I Have Three Mothers

Guest post by  Heather Darby

I have three mothers.

One mother carried me in her body and birthed me into this world. She fed me (most of the time), clothed me (when she could), sang me sweet bedtime songs, and taught me to survive (the hard way).

I met my second Mother at an early age. She gave me sweet air to suck in deep and whistle out. She bathed me in hot, blinding light that warmed my cold, lonely bones. Mother gave me a creek to play in – endless exploration of leaches, stones, crayfish—turning over stone after stone in the fresh frigid waters—a game that taught me to watch and think and move. She gave me all of the Earth to roam. Trees for companions, birds as backing vocalist in my grandest performances, dirt to discharge my filthy soul muck into. Her grace was in the cover of night, inviting me to dance until I found myself howling with moonlight and racing under Her stars.

It was much later that I remembered my third mother. She showed up when I was so lost, at the exact moment I needed to be rescued, like a knight in an old story. In my new story, the hero mother rescuer is me.

I tore at my clothes in grief and hid from my knowing long enough. My mother would no longer let me hide. She found me every single time and brought me home – home to a warm bed, hot bath, delicious meal, laughing with friends. Home to safety and unconditional love and music. Home to no apologies. At home in my mother, I have become. Safe at home, I have found what it is to loved.

A mother’s love is in me and not found outside. I do not long for One mother or another, but long for more time with myself, nurturing what is alive for me, in me, and of me. I mimic the Earth Mother as a creatrix, planting seeds, and painting with Her palates. I gather with like-minded women and call the Earth Mother to hold us and we dance again under Her lights, in Her air, with Her grace.

And after we dance and say goodnight, I sit in my knowing vibrating with all the mother and sister energies, hugging my knees into my chest and hum myself to sleep.

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

“I want to express gratitude to all the millions of women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Golden Globes Speech

Generations of American warrior women
Standing up for what’s right
Against tyranny and bullies
At the risk of…everything.

Things could go real bad real soon.
Or, we the people, could consent
To some sort of reset,
Like a ship off course.

Like adults.
Like Americans.
Like now.

How my Sister & I Grew up in Different Families. #bloglikecrazy

“There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment—and surprise.” ~ Christine Downing

My sister once told me one reason siblings are different is they’re not born into the same family.

Jayne—the one and only first born—was welcomed into the world with hope during a stage my mom and dad had been told the world was tough, but maybe they didn’t quite believe it yet.

Our brother—Mr. Middle Child—arrived on the scene into Hey, maybe we can make it.

Then, just five years after my sister’s arrival, I was born into the heart of challenge.

I swam in my mom’s frustration for nine months. I ate her Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? for nourishment.

Maybe that’s why I spent too many years wishing to leave this world.

Or what I was doing at the age of eight weeks, returning to the hospital with pneumonia, checking into an oxygen tent, and keeping human touch at a distance.

My mother said the doctors told her, “Go home and take care of your other children.”

Five days later, when my parents picked me up from the hospital, a nurse said, “This time, take care of her.”

My mom hardly had room for me in her arms with all that pressure.

Besides, my independent streak and fighting inclinations had already taken root in that tent. I won my first battle and was ready for more.

However, as a toddler, I quickly learned my mother was not somebody you wanted to do battle with.

The lessons my sister learned—baking, measuring, and Winnie the Pooh seemed spent before I arrived.

We all learned about Mama Bear and that saying: If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Yeah, totally true.

My mom wasn’t happy.

My dad worked. If I said all the time, it might seem like an exaggeration, but if I said he was a workaholic, that might be underplaying it.

My father appears as a visitor in my young memories.

Then, right at that crux, where my parents parted and my sister did her final years at home, the families my sister and I lived in shifted again.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew parents were just playing at righteousness and big sisters were really the difference makers.

After all, who explained divorce and that love that goes on, anyway? Who took care of me when I was sick or let me tag along on dates? Who worried when I stayed out late?
My big sister parented me when my parents were busy doing other things—like trying to get their sh*t together.

Ok, are you with me so far?
1) Parents fall in love.
2) Get pregnant.
3) Get married.
4) Have my sister.
5) Have my brother.
6) Have me.
7) Struggle.
8) Make a new decision.

My formative years were filled with my parents arguing, cutting up credit cards, building bookshelves, road trips to therapists, and me being left alone. Well, often in the care of my brother and sister.

