Chosen

At night, when I tuck my kids into bed, we say affirmations.  It goes something like this:

Me: Repeat after me.

Kid: Repeat after me.

(Years of doing affirmations and they still laugh at the ‘repeat’ thing.)

Me: I am brave.

Kid: I am brave.

Me: I am kind.

Kid: I am kind.

You get the idea.  A few more generic ones, and then I deviate according to the kid’s personality, something we struggled with that day, or something silly.  I love to make up songs on the spot and they enjoy my goofiness as well, which I know won’t last forever so I’m soaking it in.  We always end with “I love myself, I’m proud of myself, and I can do great things.”

I love myself and I’m proud of myself were not part of my original formula, they came to me a couple of years ago when I was thinking about how to have the kids’ validation come from within, rather than from others, including their parents.  I’m not of the opinion that me arriving on Earth earlier makes me any more of an authority on how to be human, it only makes me responsible for their care, safety, and guiding them with things like manners, potty training, and when it’s acceptable to yell “Go Dawgs” at strangers. (Hint: Always. It’s always acceptable.)

Some nights I thank them for choosing me to be their Mama when they were souls preparing to come to Earth.  I feel so grateful and honored that they chose me, knowing they’d be vulnerable and I’d be so very … well, flawed.  Human.  Ill-prepared for the task.

When I was young enough to have a bedtime, Bonmama tucked me into bed most nights.  My mom worked late nights as a radio DJ, so she was usually gone and Bonpapa was downstairs working in his office or occasionally asleep in his recliner in front of an episode of Dragnet.

We walked down the narrow hallway, Bonmama and I, feet scuffing on the vintage green carpet (it had odd sections that looked a lot like the tops of cauliflower to me and I liked how it felt underfoot) until we reached her bedroom.  I had my own bed in my own bedroom across the hall, but didn’t sleep in it because it was big and I was small and afraid of the dark.

So she had an antique bed brought in from Lacanau – her mother’s home – and squeezed it beside her bed, the foot of it nearly touching her delicate dark wooden vanity, and that bed, pushed back into the corner of her room, is where I slept every night.  That was our room.  Bonmama, Bonpapa, and me.

[[Side note:  Eventually, I acquired an ugly gray radio/alarm clock and I was allowed to listen to the public broadcasts each night until one of them came to bed.  It helped me to sleep and not feel alone.  Usually, my choices for night time listening were the grainy audio from some mediocre stage production of Macbeth, or an opera with commercials interspersed.  I always chose the opera.  It’s so romantic, dramatic, and while I couldn’t ever understand what was being sung about, I could tell it was earnest and urgent.  As an idealistic young dreamer, I loved the sounds of catastrophe, climax, and resignation.   If Bonpapa chose the station – which he sometimes did – it was Beethoven.  I still listen to music when I nap, usually Italian opera or Beethoven.]]

I climbed into my little bed, nestled amongst my “menagerie” of stuffed animals, including a mangy-looking white Persian cat and its equally scruffy black sibling, and Bonmama sat beside me arranging pillows and blankets around us.  Once I was still, she prayed with me, beginning with the Lord’s prayer in French, and sometimes invoking Archangel Michael to watch over me.  “You are special to Michel,” she’d say.  “You’re named after him.”  There was something about the way she said it.  I believed the fiercest of Heaven’s warriors might actually have taken time to check in on me as I slept, if I asked him to.

Some nights she rubbed my back or chatted with me about the day.  Every night without fail, she said to me and I repeated back to her:

Bonne Nuit,

Bonne Reves, and

Je t’aime beaucoup. 

Those are French for Good Night, Sweet Dreams, and I love you.

Not exactly affirmations, but no less affirming to my heart and soul.

It’s been a hard week, mostly due to missing her, and today was a welcome reprieve. I spent all day with my boys, just the three of us.  We began with breakfast, then painting.  We went to the field and kicked the soccer ball around, threw a football, raced, and fell down and laughed with each other.  We shared a pizza for dinner, and they played video games while I sat in my big chair and read a book.

Forgive me if my writing is scattered.  All of these thoughts are strung like twinkling patio lights in my head, a web of love and comfort and tradition.  Tradition in the sense that no one is really gone as long as you remember, and echo, and say their name and – here’s the important part, the reason I’m writing this tonight – pay their love forward into new hearts.

A lightning-strike realization. Another revelation.  They keep coming, unexpectedly, as I think and overthink my life and hers and that sweet spot where they intersected, and I wonder if this isn’t another unrecognized stage of grief:

Epiphany.

