

I thought I’d have more time to say what needs saying, but I’m out of time. We’re headed to the Rocky Mountains for several weeks of rest and I won’t have any access to the internet there.

I saw P twice this week and there’s been some real healing between us. I’ve remembered how deep and strong our connection is and how much he means to me. His eyes were full of tenderness and love for me when we said goodbye just this morning.

I told him that I surrender.

I’ll look forward to writing here again when I return.

Be well,

LB

 

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Letting Him Help Me

I’ve been living in a bit of a dream world. Superimposing my obsession with attachment theory over P’s mindful, contemplative approach. He only believes in the here and now,  and he doesn’t want to thresh my past. He never has wanted to. I’ve tried to bend him to my will instead of allowing him to work within his own modalities.

He was clear about this last time we were together. Memory is slippery, he told me. He believes in the present expression of trauma in my body, and the only story he needs to hear is the one held there.

And yet I’ve wanted the clever interpretations of a Winnicottesque analyst. I’ve wanted him to provide the consistency of a proper mother and he only ever wanted to be another human being beside me. A guide, a fellow traveler with some experience of the road.

“You don’t open to me anymore, P, not the way that you used to. It feels like you are protecting yourself.”

“I can see why you would feel that way, LB, and I wonder if you can see your role in all of this?” he asked with cold, set eyes. The blue tinged with grey.

I demurred. I pawed about for excuses. How could anything be the patient’s fault? Whatever happened to unconditional positive regard? Isn’t part of the magic dependent upon me showing the worst of myself? I’ve never wanted to hide how ugly I can be; how beautiful; how frustratingly stubborn. I’ve always wanted to get so low as to be irreducible.

But what I’ve been best at is using my past like a shield, like the greatest possible form of resistance. And it’s time to step out from behind it into the blaring sun.

This means that I’m going to surrender. I’m going to give over. I’m going to trust my therapist to do the work that he knows how to do, was in fact trained to do.

At acupuncture yesterday I saw blooming circles of deep purple and green behind my eyes. I had a vision of a man resuscitating me — blowing his own breath into my mouth. I arched to take in as much as I could in the privacy there. Then I heard these words raining down inside my head, these cosmic instructions: play, take delight.

Part of that is letting go, isn’t it? It’s a kicking up of dust and sticks; it’s a kind of drifting I never, ever experienced as a child. This journey doesn’t always have to be so incredibly heavy. I can shift a bit of this weight onto P. I can let him help me.

Waiting for my herbal prescription at the end of my visit, I walked over to the heavy old door at the entrance and rested against the pane. The glass was so smooth and cool against my skin and I stood there for a long time and watched the trees.

I felt like a lovely, idle girl.

Video Diary

I made a three-minute video diary of my woods to share with P. I showed him our strawberries, blueberries, our trail and some of my favorite trees. I was mourning the fact that he will never see my home in real life — the way my mother and father won’t. I told him little stories alongside the birdsong. I panned to my house through the green. I felt like my daughter must when she is working on a special little project; when she runs to me with some poem or story and waits for me to delight in it, and her.

It was raining during our session yesterday (it has been raining non-stop here for weeks now), and the shades were drawn just how I like them and the grey settled into our space and made it feel peaceful. I felt somewhat like a treasured guest, and I was determined to be proper and graceful and forgiving. I wanted to have a nice session and hold off on anything that might make leaving at the end unbearable and lonely.

I handed him my phone and watched him uncross his long legs and plant them wide and firm against the carpet. His concentration was deep and only grew deeper with my tinny voice. His cheeks flushed with pleasure and warmth. At the end he told me I’d made his day and I believed him.

He was delighting in me.

I liked deciding to set our problems aside. I liked moving into another room without so much mess and clutter to be dealt with. P knew what I was doing and he was generous, approving and appreciative. We could just breathe, couldn’t we? Deep and slow, deep and slow. These were the words that came to me a few acupuncture sessions ago. I’ve chanted them since to keep things in perspective, to remember that despite my feelings to the contrary, there is still time. It helps to think of processing my days like film in a dark room. Everything finally coming together, the whole of it becoming clear.

It’s funny that these dark times, times of tumult and change, can be really beautiful. The things we do to take care of ourselves, these desperate acts of soothing, are born long before we reach for them. They lay in waiting, particular to each of us.

I have told myself to slow down; I have shown someone I love green, growing things; I have pushed aside trouble for another day.