This was the 1970s. These things were done. My parents tried for traditional, but that’s one thing neither of them could adhere to.

The thing is they tried—really hard. They wore us all out with the struggle.

What a different world develops in five short years—both the years since my sister was born and the ones after my parents divorced.

Jayne found love and leaped into it. She moved to the other side of the country.

I was unprepared for life without her. She built a family with her husband and sons, as she should.

I found myself a part of a new family with my stepmom, stepbrother and stepsister. We did family stuff like vacations, dinners, and playing canasta.

I was getting the love I needed. So was my sister—in another world.

In the beginning—her beginning—my sister was served hope with a side of parental presence. I arrived for leftovers.

I never saw the full meal in my original home, so I didn’t miss not getting dessert.

Jayne knew something had been left off the table. She took off to find something sweet.

I stayed home and was introduced to peace. Plus, I got my turn to be the big sister! I poured love and protection into my stepsister’s atmosphere.

See, my sister showed me how, having arrived first in the world. And those five years, they made all the difference.

 

 

How to Say Hello to Your New Shine #bloglikecrazy

If you’ve immersed yourself into a world that’s not your own and tried to fit into places you don’t belong (because you so want to belong)…

If you find yourself defending yourself, your attitudes and ideas to people who portray themselves as friends (but they’re not)…

If your true self seems a misfit in your daily life…

Realize the value of changing direction.

Begin again. Take a fresh start.

What? You think it’s too late?

What’s the appropriate age to make life changes?

Twenty-eight and you find yourself two decades late?

Well, my dear, what happens if you decide not to give a damn about all the consequences you’ve been so concerned about?

You think you’ll wait and when you meet the maker of this mess called your life, you’ll take her down?

A better idea might be to take her by the hand and say, Baby, I’m sorry we got lost. What would you like to do now?

Listen to her fears because that’s what she’ll tell you first.

She longs to be heard. Nobody’s listening. Listen with your soul.

Let her cry. Wipe her tears. Help her up. Come on, baby, we can do this.

Ask her: what does she want? What makes her dance?

Pull out your magic wand that glitters with gumption and go for it.

Dive into a fresh world. Swim into your desires. Sing off key, even bad.

You’ve got nothing to prove and you’re not on trial.

Turn away from yesterday. Set a route for tomorrow.

Kiss all that doesn’t fit goodbye.

Say hello to a gal shining in the glass in the morning. Let her be you.

How I Negotiate with Grief. #bloglikecrazy

“A thousand times she has let go of grief, and it has returned to her a thousand more.” ~ Amy Weiss, Crescendo

I negotiate with grief. In the beginning, it was a heavy weight I committed to carry.

At six months, I thought she’d be lighter, or I’d be stronger. I vowed to keep walking.

First came the end of the calendar year in which my beloved died in March. Grief grounded me.

Surely, at the one year anniversary of his passing, I’d turn the page to something blank and hopeful.

But, grief had already written a pink slip on every day.

Now, it’s two years since the month I spent at his place when we delighted in magic moments and spinning memories I didn’t know I’d rely on to comfort me.

Presently, grief is lighter, like the sunlight on the fall leaves in his front yard, like the crisp morning air when I left his bed and pulled on his KISS robe as I let my dog out.

Grief is bright, like the moon the night we made love on his deck overlooking the river in the country, where I never wanted to live but now miss.

Grief is musical, like the blues he introduced me to and his deep, manly voice.

With time, grief’s become sweet, like the laughter we wrapped in intimacy and his chest holding my head as he stroked my hair.

Grief lingers. She doesn’t leave, although she’s done a little shape-shifting.

I know there will still be heavy days I can hardly stand under her weight.

But, today, I’m strong. I’ve negotiated well.

And grief, she’s beautiful, like his smile when he looked at me.

 

How I Learned to Turn the Corner in Grief. #bloglikecrazy

“Often, that which is hardest to digest, to process, to integrate into our life experience is what ultimately transforms us in a positive way.” ~ Marianne Williamson

I’m turning a corner. I can feel it. I’m rising up again. I love the image of the phoenix flying through the fire.

However, this rising from grief is more like a toddler learning to walk.

I fall to my knees, repeatedly. I stand. I’m walking! I take three steps forward. I try running. I fall. It surprises me. I cry. I crawl.

Sometimes, I’m more comfortable on the floor. Until I’m not.