Honoring Bonmama is not just about saying her name or making her bread.  It’s about the love she’s given me, that can never be divided, only multiplied, and pouring that devotion into my children so that they meet her, and know the best parts of her, even if they don’t know it’s her they are meeting.

I felt like a good mom today.  A Bonmama – type of mom.  At the end of the day, my kids knew without any doubt just how treasured they are.  Cherished.  That’s a word she liked to use.  I like it, too.  (As I type this, my boys are asleep in my bed, surrounded by 15-20 of their “favorite” stuffed animals. This is the kind of history I don’t mind repeating.)

What I’m thinking about over and over as I listen to them gently snoring is, I am so grateful for the choosing. 

That Bonmama chose to be more to us – and give more to us – than she was required.

That my sons chose me in the “before”, and that they continue to choose me every day despite my shortcomings.

Grateful, too, that I am choosing and choose in each moment to show up for them, to be better than I might have been, to give more than I sometimes want to, to try again and fail and apologize and cry and keep working at it.

The words are a comfort and certainly, we like to say them.  I want to hear the words, repeat the words, have fun with the affirmations.  But the love – the evidence and proof and depth of that love – exists, I think, in the choosing.

Anniversary

It’s been one month. The time has flown but in my heart, it feels like it’s been 5 years.  What does it feel like there?

I get turned around, don’t know what day it is a lot. I can’t do math or count very well, though I have no idea what that has to do with missing you.

Talking to mom on the phone and even as we are talking about your passing, she said: “Maman’s here!” I jumped.  Totally expected to hear your voice.  Gut punch.

Mostly I look forward. Life is a gift, I know.  I remember the Lauren Hutton interview where she quotes King Lear while talking about reminiscing.  “Not that way, never that way.  That way madness lies.”  That way madness lies.  So much truth in that line.

One month down.  All of them to go.  I love you. Je t’aime.

I Know.

Life is short and do should tell people you love them! Don’t hesitate! Tell them now!  No regrets!  YOLO! (does anyone say YOLO anymore?)  If you love someone, let them know!

The number of posts I see on social media that say this or something similar is crazy-making.  I get the general idea, but let’s talk about the practicality of it.

There are lots of people whom I genuinely love that I don’t tell every day.  If I say “I love you” all the time it loses meaning.  It loses potency.  If I say it after every phone call (which I did frequently in my old life) it becomes a way to say goodbye, not a profession of endearment.

Now, I will be honest here and say that I am of two minds on this.  I am an extremely affectionate being and I long to experience love as both a giver and a receiver, so I will tell the mailman I love him and mean it.  No issues there.  On the other hand, I think following my loved ones around constantly professing my adoration has a really disingenuine vibe, as does calling up that girl I was best friends with in 4th grade just to let her know I liked being her friend.

So my question is, does everything need to be said?

Is the desire to tell everyone everything we feel at all times really stem from a want to keep them close or make them feel wanted?  Or is it a desire to feed our own egos, to lather a balm on some deep childhood wounds, or even to (hopefully) have someone reciprocate pleasant emotions to us?

Also, if I love you – Meaning I have expressed and shown love to you in some way in my lifetime – do you not already know? Do you not fondly reminisce on the crossword puzzles we shared or the time we fed your dog table scraps without your parents knowing or sneaking out to leave Boys II Men lyrics under each other’s doormats (hi, 8th-grade crush)?

I mean, all Han and Leia ever did was argue, and even he knew she loved him.

han

I’m grieving a loss, and yeah that’s why I’m writing about this.  I sometimes think about how I wish I had told her every day, all the time, how much I love her and appreciate her.  But that’s no good, that kind of thinking. It serves no purpose and besides, she would have thought I was a kooky bird if all I ever did was follow her around saying “I love you, I just really need you to know that I love you”.  No one does that because it’s weird and honestly it’s depressing and cloyingly sweet.  And again, borderline disingenuine. Actions speak louder than words, and all that.

I have come to believe that it does not serve to treat the living as if they are dying, and that’s what this all sounds like to me.  Fear of death is fear of life, and I don’t want to live mine that way.

If I die tomorrow and you are someone that I love, I hope that you already know.  I hope that you’ll be confident that if you love me, I know too.  I do.  I have written before about how I believe interactions and relationships require energy exchange, and I think about that in this context too.  I have a little of your energy in me, and you carry mine with you.  There aren’t any words I can say that would be more meaningful than that.  No random quote from Pinterest can be of more comfort.

