THE APPROACH

As my baby belly grows ever larger, heavier, I find myself struck by the sense that I am not going to be the me I have known myself as for very much longer. There is an unnameable sadness in this. I don’t know what kind of vortex my labor and birth will be like, nor how much of myself I will need to surrender to the abyss. A kind of death is on approach. I haven’t been afraid of the physical sensations, the journey of intensity, the power of the energy that will move through me, but now I am wondering how completely this experience will transform me and if I will recognize myself afterwards.

I suppose parts of me don’t want to change. I have been like this before. Sensing that something is about to shift dramatically, whether it’s my nuclear family, a period of time away from loved ones, or a change in my relationship with Isaac, I get rather upset. I like it the way that it is. I like what I’ve got here. I remember reading that it’s actually part of our evolutionary makeup to resist dramatic change unless absolutely necessary; the old adage ‘if it works, don’t fix it’ keeps things strong, resolute, enforced from within – working.

I want to meet our baby boy very much, and I want to keep something sacred between Isaac and I. I yearn for his presence and companionship. Perhaps this is because he has been away for several weeks and had just returned for a few days, before flying to LA for a 24 hour Coachella trip. I am home in the silence again. Nine days until my due date. Tomorrow will be eight. Am I ready? Are we ready? Life is an incredible adventure and I think I am having the flutters like before a leap from an airplane, or a beach cliff, from a platform with a bungee cord.

What will become of me, of us? The sweet angel who is with me is my closest companion these days, he is always here. For now though, I want my husband all to myself, to know that things will be better, closer, strong, resolute, enforced from within, working – even amidst such a life changing experience as the birth of a first child. I can’t know what is to come, what challenges await us all. I don’t know what childbirth will feel like for me, but I suppose I am expecting something bigger than I can imagine. This is probably a way for me to engage with my fears and drum up the courage I need to face this unknown, before meeting the boy who is waiting for us.

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LOVE IS LIFE THAT FLOWS (THE VEIL THINS)

I am entering into a dreamy state of being where what is eternal is becoming very clear to me, and what is unnecessary drops away. The thinning of the veil. I am two or three or four weeks from giving birth and I can feel everything. I am neither anxious, nor worried, nor overwhelmed. Life is becoming very simple in these days of expectation, and I am one with it all.

Here in the valley it rains and the earth breathes again. I walked out of my door early yesterday morning and was met by that sweet wave that the rain gives off. I hadn’t smelled that for months, perhaps since last summer. Grassy and metallic at the same time, the air misty, cooling, soothing to the bones. I love the rain. I loved the snow too. I love the sun. Every day offers something different and I honor it all. The sound of the rain falling fatly on the hands of the evergreen bushes, the comforting drip drips from the roof. The warmth of my house. The peacefulness of being here in these days, just me and my baby safe within. One, but two.

I am needing of nothing. I am wanting of nothing. Except – yes, for the arms of my husband. When I stop to think about it, my eyes get hot again. We knew it would be like this – the excruciating split between out there and in here, the world and our home. The band sold out the Troubadour last night in Los Angeles, and yet after all that, Isaac writes to me yearning to be here. Of course this breaks my heart. We shed bittersweet tears on opposite sides of this country because we love each other so deeply, so purely, and we know why we have made these choices. There is no other way. This is our path.

People tell me I’m brave, that I’ve done so much ‘alone.’ I think I’ve completely let go of that story now, being alone. Good thing I have too, because the reality is otherwise. I am not alone, never. Since the beginning of the Chinese New Year at the end of January, I have seen signs of angels all around me. The number of times I’ve seen 11:11 or 1:11 on a clock astounds me. I have photos and screenshots of all the moments (often daily) that this mysterious and repetitious pattern emerges. In my heart, I know these are the signs of a benevolent spirit, reminding me that I’m not alone. I have never seen so many signs, not since before I met Isaac (more on that here) when perhaps the same guides and angels accompanied me.

During the last few days I have been making a playlist for our birth, making sure that we have all that we’ll need for our midwives, and painting the images I see in my mind around the birth. One, a flowering leafy garden unfolding from between my legs, carrying our son upon it. At the same time, my subconscious is purging. Last night I had an intense and violent dream, not scary, but punctuated with images I don’t normally fill my mind with. They are coming up from the depths to be released after I open the door with my paintings, I’m sure.

Yesterday I walked by the wilderness of the canal, the water so rich and still, the mud starting to warm up after the rains. There was no human around. Something in me said, sit. The leaves were damp and soft and it felt good to be on the earth again after so much snow. I crossed my legs and closed my eyes for several minutes. Almost immediately I could feel the connection I now have with all of nature, with all animals who give birth, with the females of this planet, the birds who lay eggs, the deer who offer fawns to that same mossy ground.

