This morning was plenty more gilded after a day to breathe. You jumped on the bed while I cleaned the room and burned pink incense with smoke like water. You asked for candles and we lit them. You asked for music by first names, as if every artist in the last half a century were on the other end of that imaginary telephone you’re always talking on. We danced to Kendrick Lamar and Brandi Carlile alike, and you fed your stuffed tortoise half your tortilla chips. I can breathe here again, little love.
You climb up on to the couch next to me
Holding onto the same fistful of cookie
You’ve been holding for half an hour
In that comic book shirt and bare feet
You hand me a red book of poetry
And pick up the crumbs
The orchid I planted in the corner of the room
Though “planted” is perhaps generous
“Adopted” more like
The leaves fall off
I don’t move them
Some vain hope that I overwatered
And neglect will be the cure
I take a swig of rum from the bottle
Just me in the glow of the fridge
Counting the calories
Weighing the enjoyment
Against the weight
In my warm thighs
The softness of my belly
The soreness of my feet
The big thing you have taught me is that there are no contracts. I used to believe that the way I set up relationships in the beginning was the way they always had to be. That no one ever learns anything. That changing the rules would pull the rug out from under any bond. And then, I had you.
The foundational fact of parenthood (indeed, of life), is that you grow. Everything always changes. And as you do, our relationship changes. And as our relationship does, so do I. When you outgrow something, I’m obliged to figure out something new. There was a time I could leave you alone in a room for a minute so I could pee. But you couldn’t walk then, and now you can. There was a time when you had no real consequences for anything. But you were an infant then, and you’re a toddler now. When something isn’t working, it is my responsibility to change the script until we find the thing that does.
And that has shown me the error in my old thinking. For example, when I first met your father, he and I were in such odd places. And over the course of our relationship, I became convinced that I had to do all the cooking and cleaning to be equal in the relationship to his money-making power. And that if I asked for help, or expected a normal amount of effort on both our parts to keep our life together, that I would be admitting I wasn’t capable of being equal. This was an error. But, this idea that I was stuck with whatever I had set up kept things the same for a long time. I feared that if I changed my mind, changed my expectations, that your father would feel that this wasn’t what he signed up for. Or worse, he would leave. So, this life continued, with me convinced that I had made my bed, uncomfortable though it may be, and should just lie in it. And then, I had you.
Now, I’m aware that we all change, we all grow. And as long as we continue to talk to each other, we can change the rules when we need to. Even the relationship with ourselves needs space to change. We have no obligation to be the same forever for the sake of consistency. That’s the difference between relationship and contract (This is also part of why I no longer believe in marriage, but that is a story for another day.) I want a relationship with you. Thank you for reminding me to be water, not stone.
Today, the growth spurt we are dealing with the most is my own. As you tread the space between baby and toddler, I tread the space between understanding and enforcing. I know that very soon it will be very important to set boundaries, be consistent, tell you ‘no’ more often. I almost miss that newborn stage, where nothing you did was malicious or trickery, and ‘giving in’ was no bad thing. But those months are all survival and cocooning, hoping we will make it out alive. Now, it’s just that my choices matter more. My job isn’t only to smother in love and connection. Now, I know that giving in to a tantrum tells you that tantrums are a viable option to get you what you want. Now, the moment my guard is down and I’m in the bathroom crying because it’s just too much is the moment you’re climbing furniture and disassembling lamps and screaming. And I have to get it together, face you with as little emotion as possible, and stick to the rules.
I think this is why the ‘terrible twos’ seem so hard. As you change, our relationship does, too. This is where parenting really sets in. The infant stage was all about me as comfort and provider, now I’m your first experience with boundaries. And though I know your world changes for you every day, I, as an adult, am less malleable. I have a thorough enough understanding of the world to know what not to do, and I have full control over my body, which lets me do the things I intend to. You are curious, have never had boundaries before, have just enough physical capability to get in to trouble, but not enough to do what you want effectively. You get frustrated, I get frustrated.
I hope you know I am trying. Trying to stick to the rules I set. Trying to only set rules that matter. Trying not to show you how hard it is to say ‘no’ a hundred thousand times a day. I hope, at the end of the day, that you will think parenting is easy. Anything but the weak, unsure mother I am. And know that I’m working on giving you just enough structure to find your freedom.