So the best way to (live and) love is to just be.  Enjoy, be present. Soak up the moments and appreciate each of them. Share your playlists with each other, tell stories, FaceTime while wearing funny filters, do whatever you do.  Cook meals for friends, go camping together, or just out for a run at the park.

What I mean is, it’s not the words, it’s the time.

It’s the YOU that you share, it’s the THEM that they give in return.  That is the crux of real love, the thing that underlines all of it, and that kind of connection is, thankfully, understood. You need never say it at all, because they know.

when the night comes

Some days

I can fool myself into thinking

I’m alright.

A walk outside,

A giggle or a conversation,

Pleasant distractions.

Two or three moments

Strung together

That do not wound me.

False confidence, as I think

Perhaps it’s not so bad,

This new life.

Maybe I can live it.

When

Suddenly, quietly,

Like a fox slipping through

The fence at dusk

It comes…

Creeping into me,

Cyphening the light from

My chest and the love

From my bones

I am destroyed

As

Ever so slowly

(Yet somehow all at once)

I die, I die, I die.

 

J’ai du vague à l’âme

Je suis prest pour apprendre le francais.

That’s what I was going to say when I called. We had so many conversations about having those conversations in French if I wanted to try.  I did want to try, of course, but I was embarrassed at how bad I might be and I didn’t want to be bad – in front of you – at something we both loved so much.  Sounds stupid now.  I’d give anything to rewind a couple of weeks and chat with you in your native tongue.

I know people see me drowning in this and they think, “what’s the big deal?  Everyone has lost a grandmother.”  They only think that because they don’t know who you were, who we were.  I won’t attempt to write that here, because I think it would be impossible, but I have gathered a few thoughts to keep for myself.

When other people hear the term “Iron Lady” they probably think of Margaret Thatcher.  Maybe some younger, stupid ones think of the Statue of Liberty.  I always think of you.  Strong and unyielding, a real force of nature.  A woman who would plunge her hands into scalding hot water because that was the best way to wash dishes, walk 15 miles in a day without complaint (and in fact, prefer it to driving), the woman who caught me by my hair and pulled me up when I slipped and fell off an actual cliff.

Having grandchildren softens a person, and I think it made you – as Goldilocks would say – “just right”.  I hear stories about you being conservative with your praise but with me, you gave it so freely.  I felt empowered by your true and steady belief in me.  You were my compass, my North Star, encouraging me to try new things and have adventures.  At the same time, you were an anchor, helping me feel safe in knowing that I always had a home to go back to.  A refuge.

To be known, seen, understood – and to have that revelation of understanding DEEPEN love, not repulse it – is something I have only ever felt from you and Bonpapa.  You did not tolerate me, you did not chastise me, your love was based on nothing that might be taken away or failed.  It simply was.  I could sit next to you and FEEL the love radiate from you. I know that in thousands of instances, you made a conscious choice to see and speak to only the good in me.

You were otherworldly.  We both knew it.  Your psychic dreams, your knowing.  Remember when you called to ask me if I was pregnant?  I lied to you, but you had known.  When you realized I had similar gifts, you pointed to me and said I was witchy like your grandmother but the sparkle in your eye and half-grin on your lips always betrayed how much you liked that about me, related to it.  I wasn’t like her, I was like you.

A tri-lingual translator for the allies who lost her home and family’s title in the war, lost her beloved father at 9, ate grass sometimes to survive and cursed the Germans frequently.  An athlete and raven-haired beauty queen who held every man’s heart in the palm of her hands.  Coy, coquettish, playful, talented, quick-witted, smart.  Strong.  Unyielding.  Unashamed.  Different.  Proud. I didn’t meet this young enchanting version of you but I could see her in your eyes, hear her in your voice.

The version I met was still a beauty, still playful. She had a radio in the kitchen playing Lionel Ritchie while she cooked.  She took me to the symphony and the ballet so I would have a love for the arts.  She made French bread every Sunday after mass, always pointing out that it wasn’t perfect because the “American” ingredients aren’t the same. She took my brother and me to France – twice – so that we could understand and appreciate her history and our own.

There was nothing you could not do, my fiesty fearless conqueror princess.  Not many people know what a magnificent woman you were.  There should be books written about you, epic movies made.  They wouldn’t do you justice but you deserve them.