Reality

P feels like a stranger to me. The fragile attachment we’d once undertaken is beyond repair, and I am lost. Each week I struggle to find the words to express my grief, or to even tell him that I’ve been through the stages of looming death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Our old way of being together is over. Who we were then is gone. All of it feels like a dream.

We just keep missing each other.

Yesterday I was wearing a sweater given to me by one of my best friends. It’s a black zip-up fleece, one so perfect for hiding in, and it still smells like her. I felt held in that sweater and safe and comforted. I buried my hands deep into its soft pockets. I told P the story of where it came from and he wasn’t touched. I think he’s so tired of being accused of doing everything wrong that he isn’t even trying to make connections anymore.

“What does it feel like to be nestled inside of a sweater given to you by someone you love?” I wanted him to say. “Have you ever wanted one of my sweaters?” “Is this bringing up the fact that you don’t have anything of your mother’s?”

Then I tried to tell him about my latest experience at acupuncture. That I’d been exposed from just beneath my breasts to my low waist, just above my pubic bone, but I’d still felt safe. Safe and exposed — a first for me. He mused that it was like I was being put together again, but I’d just wanted to talk about being open that way. Instead of listening he’d added his own story, one he wanted me to accept as truth. He does that a lot. Like my version is warped and uninspired and he has to make it right.

I took my shoes off and tried to rest but the couch was like a stethoscope to the floors below. P offered to read to me. He offered to play soft music. He offered everything except what I wanted: which was, of course, for him to move closer. I wanted to bend at the waist and breathe beside his chair until the awful premonition that our work is coming to an end dissolved.

But he doesn’t offer to move closer anymore. It’s like he has forgotten that we’d been meaning to touch. I wonder if he has changed his mind about it all. I wonder if he still loves me. Again the question, can parents fall out of love with their children?

And then that Max Ritvo line,

“I wish you would tell me how difficult is it to love me /
because then I would know that you love me beneath all of that difficulty.”

I wish I could say otherwise, but our work is in serious trouble.

Wish Session on the Eve of my Real Session

“I don’t want to fight anymore, P. I want to be close.”

“I remember this film I saw a few years ago. Have I told you about it? A little girl, about eight years old, loses her mother to suicide. She’s beside herself with grief and tells her father that the only way she will return to school is if he sits outside each day on the park bench she can see from her classroom.

And so he does. He works from his place in the park and waves to his daughter when she flies to the window to look for him. People learn to visit him there: Friends, co-workers, teachers. The seasons change.

I don’t remember how it ends. I just remember him being there in this really radical way for a long time. Risking everything to be present for his grieving daughter, for his grieving self.

I remember that the little girl gets stronger.”

“I cried in bed, alone in bed last week. You’d spoken about your son last time we were together, and I wish you could see yourself when you talk of him. I wish you could see your face. Hear the tenderness shaking in your voice. See your shoulders pressed into bird wings.

I wanted you so badly remembering. Thank you for showing me your love for him.”

P stands and moves his chair just inches away from me without asking for permission. He wants to do it, needs to do it. He looks at me, directly into my eyes, and then away. Back again. The warmth flooding me feels embryonic. Beyond that, elemental. Total.

I don’t even try to stop the moans rising in my throat. The relief is too vast to contain. I let my body do what it wills.

“I want you to know that I’m so open and here. I’m right here, LB. Shh…

I’m here.”

Our breathing starts to rhythm. I allow myself to look into his eyes: Deep blue. Grateful. A tinge of regret and longing. Sorrow. Hope.

Quiet like being high up in bed in a cool, shaded room. (Beneath a blanket your mother made with her own two hands.) I don’t doubt for a second that I am safe. The honor of it warm in my belly and in my breath.

Words bring me back to our blue room. Words that cannot stay humble, that cannot wait:

“I know, I know I shouldn’t break this between us. But I’m reading this book. This book about a little girl who lives in a small village in Israel alone with her father. He grows citrus in groves they can see from their modest little house. He braids her hair in the morning like her mother used to wear it, her mother who died years ago, and rocks her in the hammock hanging in the garden.

And anyway, I thought of you.”

A Real Warrior

It has taken eight long weeks, but I am finally done fighting.

“We lose each other in this life, LB.”

More loss is coming, flowing down towards me in ways I can’t dam. Opening to what is coming, to what I can’t stop, is the best tool I have for survival. Open to sleep, open to move, open to breathe. When I let go consciously, warmth rushes from my shoulders down to my feet, and then I can carry on. Empty of the heavy illusion of control.