So, I push myself up. I stand again.

But, rising from grief—or learning to walk with it—isn’t like a little one learning to take steps with a cheering audience.

Although people don’t speak it aloud, something inside me feels the crowd cringing each time I fall again. Unlike a baby who cries for the pain of the moment, each time I trip, memories multiply like dominoes.

My resistance screams from the insane part of my brain where society lives and speaks pretty platitudes—like Time heals all wounds. Does it?

When I cried as a child, my mother often said, “Alice Ann, that’s enough!” If I couldn’t make myself stop crying, she’d send me to my room.

It’s not such a bad move. Alone, I can cry it out and let the sadness run through me.

These days, I’m maturing in my grief. You no longer catch me wailing in public restrooms. Well, at least not as a habit.

I’m turning a corner. Unlike a child who has seemingly only minutes behind her and a whole world to look forward to, my yesterday held me in my beloved’s arms like bookends of a lifetime, making today’s future feel like drudgery.

Still, I remind myself to stand. It’s not my nature to stay down.

Hope whispers as my grief quiets. Remember.

Years ago, I couldn’t fathom I’d turn the corner from divorce and fall into sacred love with my friend Kevin. But, I did.

As we giddily rode the curves of love, we couldn’t imagine he’d die unexpectedly in the dark of one night. But, he did.

So, here I am riding grief’s groove. I’m being graced with an expanded heart and maybe even a sprinkling of wisdom.

She’s telling me a groove can lead to a rut. (Get up!) With grief as my constant companion, it’s seems impossible to set my sights on tomorrow.

Actually, I don’t believe I have to, not any more than I had to seek for love.

See, I lived my moments full, letting my losses of long ago create a wake that propelled me into my destiny.

Sometimes we can’t see that beautiful gift coming at us.

So, I simply choose to embrace this moment. I allow myself to feel what I do in the present and know, by that mysterious force, I’m turning a corner.

I Really Was Such a Baby About the Whole Thing.

“Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.” ~ Anne Lamott

My friend’s husband cheated on her. I’m not going to tell you the details, but let’s just say there were circumstances. Because there always are, right?

Still, in her mind, the action was unforgivable. Her family agreed. But, what about her kids? He was still their dad.

My friend loved this man and never imagined him cheating. She trusted him. They were the kind of couple that fit like puzzle pieces. They made a beautiful picture.

How f*cking dare he?! Well, you know—circumstances. No, not excuses. However, yes, in hindsight, I saw his humanity and how he came to be with that other woman, practically unapologetically.

Betrayal like that breaks something in a person.

Still, for a handful of years, my friend—you know, for the sake of the kids—continued taking family vacations with this man she meant to divorce. She had every intention. Because she couldn’t forgive him.

A couple years ago when I saw her, she mentioned his name without disdain or discussion of divorce. The way his name rolled off her tongue was casual and light.

I looked into her eyes and asked, “Are you guys back together?” The answer was yes without explanation, apology or fantasy. Just solid.

“How did that happen?” I asked.

She laughed. “You know, I was really such a baby about the whole thing.”

Ha! I’d say she’d been grieving. In grief we cry. We bitch about what happened. We analyze. We decide something different every hour of every day. We turn in circles like a dog, never finding the right spot. Until we do.

Grief is a game changer. It shatters the ground we stand solid on. It takes us with it like being sucked into a sinkhole. When our foundation crumbles, so do we.

My friend is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever known in my 50-plus years. She’s not naïve or gullible, more like strong, sensible, genuine, and yes, loving.

However, in her early stages of grief, she almost checked herself into a mental hospital because she met with rage that wanted to kill and sadness that wanted to die.

Instead, she learned to rise. So did her husband—after she determined she’d be okay either way.

It took time. In her case, years. Grief—whether from betrayal, death, divorce or tragedy—doesn’t come with an expiration date. It’s not linear and each case is different.

I recently read an article about a woman who was burned—face, hands, and body—life-threatening burns, in a camp fire started by her husband. After she arrived home from the hospital, her husband hit the road because she was just too much for him to handle. However, her young daughter needed her mother. The story revealed this woman’s resilience, faith and determination.

All I could think was, F*ck! I’ve been such a baby about this whole my-boyfriend-dying thing.

Maybe. But, like my friend, I can laugh. I went into the depths of my pain and came out with my lessons. I’m coming back to myself with new awareness and understanding, compassion and certainty, which, in this chapter, this time, could only be gained by going in.