My sister, the mother of my heart, my partner in crime.  The first – maybe only – person I really wanted to tell about returning to Paris because I knew that you wouldn’t just listen, you would understand. You wouldn’t just understand, you would feel.  Describing that day, when I turned and saw the Eiffel Tower with the sun rising behind it and I wept, we wept together.  I felt happy to have someone to share that with, and a little sad because I knew that some part of that sadness in you stemmed from knowing you would never get to see your beloved France again.  My heart ached for you.

I hope that you are there now.  I hope that you and Bonpapa are together, traveling as you liked to do,  laughing, free.  I hope that being all-knowing hasn’t changed your opinion of me.  I hope that you can feel my love and see my heartbreak and be honored by it.  I hope that you are already planning when you might visit me in a dream.

My whole life changed in a moment.  My reality shifted.  This is the biggest, the most profound loss, and that is why I am drowning in it.  If you are the thing I held myself up to, defined myself with, what am I now?  I am empty, floating, directionless.  I am filled with guilt that I didn’t call you when my intuition provoked me.  I am filled with sorrow that by the time I got to you, you couldn’t speak to me or laugh with me.

I will miss all the secret things that I have not written here.  I will cling to the memories of my childhood, which you built around me from scraps my parents left lying around and your own beautiful love and strong will.  I will be grateful every day of my life for every day of yours.  I will do my best to love my children the way you showed me, and to travel with them and talk to them like grown-ups and empower them.  We will eat pastry for breakfast and send postcards to ourselves and I promise to speak French with them.  I will wear dresses for no reason and rings on all my fingers and I will stop apologizing for who I am.

Je t’aime beaucoup, my beautiful flower.  My soul cries out to yours in separation. I will count the days until we meet again.  xoxo bisous I love you, Bonmama.  Beaucoup beaucoup.

 

Protected: appetite

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

enough

i told you when we met

that eventually

you would have enough of me

 

i’m soft, i’m quiet,

i’m bold and fierce

i sway between telling you everything

and keeping my lips sealed

i’m tiny and helpless

i’m large and in charge

my spirit doesn’t know halfway

i use my whole heart

i told you in the beginning

enough would be too much

and now i sit here empty handed

alone, afraid, untouched

i’m light and boisterous,

giggly and free

i’m heavy and melancholy

woe is me

i’m brilliant and capable

i crave reassurance

generous and loving

needy and smothering

 

i told you when we met

that eventually

you would have enough of me

 

(i didn’t expect it to happen so fast.)

 

My Own Hemingway

Hemingway wrote, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep.  Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

He lived exactly that way.  Loud laugh (and sneezes and snores!), marching to the beat of his own drum, eating the fattening food and always thirsty for knowledge.  Walking in the morning before the sun came up, delighting in life’s smallest pleasures, using every moment as an opportunity to teach and inspire. He left an indelible mark on my heart and my spirit, and he was truly a gift.

Much like Hemingway, he possessed a towering personality, a strong wit, a boisterous laugh, great humility and a zest for life and good food.

He taught me so much:

Shakespeare. Algebra. Kindness. UGA Football. Curiosity. Humor. Responsibility.  Cracklin’ Oat Bran. Perspective. National Geographic. Cinnamon toast. Marigolds. Gratitude. Strawberries. Music. Generosity. Travel. Naps. Puns. Iced coffee. Tradition. Barbecue. Courage. History. Ambrosia. Strength. Classical Music. Individuality.

Love.

So, Happy Birthday to my own Hemingway. I love you forever.  xo, Your Girl.

Losing What Never Was

Chemical Pregnancy.  That’s a term I’ve only learned just this week. What does it mean?  From what information I have read online in the past couple of days, it’s really just another term for miscarriage.  Some people use “chemical pregnancy” when describing the loss of a child in the very early weeks of pregnancy, because technically it is not the miscarriage of a fetus, or baby, yet.  Something about the word “chemical”, at least when I hear it, seems to imply that the pregnancy is somehow false or fake, or all in one’s head, and I don’t believe that is true.

When a woman has a chemical pregnancy, all of the expected pregnancy symptoms are there.  The list is wide and varied from woman to woman, but many of us are familiar with the most common early pregnancy symptoms:  nausea (morning sickness), sore breasts, and a missed period.  A lot of times (most times?) with a chemical pregnancy, a pregnancy test will result in a positive.