I am glad to be here amongst them all, powerful beings that they are. I gather my strength from them. (I heard a story this week about a tribal woman in Africa, who when asked about the pain of childbirth said “Pain? No, no pain. But I now know what it feels like for the Earth to give birth to a mountain.”)

Birth mandala by Amy Haderer-Swagman

 

Our baby wakes up when I wake up, responds to his father’s music, his father’s voice. We are in the dreamtime together, and it is a beautiful time of life. I cannot be sad that my beloved isn’t physically here yet. He arrives in nine days. He is so very present, and we have a connection that I know is very precious, yet incredibly resilient. The quiet time apart from each other brings a great surge of love, and many opportunities to be with what is, without changing it or pushing against it. I am grateful for these opportunities, because I am growing into the person I know myself to be in my heart. I am shedding layers, giving birth to myself as we prepare to greet this small dreaming angel, laying within.

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CONSTANT BECOMING

Photo by Cresta Kruger

I have felt a little strange all day. After such buoyancy following my magnificent blessing way, which lit my heart completely, the days seem odd, conjoined, one flowing into another. After eleven letters written to Isaac, and 21 left to go, I feel time slowing as I wait for his return, and yet a day passes and I wonder whether I made the most of it.

I have been wanting to share so much, as so much has been happening in my life, and yet (there are so many yets) it feels as if my life is barreling on with the vigor of the horse whose year we are greeting. It seems like one minute I find myself waking up to a new day, and the next minute it is evening and I need to think about feeding myself and my growing baby. I am proud of myself for doing all that I’m doing ‘alone,’ working two jobs as I transition out of one and into another. With Isaac away, making dinner becomes a feat of creativity and resourcefulness (I am lucky that he usually cooks for us!) and I find that I’m not very hungry these days, except after breakfast when the requests for high calorie foods flood in. Peanut butter toast, coconut oil, croissants.

Perhaps this is the calm before the storm, when at almost 36 weeks pregnant, time is discombobulating itself from all logic, and my days feel mostly the same. Surely it’s a side effect of being in one place for a long time, not moving far from home, simply doing the work I must do and preparing my life in the best ways I know how. I walk to the water, through the forest. I drive to the mechanic, the midwives, the market. Yesterday I met a remarkable nurse practitioner whose office is her house, surrounded by a subsistence garden, and who was taught homeopathy and herbology by elderly neighbors when she was a young girl, “eating things from the wild which people might frown upon.”

It is quiet and the rain is falling. To be honest I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. No company is necessary. I know I am not alone. Not just with our dear baby laying snug in my womb, punching my bladder every now and then, but surrounded all the unseen energies and the support from loved ones everywhere, sending us well wishes. I have felt buoyant in a way I’ve never before, which is a wonderful feeling to embark upon a birth with.

Tomorrow is the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, and I am sensing the turning point. Last night I finished my first fiction novel, which also feels strange. I suppose I thought it would be more painful. It was instead very easy. I had noticed a few days ago that I was resisting finishing the story, because to be in the mystery of creation, pregnancy, gestation, is a nice place to be. A constant becoming of something not yet defined. There is a freedom to wonder what something could be, instead of to know what it is, which subsequently sparks debate, critique, discussion, reflection.

It is quite sad to be finished. The ending of the final chapter is like a nail in a coffin. Yes, I can open the coffin and rearrange the flowers a bit, but soon it must go into the earth or the fires and re-nourish life. I must let my babies go.

Tree of Life by Peter Lik

There is much I’m looking forward to, and much I can’t quite predict. If I’m honest with myself, I know that it’s likely I’ll have many more times lived physically distant from my beloved Isaac, which makes my eyes get hot and some denial creep in. I don’t want us to be apart. Yesterday I discovered the first song he had ever sent me, just a couple of days after we had met, which we ended up writing the lyrics for just three summers ago. The song is called As You Are, As You Were, and as it played yesterday I was moved by how far we have come, and how passionately we still love each other. The sun was falling over the mountains beyond our windows and there was a bouncing chair waiting for a baby in our living room. The gratitude I felt and feel daily for the opportunity to love Isaac is overwhelming. He has given me my life.

Naturally, I want to continue that life. How that looks, we don’t quite know yet. The balance between home and travel will be something we’ll need to navigate at every horizon. What comes next? A baby! A blessing, a beautiful life, I am sure. Predictable? No. Beloved? No question.