This was master’s level grief. It required more of me. It demanded I go through the dark and crazy, and invest the tears and time.

Babies cry when things are sad. They naturally honor their emotions, rather than trying to buck up. Then, they stop crying and get back to playing—after they’re all cried out. Or had a nap.

So, yeah, I guess I was a baby about the whole thing, too. And yet, I don’t regret a single tear.

A New Language

Speak to me, entities
Beyond the clouds and trees,
Those who live in the other
Room and alternate realm.
I yearn to learn
Your language.
Whisper secrets
Into my soul.
Shout truth beyond
The human struggle.
Help me dance my
Days on earth, and
Be of benefit
Where I can.
Show me color
In darkness,
Life in death,
Humor in seriousness.
Overcome me. Overwhelm me.
Rearrange me. Introduce me.
To light. Sway me like
The ocean waves. Take me
Under. Throw me into new
Waters. Tumble my yesterdays
Into something that shimmers.
Let me see anew.
Limitations be gone.
Expectations expire.
Hope renews.
Mind ignites.
Body moves with grace.
Gratitude seeps from
My very being.
I am here. I am there.
I am aware and willing,
Open, steady, rocking my
Way into something more.
No plan. No demand.
Soaring like an eagle.
Unquestioning.
Prevailing.

 

Grief is my Advantage.

Dear New Man,

If you want to be with me in this chapter of my life, it’s a package deal. Some women have children. A man needs to know that going in.

Well, know this about me. I have a boyfriend; he just happens to be dead.

If you tell me to put the past in the past, you communicate a lack understanding and compassion for the depth of my love, the richness of my relationship that was ripped away from me, or the ongoing agony of grief.

Maybe you’ve been dealt the death of loved ones, too. So had I before I lost my beloved. I’d experienced the deaths of my brother, mother, and brother-in-law. This is different.

Maybe you’ve been in love before. I, too have been blessed with that heart-expanding experience a handful of times, including two marriages.

However, the kind of relationship I craved to create out of each of those previous relationships never came to pass.

Until Kevin. As I neared 50, I found everything I’d been looking for.

Not that he was perfect. And I was the other part of the equation. So, you know, not perfect.

Yet, somehow we shaped a world in which the two of us danced free, passionate, happy, open and engaged.

That relationship continues. He’s the Fire inside me that never goes out.

Some people think it rude to talk about previous partners once you’re with a new one. I say, until someone can convince me of the benefit of holding back, I’ll continue speaking Kevin’s name.

If you listen, you’ll hear my soul speak, loud and proud and feminine.

If you want to fall for me, take all of me.

Grief isn’t my baggage; it’s my advantage.

See, I’ve inhabited that space where wondrous, life-enhancing love exists. So, I know I can go there again. I just can’t tell you when, how, or if it will be with you. There’s much I don’t know.

I see you standing before me, saying you want to walk with me. It may be a hard road for you, as it may never be just us two.

Kevin is my constant, still. He’s the music in songs, the flavor in foods, and my mind reels with memory like the ticker tape running across the bottom of the TV screen.

Here’s the breaking news: I have no desire to dismiss my past.

The reality that I’m with another man—any other man—feels foreign to me.

It’s not that I feel I’m cheating on my beloved. It’s that a part of my heart lives outside this world and a part of Kevin’s remains in me.

It’s—to quote Glennon Doyle Melton—a brutiful thing. You can wish the brutal away or deny its existence. You can even disappear for fear you can’t compete with a dead man.

Trust me, there’s no competition. And no, I didn’t put him on a pedestal in the aftermath. I rose into love like a bird swoops on the wind.

Better than fantasy. it was my reality.

Good. Pure. Right. Until his lights went out. Out of this world.

You tell me not to dim the lights on us because of my past. I refuse to pretend to feel any more or less than I do.

How dare you accuse me of wallowing? Oh, not that you did, but that’s how it feels when you seem to insist I’m letting my past get in your way.

I honor my grief and if you respect me and want to get me, you will too.

You’ll understand Kevin’s love for me is an essential ingredient that goes into making me the woman you want to make yours.

Here’s the cool thing about my boyfriend being dead: I can take on another man if I choose. I can take on you.

I can take your hand and your kiss. We can date and I can appreciate your presence, even while missing him every single day.