For women like myself, there are certain “tell tale” symptoms of pregnancy.  I have been pregnant a few times, but only carried one child (my son who is 5) to term.  However, each time I KNEW I was pregnant from the get-go.  My body does things in pregnancy it wouldn’t DARE do otherwise.  I get yeast infections (sorry) in pregnancy.  I have vivid dreams, many times of the pregnancy or child itself, like I am meeting him or her.  My boobs HURT like my bra is made of sandpaper.  I get tired.  I get emotional.  Very, very emotional.   Truth be told I am an emotional person by nature.  But when I’m pregnant, it gets ramped up to 11.  My feelings go to 11.  High five if you get the ST reference.

Yesterday ended a brief, happy, hopeful couple of weeks that evidently was a chemical pregnancy.  To be clear, miscarriage is real, and chemical pregnancies are not “made up”.  I am 100% sure I was pregnant, at least for a little while.  I spotted at implantation time.  I got a raging infection – seriously, I could not walk for a couple of days – around what would normally be ovulation time (and this is when I became sure we had conceived).  I began having dizzy spells.  My complexion was “glowing” and my step-mom randomly asked me if I was pregnant.  I wasn’t ready to think it possible yet, so I just said no.  My boobs… well, I already went over that.  They don’t hurt me in a normal cycle, and this time they were swollen, with blue-ish veins and lots of pain. My belly was a little swollen. I cried at everything.  Literally.  Happy things, sad things, all the things made me cry.  I had several dreams.  Mid-month, a dream that featured an “old-timey” nurse in a candy-striper outfit and a white hat, holding up two positive pregnancy tests and asking me “are you sure this is what you want?”  Another featuring my son’s soon-to-be-sibling, cuddled up next to me on the couch, my son cuddled with us, taking our first photo together.  My favorite grass-fed beef smelled and tasted funny.  (Meat aversion was something I suffered when pregnant with my son.)  I allowed myself to think.  Then to hope.  I prayed in the shower, “God please if you allow this to happen, I promise I will love this child and be the mother he or she deserves.” Then I began to get excited.  Yes, I was definitely pregnant.

Yesterday, I ceased to be.

I am sad.  Of course, sad does not begin to cover what I feel but I find this whole thing difficult to articulate.  I have cried hot tears and choked on my own heartbreak.  I prayed in the shower again, this time through sobs and snorts, a different prayer.  “God, I hurt.  Please heal my pain.  Your ways are higher than my ways and I know you want what is best for me. So, it is well.  It is well with my soul.  It is well with me.”

{side note: Not even an hour later in church, our worship pastor decided to “switch things up” and play an older hymn.  The name of that hymn?  It Is Well With My Soul.  The man who wrote it, he said, wrote it after and despite losing his three daughters.  He still wanted to praise God and say that God is still good.  Oh, my heart!  God was speaking directly to me and my heart received that message!  You must know, dear reader, that God sees all, knows all, and LOVES us with a love we cannot even begin to fathom.  He is a great father.}

Now, for several reasons I suppose I should have been with not being pregnant.  My son would be 6 when this baby was born.  That’s a large gap.  My husband and I hadn’t talked about, or prepared for, more kids (although I know he would be fine with it).  Financially, I don’t know if we could have afforded a baby right now.  Age-wise, I don’t know if I could handle the up-all-night sleep deprived routine again at 35 like I did at 29 (and survive without murdering someone). Body-wise, I know that pregnancy and birth wreaks havoc, and recovery was a long, slow road for me last time due to an emergency c-section that was NOT a part of my birth plan.  Still, the older I get the less I worry about my looks.  It’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside me right now is a heart that longs to be a mother to more children.  To love them, feed them, hug and kiss them, see my husband be the most extraordinary father to them.

I told hubs, who I had largely kept it secret from (until I got a positive test), and though I expected him to laugh at the idea of being parents again, he didn’t.  He comforted me.  My incredible, compassionate life-mate listened, wiped my tears, held and hugged me, and encouraged me to eat ice cream and sleep and be easy with myself.  He said we could try again, we could continue the discussion, we could even look into adoption, if we felt God leading us that way.  What a precious gift he is!  And he’s right about one thing: Our son is a gift, and even we are never blessed with more children, we have this amazing boy that God has entrusted to us, and each day we are with him is a blessing.  He is pure sunshine: bright and kind and sing-songy and darling.  Every day I am thankful for him.

Today, I am not crying, but it still stings a little, which part of me thinks is silly.  How can I be sad over something that never was?  How can I cry over a baby I “made up”?  I don’t know.  But I can.  And I do.  However, I have chosen joy.  I have chosen to be grateful for my life as it is, and for God, who does not make mistakes.  He even winked at me in church and let me know he is aware of my struggle.  I aspire to model his parenting with my own kids, no matter how many I have.