Posted in LOVE LETTER TO LIFE, MY MUSINGS, ON THE CREATIVE LIFE | 6 Comments

THE UNWRITTEN SHEETS

I’m finding my life stranger and stranger. Not my life as it stands, but the phenomenon of life. This time I have here, to do what I will and make what I want. A friend wrote to me last night saying ‘Every time I see you, you make a wish, and the next time I see you, you’re living it.’ I am moved to tears this morning as Isaac and I sit at our dining table, having woken up to another day blanketed in white, and I see the white birds on the river, floating with the ebb. Isaac looks at me without saying anything and my heart clamps. “Thank you for loving me,” I tell him. I don’t share the question which hides deep within me: “How could I possibly accept all of this? Am I deserving of so much? Can I ask for more?”  “It’s so easy” he says, “it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.” Can I possibly ask for more? What next?

I find I feel happiest when I am working towards a dream much larger than I think I am. I know this is human. I need something to inspire me. Recently, I’ve been drawn to the pink peaks of the Himalayas, the faces and spaces of other cultures outside my own. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am thirty-three weeks pregnant and approaching a time of limbo – a waiting time, when baby is here but not here, when I am a mother and not as yet. I am closing shops and sweeping floors in the room of my life. It’s a strange feeling.

I have wanted to close certain shops for months, but the fear of being outside in the open frightened me. Frankly, the possibilities were daunting. I don’t think I had the energy or willpower to create something other than the comfort and abundance from which I was already living. But there is always more. And I don’t think it’s selfish or greedy to want for more. All around Tibet, people journey to sacred staircases, climb to the temples, and pray for a better life, either this time or next. I feel I am the base of a great staircase, pacing its floor. What do I want to see when I reach the top? What do I want to pray for?

One thing is clear to me, I am at a precipice in my life, a time when everything matters and nothing matters at all. Suddenly I feel compelled to work towards healing the environment, and supporting those in other places of the world who aren’t as blessed as we are. Bringing our first born son into the world renders every problem magnificent in size, and every joy profound in color and taste. Perhaps it’s the year of the horse I’m sensing; my feet itching to run, to move, to see new sights. The same snow lays on the ground here for months, and though I am lumbering and cumbersome, I feel my spirit flighty. There’s an energy in my body today which will sweep like a hurricane through the house and the forest and then to places beyond this physical reality. I dream, therefore I am.

“The snow lay white as a sheet of unwritten paper…”

 

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RAISING BOYS

“How many boys have to kill themselves before this country acknowledges the problem.” – Guante

I am blown away by the influx of information that is coming to me about raising men these days, the importance of reconstructing ‘masculinity’, even going without any definition and just letting men be human.  I have been so connected to the health and wellbeing of women and body image for the last several years; what about our boys, our men? We must give them space. I have already vetoed any name for my son that means warrior, or to fight. I don’t believe that we need our men to fight any more.

Raising conscious, feeling men? What a fabulous new life challenge. It’s already begun… 

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FEAR, PASSION, DETACHMENT

It’s 12:21am on Wednesday February 5th and I am 29 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I can hear the freezing rain falling outside, and my imagination runs wild. Many of my fears have visited me this evening as I prepared for a warning that power may be cut again tomorrow due to frozen boughs and downed power lines. I drove in the snowy aftermath of Monday’s storm as the sun headed over the mountains, headed towards the store as soon as power was cut. My first instinct was to fill the bathtub, and get more water. I remember Sandy well. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the wellbeing of my baby.

So now even though my eyes are heavy with fatigue, I am awake writing. What else do I want to say? I feel incredibly vulnerable, sensitive, porous. I am afraid of many things, and yet I know that whatever happens, I will get through it. I know that no matter what happens, I will get stronger, more resilient. Dear God please protect us, send me your grace, your love, guide your way. Angels, show me the best route to take as I navigate this new time in my life, this ending, this beginning.

I don’t know what is coming. I pray that you will spare me as much hardship and heartache as possible. I am seeing that gratitude, patience and acceptance are some of my most powerful allies, guarding against sadness, hopelessness and despair. I must keep writing in my gratitude journal, and training my mind to be happy, even when Isaac is not here. This too shall pass. There will come a time when we will all be together, either on the road or in a house or who knows where. Until then, this is my life, and it is magnificent in all its manifestations.

Isaac writes to me about his love for our boy and I am overcome with emotion. The baby moves at night and in the mornings, and Isaac is with him, even though he’s in a plane over Canada, a truck in Arizona or a tour bus in Austin. I know we will be together, somehow, that the dreams we have are possible because we dream them together.