A while ago, I would’ve told you I miss him every moment. So, progress!

It’s like this. When I was in junior high, my friend’s dog bit me on my face. I was rushed to the hospital for stitches. It left a scar on my lip, one which people felt compelled to comment on for years.

A boss once assured me I could get my scar fixed by a superb surgeon. When he saw me wince, he tried to convince me it was hardly noticeable.

As if I didn’t see my scar every time I looked in the mirror. As if I couldn’t see people staring and suppressing the question: What happened?

Now, it’s been decades and people rarely ask this adult woman, What happened to your face?

This happened: I got hurt. It left a scar on my lip, just as Kevin’s death left a scar on my heart.

Do you know scar tissue is stronger than the original skin?

I think Kevin knew. Only one scar shows on my body, but Kevin loved them all. By doing this, he made way for me to love what I once considered my inadequacies. He insisted they were all a part of the ICE (his nickname for me) package—unique and beautiful.

His love opened the door for me to be more of who I am.

I’m the woman who you, new man, now claim to want. And yet, you want me to close that door?

Not happening. I’m still healing. The scar forming on my heart doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be seen.

If you really believe I’m the one for you, see my scars. See the pain, but look for the beauty.

This scar sews together the seam between where I got hurt and where I need to be loved.
My dead boyfriend isn’t an obstacle or a hurdle to leap. He’s not your competition. He doesn’t stand in the way of anything you and I might create.

My grief is a gate.

It opens to all of me—my wisdom, resilience and feminine essence. It lives in my heart. Do you have the courage to go there?

I promise only this. I offer you no less than my real self, the scar upon my broken heart and the sagacity born from my soul’s searching.

So new man, don’t be afraid of what happened to me yesterday. Lean in. Love my scars.

 

How I Exercise my Introvert/Extrovert Status

If someone says, “She’s high maintenance” referring to me, I’ve got one thing to say: You’re damn right.

I don’t understand low-maintenance, high-functioning folks. Sometimes I see people maintaining themselves by sucking on other people’s energy.

I sustain my own energy by tending to the two sides of me.

I envy extroverts who get revved up by hanging with others.

For me, these are my required maintenance procedures:
1. Writing—morning pages, journaling and writing with purpose for publication.
2. Yoga or stretching. My body gets physically knotted up and I’m in pain if I don’t find a way to untie the knots. (Massage works, too.)
3. Walking in nature. It’s the act of movement, and nature kisses my skin and whispers to my soul if I go it alone.
4. Reading—expands my mind and heart.
5. Prayer—to God, angels, guides, Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, and my loved ones on the other side. It can take a while.
6. Meditation—without it I’d come undone.

These are solo pursuits. When I take these steps I’m better able to connect with the world.

Also, I love being alone. I’m not bored. I’m not lonely.

Extroverts, I love you with your eager invitations and how you can’t fathom my time alone is your competition. It is.

Introverts, I’m with you in the magnitude of solitude, silence drawing out peace and presence for ourselves in order to invoke any magnificence we may hope to possess.

Extroverts, you drag me from the dark depths of myself—beyond the blackness. Some days and nights, I stand at death’s door begging for entry into something beyond. You entertain me and keep me awake to others’ laughter, dancing, voices and stories.

You make me come out and live. Thank you.

Introverts, we know our time alone can be where we feel most alive, authentic and valid. They may think we’re hiding, but it’s here where we face life head on. We’re not afraid of darkness. Or light. The sacred ignites our souls. We see stars intimately. We speak poetry as if it’s our first language. We dance with music because it becomes us. Alone, we’re more than we care to explain, show or present to the great pretenders running the world we run away from.

Extroverts, I adore your laughter and our connections. Yet, I can’t comprehend your apprehension toward solitude. How can it not soothe you?

Don’t you dare to dance with your one true soul mate—you?

We introverts don’t quite understand the loneliness you speak of, for others tend to engulf us in emotional claustrophobia.

Me, I dance between the world of people and parties and my full-on presence. Too much out there invites pretense, lest I speak truth most don’t care for.

Truth—I kiss her and let her seep inside my soul alone on quiet nights and precious days. She allows me to return full and ready, capable of conjuring words, not to hurt but ideally to awaken and elevate.

I’m two sides of the personality coin: introvert/extrovert. I must spend them equally. And so I dance—in the world and in my kitchen.