As I can feel this season of change, I’m going to try and document what transformation feels like:
I’m overflowing today. This rise of power and intention in me. Spilling out bad poetry I don’t care to edit yet. Hands that feel in sync, house coming together, joy in the morning, even when my meditations don’t happen. Maybe this is the manic side my mother gave me. I can go back to the editing and the contemplation and the quiet in the next dip. For now, I’m all creation, building altars and lighting flames and walking with purpose. The winter cold is brisk but clean, and I’m nesting this place in preparation for the birth of spring. Something good is coming. I can feel it.
Maybe this change I prayed for is hitting me by surprise. The growing is uncomfortable and the shift seems sudden. That change that is supposed to come to you like a fog rolling in came like the flipping of a switch. Or maybe, more accurately, the fog has been building for months, and I was finally overtaken. It began with a rise, and now, at the peak, I am twitching and achy and angry at a moment’s notice. Tv barely holds my attention, the house cleaning is finished early, and I’m sitting here thinking maybe I should do something. Something that takes the edge off this itch. This lying itch. The part of me that knows I’m somehow not me and that my cup isn’t as full as I thought and my motherhood is evolving and my hands were made for spring.
I can feel this transformation in me. Physically as well as emotionally. It doesn’t feel good yet. It feels itchy and twitchy and achy. A slight tightness in my chest. A restlessness in my heart. Emotions spring up at a moments notice. I cry more. There’s a slight fear with it, too. Fear that I don’t know who I’ll become. Fear that I won’t have the tools to live that truth if I turn out to be someone different. Fear that I chose a tiny, entrenched life that won’t serve me the way I thought it would. I’m trying to meditate more. Meditation that just gives my heart some quiet space. Because even though I’m afraid, I know I don’t want to stop this process. And if I keep giving my soul some space, I trust it will do its thing. It knows what to do. All I have to do is allow it to happen without judgment and then see what needs to change on the outside. I will try to be calm and patient.
I feel more corporeal than I ever have. I can feel the pulse in my wrists, the food in my belly, the follicles moving as I pull my hair up into a ponytail. The side effect of this spiritual awakening seems to be this sensitivity to my physical self. Maybe “side effect” is the wrong phrase. Maybe once I can fully immerse myself in the fact that there is no separateness between spirit and physical, my eyes will be fully open. All of me seems to be stirring. And while we draw closer to the birth of spring, and I know I will emerge, barefoot with ribbons in my hair, now I am trying to listen awhile longer. It’s not quite time to plant yet, so I will give myself some rest. This body and this soul are getting ready together.
The thing I keep remembering from my dreams lately when I meet a wise woman/goddess/spirit guide, is she always says, “Be like water, little one. Be like a river.” I know she must say more than that, but that’s what I always wake up remembering. While I can’t say I fully understand everything that means, I have the sense of flow, of change, of feminine wisdom and divinity. A lack of boundaries, a sense of transformative cycle, the unity of the divine. I don’t know how to embody that fully yet, but the phrase repeats in my head like a mantra that I’ll one day fully realize.
Anxiety. That if I change any more I’ll be alone. That a previous self made this life, and didn’t make it for new me. That I’m risking everything. That I might be an idiot. Reading everything into nothing (but what if it isn’t nothing?). Wanting everything and reaching for all those wants makes me spread too thin. Feeling fragmented. Desperation overcompensating. What if I get everything I ask for and it still isn’t enough? Is the devil I know better? My heart won’t stay in my chest. Just keep talking. Don’t dissolve. Just hold on awhile longer.
After a massacre
From a pile of bodies
Wearing the body of a dead woman
I know I need to cleanse the space
Make it better
But I know I don’t have enough
If I told the truth
No one would give it to me
So I lie
Give bare minimum details
To a church full of hypocrites
‘A man in need’
The silver starts rolling in
Maybe that’s all the devil is
A man in need
Waiting for someone to paint him
The sewage runs from his borrowed mouth
And we know damaged people
So why can’t we hold that sad child
And give him a mantra
‘I am clean’
Until it’s true
If the Earth laughs in flowers
It laughs in bright sex
At their boldest, carnivorous
Full admission of ravishing
At their softest, white-bloomed beckoning
Quiet moments of asking
For quiet landings
And honey-stained feet
For now, the palest of us wait
In this laughless incubation
Hoping to keep the coals just barely tended
With windowsill houseplants
And notebooks full of garden planning
Telling ourselves this year it will be different
This year we will tend those sprouts daily
Our hands will smell of thyme and earth
Baskets full of bounty will cover our table
And we won’t wait for store-bought bouquets
It won’t be long now
Our roots are patient
Spring always comes
To those who wait