“This much I know. I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness. No matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities that itself creates new potential.’

“I’ve learned from the Bhagavad Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of whatever I do. Because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control. But your commitment is yours to make and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment from where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world and you share your actions and take full responsibility for them but then you have detachment.’

“That combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge. Because I don’t cripple myself. I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each other not to burden one another with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”

– Vandana Shiva

Posted in ON THE CREATIVE LIFE, ON THE SELF | 3 Comments

ONLY THIS

‘Look closer [..] and you’ll see the true interconnection of love and loss. “You can’t really experience connection if you don’t also have a sense of separation,” says Douglas Brooks, a scholar of Hinduism and professor of religion at the University of Rochester. ”Heartbreak is part of the human condition – if it comes off the table, so does love itself. Vulnerability is what makes life worth living; without it we’d lack meaning and purpose.”

‘Since you can’t transcend heartache, you should embrace it. “We were all created out of love, but born into separation the moment the cord was cut,” he says. “That’s what it is to be human. Heartbreak is not the end of love. It’s the beginning.”‘

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THE PRIMAL FLUX

“The best thing about writing is not the actual labor of putting word against word, brick upon brick, but the preliminaries, the spade work, which is done in silence, under any circumstances, in dream as well as in the waking state. In short, the period of gestation.’ 

“No man ever puts down what he intended to say: the original creation, which is taking place all the time, whether one writes or doesn’t write, belongs to the primal flux: it has no dimensions, no form, no time element. In this preliminary state, which is creation and not birth, what disappears suffers no destruction; something which was already there, something imperishable, like memory, or matter, or God, is summoned and in it one flings himself like a twig into a torrent.’ 

“Words, sentences, ideas, no matter how subtle or ingenious, the maddest flights of poetry, the most profound dreams, the most hallucinating visions, are but crude hieroglyphs chiseled in pain and sorrow to commemorate an event which is untransmissible.” (Henry Miller, ’On Artistic Action’, from Henry Miller On Writing, 1964)

All creation is the same then, a summoning of crude markings against the unfathomable wonder which infuses the phenomena of life. How is it possible that I am creating a tiny human body within my own? What magic is this? I have huge bursts of energy and then cravings for slumber. I blaze like a hurricane across the floorboards of my house, the concrete of New York, and occasionally remember to look up at the sky and take a breath. There is much being born and much dying off. I am embedded in the cosmos, and so, I am it. I want to remember that forever.

When I began writing, I recognized that one of the predominant drives I had to capture a moment, a feeling, an image, was the overwhelming sense that it would be gone so soon. Then I realized at nineteen that I couldn’t possibly capture everything I had felt or been moved by. There was just too much. I have stopped that endeavor in many ways, stopped putting my cup in the water to fill my bucket, like a child who wants to hold the ocean in a fishbowl. I turned from cup to hand, feeling the water, putting arm then body into it. Now on this shelf of pregnant contemplation, I am able (encouraged) to climb out of the water and tip out the contents of my cup again, shake the water from my hair.

I can’t imagine the emotions to come, the waves of the sea, the surfing I will learn. I can’t imagine how it will feel to give birth, to hold a small baby in my arms whose body I built with my own. Contemplating the journey our son has been on from conception to eventual birth, dwarfs all worldly concern I have. What a gift it is to be a woman. What a responsibility, a blessing, an opportunity. How else does one prepare but right here, in the inquiry? Watching, feeling, breathing the sky, flinging oneself “like a twig into a torrent…” 

 

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TAKE THE LOVE YOU HAVE FOR ME

In the interest of documenting this sacred transition, I am planning to write a little something here every day. There is simply so much to reflect upon and share. It’s also lovely to connect with you my community, to express what inspires, moves, and gets me up in the morning! The trick is stopping myself from spending hours here; I could write long into the night. I’ll do my best to keep it brief. After all, there is always tomorrow.

I’m noticing as I grow older that there are all kinds of times. In the words of the Byrds, “a time to build up, a time to break down, a time to dance, a time to mourn…” Through it all there is inner peace, an inner me. I fly high as a kite and fall hard into the caves of my heart. Through it all, the sun rises and sets in an arc each day. The days keep coming. This is my life. I must now more than any other time, let go of those things I don’t need to carry anymore. The more I drop what I’ve been carrying, the easier it is to climb this mountain.

Just over this last week I have grown and my baby has grown. I know because I wake up hungry and sore, like I’ve been kicked in the vagina (!) which I’ve learnt are the ’round ligaments’ of my uterus expanding. Some people describe it like sitting on a catamaran. Yeah. Even with the pains and pushes, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow. This is what I wanted, to expand, to test the limits of who I knew myself to be. I am not who I was on Monday.