Drained of my omnipotence.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, calls the clock on the floor against the wall next to me; the clock I took off the wall to rid myself of time. Now I’m nodding my head to its powerful rhythm, my belly aching with the sacrilege and fear.

What am I going to do? What is going to happen to me?

I am no longer a child. I have made a peaceful home. Let go, let go, let go.

My daughter is obsessed with a book series about a group of warring cat clans. They find out where they belong based on their unique attributes and identities, and are constantly challenged during tests of bravery and strength. When life feels exceptionally difficult, they can look to their ancestors, members of the star clan, for help.

She told me, in a rush of spirited energy, that I remind her of Cinderpelt. Who is she, I asked her. Tell me.

“Well, she’s a medicine cat who was meant to be a warrior. One day she got caught in a trap, and the star clan decided to save her and see if she could pass one last test…”

“They told her the day that she would die, Momma! And she was so brave with knowing that they gave her a second chance. Turned her back into a kit so she could grow again, grow into a real warrior.”

“She’s just like you, Momma.”

“Strong.”

One Last Time

This is a story about my mother.

On the last day of classes at the end of my first year in college, my father picked me up in our old, blue Chrysler dynasty, and I climbed into the back seat like a child. By then I’d stopped wondering what he was thinking, and I remember the feeling that I was stepping slowly into black water, the earth disappearing behind us as we descended from the mountains into the city.

We didn’t say a word to one another.

Back home he’d sold many of my things. My CD player, books, bed frame, and even the stuffed elephant I’d cherished and squeezed flat to fall asleep each night. It was dank and disgusting there. The air smelled like cooking grease, rubbing alcohol, and body odor. I’d wanted to take my life almost instantly upon returning.

How, I wondered, could this be where I’d come from.

I was in love with the first boy I’d seen back in Leadville. Sitting atop my desk in my dorm room that first day, facing what I’d like to think was due North, I’d spotted a strawberry blond with an adorable cowlick and an air of deep contentedness. He seemed loyal and humble and bare. All this I gleaned from my window.

When he moved in next door to me, I knew that the universe had her ropy hands in all of this. I did everything I could to make him fall in love with me until he did.

We both had a deep affinity for escape and nights we’d drive to Buena Vista and down through Salida, or sometimes all the way to Boulder. He taught me to skip rocks at Turquoise lake and also the names of trees I should have known. I learned to pay attention to the changing of seasons and the nature of light. I haven’t been here, I wanted to tell him. This is all new to me: living. 

We made love for the first time and he bore my pain without knowing anything about its origins. Each time he asked about where I’d come from I bore down into silence or minimized the damage to keep him close. He didn’t need protecting from my past, but I didn’t know it then.

By spring we were engaged and talking about leaving for his hometown. We’d marry and finish college in the East, and I’d never have to return to the place I’d barely survived.

Except we were broke and young and afraid.

He held me that last night before he left promising to call every day, promising to save money for our very own place. The room was already empty of his maps and clothing, his packs and gear and skis. Moonlight shone through the window onto our bodies and hurt.

When I’d called my mother from school to tell her that I was in love, she was relieved. She didn’t lecture me about falling too fast, or making hasty plans, or ruining my life. She understood that there was an opening, some slight hope, and she’d wedge something there to hold it for me.

After long shifts at the hospital, after working all night to support my father and to keep up the mortgage payments, my mother drove me around to job interviews in the draining heat. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. Long-term abuse had infantilized me; I’d been kept from these very basic modes of independence. I sat through lectures on pyramid schemes and took tests at the local employment agencies to no avail. I knew that I’d die there coiled up on a mattress at the back of the house, wishing my life away.

Sinking along with my mother.

Except she reared up one last time.

She’d come home one morning, exhausted and swollen and bare-faced. “Let’s get you a plane ticket,” she’d said. “Let’s get you out of here. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it, but we have to do something, and we have to do it now.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

I loaded what was left of my life there, what I could fit in my oversized blue duffel, and my mother drove me to the airport. All I could think of was my own looming freedom, how any little thing could derail this final piece of the road there.

I wasn’t thinking of her, or where she had to return, or what was going to happen to her. Whether she would finally die at my father’s hands. Finally I was her child that needed help, that needed her, and she got me there just in time.

She saved my life.

I married that man and so many of you know little pieces of our story now. We live in the woods, in the quiet and peace here, with our young daughter. And we experience moments of real happiness born of feeling known.

We think of my mother often and imagine her in this gentle forest.