When Isaac was driving us into the city this week, I told him about something I’d read. My brother had given me the Humans of New York book for Christmas, and on one particular page, a captivating face peered through the paper. The caption read, “When my husband was dying, I said, ‘Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?’ He told me ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.‘”

That is what I will do for you, I said to Isaac. He didn’t say anything, but took my hand and I knew we would be okay.

While facing months of time at home as Isaac tours the US with The Kin and P!NK, I have come to reframe everything. For a long time, my inner two year old ran the show, essentially wailing and expressing how unjust this was. It wasn’t pretty. But this week, I saw that she doesn’t have to hurt anymore, because I’m here. I decided to take over, told her to rest in peace, and that her behavior is not acceptable. Her presence in my psyche represents my oldest wound and earliest memory. It’s why I have such a hard time saying goodbye at airports and at the end of family holidays, but also possibly why I chose Isaac as my partner.

I am back. What’s the point in wishing things were different? This moment now is where our life happens, and yet we spend so much time living elsewhere, we miss the real activity of our life, which is this. I decided that if I want to change something, I will take real action to actually change it. The two year old felt completely powerless when her mother went out for the night, felt defeated that no matter how hard she kicked the ground, how hoarsely she screamed, how tightly she held onto those stockinged legs, she still left.

I remember being at my grandmothers house that night in a grey, curtained room as the sun dropped deep beneath the horizon. My survival and identity had depended on her. What if she doesn’t come back? I thought. In that moment, I decided that I wasn’t going to get close to people, because they will leave me anyway and it will hurt. It took me years to unravel that one. Every time someone has said goodbye or left for a long time, the small girl in me remembers all of that. I must put her to bed now, comfort her. I am all that she has left.

What of the future? I used to wonder. How will I cope when Isaac is on tour and I am waking every few hours to feed a baby by myself? You will cope, says something in me. You are more powerful than you know. You can do this. Yes, if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, so can I! I tell myself. If army wives can do it, so can I. If nomadic tribes can do it, so can I. Women have weathered everything for the progeny of their families. And since Isaac’s work is away from home, I plan to bring home to him. There’s a reason I started this Pinterest board.

Anything is possible. This blog is where I am documenting my inexplicable journey through this experience called life. The lessons are hard sometimes, in fact they take my breath away. But as long as we stay present, let the river flood its banks. Cry. Feel it all. I have. The hollowing helps the music come through.

Posted in ON THE SELF, ON TRUE LOVE | 8 Comments

AN INCREMENTAL BURGEONING

Photo by Henry Ward

What a fortnight it has been. I can hardly believe I was in Los Angeles last week for New Years eve. We lay in the sun by the bluest pool and I took my vacation – an hour or so with a magazine, some gelato, the sun on my skin. It’s almost unbelievable to consider that in a few months we will meet our son. I am overcome with thoughts and feelings. How do I express this emotion? Anticipation doesn’t fully capture what I want to share. I sense one layer of my life closing and another opening. I once considered this like a chapter ending and another starting. I mourned the loss of my girl self, my freedom and ‘innocence.’ But I don’t see it like that anymore.  There is constant overlap, evolution, an incremental burgeoning towards fulfillment.

What do I know now that I didn’t before? What will I know in six months that I didn’t before? I know that even after the roughest climb, there are valleys. I know that even after the well is emptied, there is more water. I know that no matter what I go through or where I am, these days are pages in my life and I am the author, the flint and the spark. I have given up wishing to be elsewhere – my life is only happening now. It is a great blessing to be reminded just how easily I can take the reins of my life, to sail on an infinite horizon upon which I paint. It takes a lot of courage to dream your own dreams, and even more to actually create them, to move towards them. New friends, new adventures, new hobbies, new life.

Death too. I see how much of my past life has withered away into the earth, how I stood in the winter forest praying for the sun. Instead of running from that passage of my life, I understand it now. This needed to happen. Death, birth, rebirth. I needed to raze the forest to plant new seeds. I have killed and been killed. Now I am building a village. I am starting again. I am reinventing myself, just as I am inventing a soul. What else is there to say? Words fail me. The baby kicks against the wall my abdomen; he is here too. What adventures await us? I know I couldn’t possibly imagine. Even now, no mountain seems too high, too daunting. What courage will birth bring? I am not afraid.

The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterwards. It is the year of travail - when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pains of birth; these are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy then the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.

– Joy Kusek LCCE

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